During the winter colder weather in Britain increases the amount of condensation that we see forming in our homes overnight. If this condensation is allowed to soak into walls and ceilings, it can form damp patches where mould will start to grow.
Dark patches of mould can spread quickly on walls and release spores into the air that cause allergic reactions and can make some people – particularly the elderly and young children – seriously ill. In recent years, the dangers of mould to health have been highlighted in the press, and the government are making changes to housing legislation to protect tenants by ensuring that landlords take steps to prevent mould in the properties they manage.
Cleaning mould from walls and ceilings with a fungicidal spray or dilute bleach can function as a temporary measure, but unfortunately, unless you get rid of the underlying problem that is creating damp in your home, the mould will grow back quickly. Understanding the causes of mould and dealing with them will stop mould coming back for good.
The presence of mould in your home is not because of poor hygiene. Mould spreads with microscopic spores that are carried in the air and can settle on any surface – in fact, every time you breathe, the chances are that you are inhaling a small number of mould spores, however in low concentrations they will not normally affect you.
Most of the time, mould spores remain inert, and simply form part of the dust that floats around your home, however, when they land on a damp surface, the spores can activate and start to spread.
At first, mould growth is not noticeable. Colourless tendrils of mould grow through a surface into the damp patches below. These then form a network called a mycelium beneath the surface that spreads out invisibly. As the mould matures, it forms what are called fruiting bodies above the surface – these are the dark patches that we recognise as mould, and these release the spores that help mould to spread further around your home and create new colonies.
Damp patches can form for a number of reasons – rising damp can be common in older properties without a functioning damp proof course, and leaks in the roof, leaking pipes, and gaps around windows can allow moisture into your home to create penetrating damp patches, but the most common cause of damp in British homes is condensation. This is where water vapour from cooking, cleaning, and drying clothes indoors is allowed to settle onto cold surfaces and soak through.
Once you have cleaned mould from walls and ceilings to remove the immediate threat to your wellbeing, it is necessary to remove the cause of the problem altogether. There are simple steps you can take to reduce condensation in your home including ensuring that you use lids when cooking on the stove, avoiding drying clothes indoors, and leaving the dishwasher to cool before you empty it, but the main action you can take is to improve ventilation.
Fitting modern extractor fans in your bathroom and kitchen will reduce the amount of water vapour in the air in these rooms as it is created. Fans should run when you are bathing or cooking to extract the steam and prevent it spreading to other areas of your home. Most fans activate when the lights in a room are switched on, but there are also designs which work automatically through a humidity sensor that detects the amount of moisture in the air and adjust their power levels to remove it as quickly as possible. To help make your home more efficient and retain the heat from air that is extracted, single room heat recovery ventilation such as the EnviroVent HeatSava are available – these capture the heat from the outgoing air and use it to warm the air that is brought in to replace it and prevent waste.
In cases where mould and damp are found away from an obvious source of humidity, whole house ventilation can be more effective at stopping mould from returning after you have cleaned it.
Whole house ventilation works in all rooms, replacing the moisture laden air with fresh air from outside. Positive Input Ventilation works by way of a loft mounted central unit that draws the outside air in through filters and distributes it around your home to displace the humid air and prevent condensation from forming and creating the conditions for damp.
Mould can be harmful to your health and if not treated, can damage the fabric of your home, so it is important to treat it as quickly as possible and take steps to prevent it from returning.
Our local ventilation specialists can visit your home to conduct a free home survey that will identify the causes of condensation in your property and then provide advice about the best way to deal with them. Enter your postcode below to find an expert in your area and get help to stop mould permanently.
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