Damp, in particular within a house or property, can present a number of health effects as well as causing cosmetic and potentially long term structural damage to a property.
Damp and moulds in particular, produce allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction), irritants and, sometimes, toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mould spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. Moulds can also cause asthma attacks.
Mould and damp are caused by excess moisture. Moisture in buildings is most commonly caused by leaking pipes, rising damp in basements or ground floors or rain seeping in because of damage to the roof or around window frames. If your home is newly-built it may be damp because the water used when it was built is still drying out, for example, in the plaster on the walls. Excess moisture indoors can also be caused by condensation.
If you have mould or damp it is important to find out why you have excess moisture in your home. When you know the cause of your damp you can make sure your home is repaired or take steps to limit moisture in the air. If you have mould you may need to get a professional to remove it for you. If you have only a small amount of mould you may be able to remove it yourself.
Causes of damp and mould
Damp and mould are caused by excess moisture. Moisture in buildings is most commonly caused by leaking pipes, rising damp in basements or ground floors or rain seeping in because of damage to the roof or around window frames. If your home is newly-built it may be damp because the water used when it was built is still drying out.
Excess moisture indoors can also be caused by condensation. Condensation forms when the air indoors cannot hold any more moisture. This can be caused by cooking, showering, drying clothes indoors and by human breath. Droplets can form on indoor surfaces such as mirrors, windowsills and on walls, particularly when they are cold. Condensation can be worse if rooms are poorly ventilated.
You can help to prevent condensation by:
- putting lids on saucepans, drying washing outside and avoiding using paraffin or bottled gas heaters
- opening the bedroom window for 15 minutes each morning
- making sure your home is well insulated
- heating your home a little more
- ventilating rooms regularly and leaving doors open to allow air to circulate, unless you are cooking or showering
- if you’re cooking, showering or bathing – opening the window, putting on the fan and closing the door of the room you’re in
Getting rid of the cause of damp and mould
Repairs may be needed to get rid of any leaks or to improve ventilation. Once your home has been repaired, or if your home is damp because it is newly built, it still may take weeks of heating and ventilating it to dry it out.
How to remove mould
Once you have fixed the source of moisture in your home you can get rid of any mould. You may be able to remove mould yourself, or you may need to get professional help to remove it.
Only remove mould yourself if it is due to condensation and less than one metre squared (1×1 metre or 3×3 feet). Don’t try to remove the mould yourself if it’s caused by sewage or other contaminated water.
Protect yourself from mould spores (tiny particles released by mould) by wearing goggles, long rubber gloves and a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Open the windows but keep doors closed to prevent spores spreading to other areas of the house.
- Have a plastic bag ready to take away any soft furnishings, clothes and soft toys that are mouldy. Soft furnishings should be shampooed and clothes professionally dry cleaned. If you have extensive mould on soft furnishings you will need professional help to remove it.
- Fill a bucket with water and some mild detergent, such as washing up liquid or a soap used for hand-washing clothes.
- Use a rag dipped in the soapy water to carefully wipe the mould off the wall. Be careful not to brush it, as this can release mould spores.
- When you have finished, use a dry rag to remove the moisture from the wall.
- Afterwards, put the rags in a plastic bag and throw them away.
- All the surfaces in the room should be thoroughly cleaned by either wet wiping or vacuum cleaning to remove any spores.