One of the biggest challenges that residents can face in their home is dampness, which can lead to the growth of mould and other health hazards.

There are simple things you can do in your home to keep it healthy and manage damp, mould and condensation.

About damp and condensation

Damp can be caused by:

  • leaking pipes
  • rainwater from blocked pipes
  • lack of, or no effective damp proof course
  • rising dampness

It can also be caused by condensation, which is a common issue in poorly heated and insulated homes during winter.

Condensation occurs when warm air meets cold surfaces. This leads to moisture build up and causes tiny droplets of water to appear on windows and behind furniture placed against external walls.

This can lead to staining and mould growth.

The amount of condensation and mould can be increased by factors such as overcrowding and furniture, clothing, and bags being placed close to external walls.

About mould

Mould growth is a strong sign that condensation is causing a damp problem.

Depending on the type of mould and the surface that it’s growing on, mould may be black, white, yellow, or green in colour,

Mould can:

  • damage your home, including window frames, furniture, and clothing
  • have severe health consequences, including respiratory problems and asthma.

It is crucial to tackle damp and condensation in your home as soon as you notice any signs.

Effects of damp and mould on health

How living with damp and mould can be harmful to our health:

  • Damp and mould within the home can produce allergens, irritants, mould spores and other toxins that are harmful to health
  • Even if visible mould is not present, dampness alone can increase the risk of health problems
  • Damp and mould can cause serious illness. They primarily affect the airways and lungs but can also affect the eyes and skin
  • The more serious the damp and mould problem and the longer it is left untreated, the worse the health impacts and risks are likely to be.

How damp and mould can affect our lungs and respiratory health:

  • Increases the risk of infections in our lungs, including aspergillosis, a condition caused by aspergillus mould
  • Development or worsening of allergic diseases such as rhinitis and asthma or other respiratory conditions including bronchitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Everyone is vulnerable to the health impacts of damp and mould, but people with certain health conditions, children and older adults are at greater risk of more severe illness.

How damp and mould can affect our mental health:

  • worries about the health impacts of damp and mould
  • unpleasant living conditions
  • worries about damage caused to our home or belongings.

Are you unwell from living with damp and mould?

Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • coughing (in cases of aspergillosis you may cough blood or lumps of mucus)
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • weight loss
  • high temperature
  • nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and itching.

If you have damp and mould in your home and believe it is causing you to be unwell, make an appointment with your GP or call NHS 111.

Reducing moisture in your home

Many daily activities can produce moisture in your home. To reduce this, you can:

  • wipe off condensation from windows, window frames and sills, and walls every morning
  • keep low background heating on all day in cold weather, even when there is no one home
  • close the kitchen door when cooking
  • put lids on pans when boiling food
  • close the bathroom door when showering
  • open windows after having a shower to let air into the room
  • regularly clean any extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens
  • dry washing outside, if possible, if not dry it in the bathroom with the door closed
  • make sure you vent your tumble drier outside
  • leave trickle vents open and unblocked, even in winter
  • move any furniture very close to an outside wall forward by 3 to 4 inches
  • ventilate wardrobes and cupboards and don’t overfill them

If you are finding it difficult to adequately heat and/or ventilate your home due to affordability, these links provide information about support that may be available to you:

Treating mould growth in your home

The only way of avoiding mould is to stop the cause of the dampness, but regular removal of mould is vital.

To remove mould, wipe down walls and window frames with a mouldicide or fungicidal wash.

You can get spray containers of mouldicide from chemists and supermarkets or get a mould kit from a specialist supplier.

Make sure you choose one which carries a Health and Safety Executive approval number.

You can also:

  • dry clean mildewed clothes
  • shampoo carpets
  • when repainting, use a good quality fungicidal paint to help prevent mould
  • when wallpapering, use a paste that has a fungicide to prevent further mould growth

What to do if you are a tenant

If you are a tenant and have any property issues that cause dampness, you should notify the property owner at once. It’s their responsibility to fix the problem.

If you are a council tenant, the Barnet Homes’ website has more information about damp and mould and how to report property issues.

If you are a resident living in other social housing, such as a resident of a housing association, you should report any damp and mould issues directly to your landlord.

If you are renting privately, check our mould and damp advice for private tenants page. It has more information about how to report property issues.