The return to uni is always hugely exciting, with the buzz of seeing friends, hitting the student social scene and getting stuck into another year of your degree. It's easy to get swept up in the adrenaline and forget to keep a close eye on your health. But when it comes to black mould and damp, you really cannot afford to be complacent.
Some student accommodations are notoriously unhealthy if they aren't properly maintained and cared for, and both damp and black mould can become a problem. Think this is just unsightly or a bit of a pain? Think again, as you could find yourself at risk of serious health complications if action isn't taken. Our guide will tell you more.
You'll know very quickly if you have either of these conditions in your bedroom. Black mould describes the colour of mould you'll see on windows, panes, skirting, walls or other features in the room. It often goes hand in hand with damp, which might be rising or embedded in the walls. If the room smells musty, feels damp and cold and has visible signs of mould, action needs to be taken immediately to safeguard your health.
Condensation dampness tends to lead to mould, and it can occur in even the smartest of homes if the right insulation is absent. This common problem occurs when your student accommodation isn't designed to deal with the typical levels of water vapour that are emitted in the course of everyday life. This can be down to a lack of adequate heating, ventilation or insulation - and a combination of these things. The result is a very visible sign of condensation, similar to what you'd see on a car window on a cold day - moisture settling onto a cold surface. It can appear on a wall anywhere, from top to bottom, and it can lead to mould, furniture damage and even infestation problems with mites.
A whopping 20% of British homes have issues with black mould or condensation, which can lead to health problems such as asthma. Mould is a live organism - digesting what it grows on and releasing spores in the process that have allergens and toxins attached to them. These can lead to allergic reactions and health problems.
You may see mould on fixed surfaces, or even starting to appear on your clothes and shoes, or on the back of furniture. Look at carpets, in corners of the room and carefully on and around your bed for tell-tale signs. You may also have started to get health issues such as asthma, itchy skin, sore eyes, cold like symptoms, a sore throat or a cold. One sign that damp and mould are likely to be a root cause is if these symptoms disappear when you spend time away from your student accommodation.
Mould and damp can occur from leaking pipes, rising damp from basements, rain entering the room around window frames and poor ventilation in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen.
You may find that the room tends to feel chilly and damp as you enter it, and often has an unpleasant musty smell, and you may notice the visual signs mentioned above. Be mindful too that the mildew smell that appears in a damp home can mean that a fungal colony is releasing gas into the room without you even being aware of it.
The best course of action is for a professional damp treatment specialist to assess the space and correctly identify the problems, and the scale of them. They will then be able to carry out the appropriate treatment. Speak to your landlord in the first instance and your university if you have any issues.
Mould can appear anywhere in your house and in any room. It is commonly associated with bathrooms and you may find that the bathroom in your student accommodation has visible black mould around the bath or shower, on the tiles or between tiles. Mould can also spring up around window frames, on mattresses, floors, doors, ceilings and walls, as well as behind furniture and even into your furniture where it will start to appear on clothes, bags and shoes. Once mould sets in, it becomes pervasive and will spread.
It's good to know that mould is very often caused by basic condensation dampness which affects millions of British homes. It is also relatively easy to fix once a specialist has assessed the problem and ruled out any other issues such as penetrating or rising damp.
The best steps to removing mould and damp are to get a professional to assess the problems and to use commercial grade products and repairs to prevent the issue from recurring. Minor mould can be removed if it is being caused by condensation, but you must protect yourself with gloves and goggles, and only do this if the mould covers a small area of less than 3 x 3 feet. Keep windows open to prevent spores from spreading and bag up any soft toys or furniture that have mould on them, being careful not to breathe anything in before safely disposing of them. Clothes should be dry cleaned if they can be saved. Use a soapy rag to wipe mould carefully off the wall without brushing it. You can apply treatments that are available at DIY stores, but be aware that these will simply cover the problem. Everything must be left completely dry to avoid it simply happening again.
Most homes, however, will have more serious mould if the problem has already been identified and it is important to have professional help to assess and remedy the situation. Remember, your landlord is obliged to provide a certain standard of accommodation and mould must be removed. The first step is to let your landlord know. If you have any issues, speak to your university's accommodation office and get advice from the Health & Safety Executive - they publish landlord standards. See more here [http://www.nihe.gov.uk/index/advice/renting_privately/advice_landlords/standards_of_fitness.htm].
Remember, with treatment from a professional, your student accommodation can be restored and be a great place to live once again. But if it isn't treated, vote with your feet, speak to your letting agent and look to relocate to a better property - one that won't compromise your health.