Autumn brings many welcome sights: colourful leaves, crisp blue skies, migrating birds, and cosy jumpers. Damp, however, isn’t one of them – and it’s incredibly common. For example, according to the English Housing Survey, around 904,000 homes had damp problems in 2021.

The likelihood of finding damp and mould increases when the temperature drops and condensation forms on windows.

Damp is not only unsightly but can also cause breathing problems, particularly if you have asthma or allergies. So, to help your home stay warm and dry this winter, we’ve pulled together a list of 15 ways to prevent damp in the home.

Identifying damp

Identifying damp

Before we look at the best ways to prevent damp, it’s important to know how to spot the warning signs that you have a problem. That way, you can take steps to tackle the issue before it gets worse.

Tell-tale signs of damp in the home include…

  • A musty smell: Damp has a very distinctive, musty smell. You’ll notice it as soon as you open a door and step into a room.
  • Excessive condensation: It’s normal for windows to have condensation on them in winter. However, if you have an excessive amount, and it doesn’t seem to clear, it’s typically a sign of damp.
  • Wall marks: If you can see dark marks on your walls, it’s often a sign of damp. Keep an eye out for discoloured plaster, too, which is caused by moisture inside the wall.
  • Cold walls: If your internal walls feel cold when you touch them, this could be a sign that there’s moisture trapped in them. Internal walls should feel warm and dry.
  • Peeling wallpaper: Wallpaper that’s lifting or peeling away from the wall is usually caused by internal moisture – and is a sign of damp.

How to prevent damp

How to prevent damp

As well as knowing how to spot the signs of damp, it’s also useful to know how to stop it from happening in the first place. So, we’ve listed some top tips below…

1. Wipe off condensation

As soon as you see condensation on windows or walls, remove it, as this stops mould from building up. Kitchen roll or a tea towel is fine for this – just make sure that the cloth you’re wiping the condensation away with is dry.

If you can see any mould caused by the condensation, it’s best to wipe it off with a cloth soaked in soapy water, then use a dry cloth to remove any moisture.

2. Get rid of steam from cooking

You should always put lids on pots and pans when you’re cooking. Not only does this prevent steam escaping, which contributes to damp problems, but it also saves energy. It’s best to keep kitchen doors shut, too, but have a window open.

You might want to think about installing an extractor fan to further reduce steam. You can find powerful cooker hoods for under £200.

3. Minimise bathroom moisture

It’s usually a good idea to open a window in the bathroom when taking a bath or shower, and keep the door closed. An extractor fan is another great way to remove moist air, and it’s especially important to have one if you don’t have a window in your bathroom.

If it’s too cold to open the window when you’re showering or taking a bath, open it once you’ve left the room, and try to keep it open until the moisture has gone.

4. Open windows regularly

Opening windows regularly is such a simple step, but it can make a big difference. Many people keep windows closed when it’s cold, but that means moisture has nowhere to go.

Even opening your windows for 15 minutes in the morning can make a difference, as this allows damp air and moisture to move freely and not settle on windows, walls, and fixtures.

5. Heat your home

Try to keep your home at a consistently warm temperature during the colder months. If you can afford to, it can help to heat every room of your home on a low setting.

Avoiding turning the heating on in certain rooms can cause cold spots, which are susceptible to damp. You don’t need to leave the heating on all the time, but turning it on at intervals can make a difference.

6. Consider buying a dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers are excellent ways to reduce the levels of moisture in the air. They suck out air, remove the moisture from it, and then blow the dry air back into the room, which adds some warmth in the process. The water is stored in a tank which is easy to drain.

While the most powerful dehumidifiers can be expensive, there are many under £100 that will still remove moisture from the air.

Bear in mind that there are two types of dehumidifiers: refrigerant and desiccant. Refrigerant models work best in warmer rooms, so they’re better to use inside the home. Desiccant models work better in colder rooms, like conservatories or garages.

7. Try to avoid drying your clothes inside

Drying your wet clothes inside your home can increase damp by 30%. Therefore, it can help to hang clothes outside to dry, even in winter, or consider investing in a tumble dryer.

If you need to dry clothes inside, be sure to hang them in airy, well-ventilated spaces, and ideally, place a dehumidifier nearby to remove the excess moisture. Alternatively, hang wet clothes on a clothes horse (heated if possible) beside an open window.

8. Keep internal doors open

Another easy way to ventilate your home is to leave internal doors open (except if you’re cooking or showering). Having open doors allows fresh air to pass through your whole home, which is an important factor in damp prevention.

9. Air your bed

If you’re in the habit of making your bed as soon as you get up, you might want to avoid this. Pulling back your covers allows any moisture to escape rather than instantly trapping it.

A better habit to adopt is pulling back your covers and opening your curtains and window. Try to air your bed for around an hour before making it.

10. Leave air gaps

To encourage air to circulate freely around your home, be sure to leave air gaps. This means trying to move furniture away from walls – especially in winter – as this discourages mould. Just a 10cm gap is enough for air to travel.

11. Air wardrobes

Try to resist the urge to shut your wardrobes entirely, and instead, leave the doors slightly open. Even doing this some of the time allows enough air circulation to discourage mould from growing on clothes. Similarly, try to make sure cupboards aren’t over-stuffed, as this means air can’t circulate.

12. Clean extractor fans

Clean extractor fans

Dirty or dusty extractor fans tend to be less efficient, so will need a good clean from time to time. Bathroom extractor fans only really get dusty, so you can clean these with a damp cloth – just remember to remove the fluff and dust from the filter.

For kitchen extractor fans, you can take off the outside cover and wash it in warm, soapy water, drying it before you replace it.

13. Remove visible mould

If you spot even the smallest amount of mould on your walls, ceiling, or furniture, it’s important to clean and remove it as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading and affecting the air quality of your home. This can be done easily enough with a damp cloth or wet wipe – just be sure to dry it afterwards. Bleach, or damp and mould sprays can also be effective, especially on exterior walls.

As suggested by Persil, you could try using distilled vinegar to remove mould from fabrics – you can find out more in their article here.

14. Use moisture-resistant paint or wallpaper

If your property is prone to damp or mould, always try to use moisture-resistant paint or wallpaper. These are specifically designed to repel moisture and steam, and are an easy way to prevent damp. As a bonus, they’re easier to clean too.

15. Re-grout your tiles

Re-grout your tiles

If you have old or damaged tiles in your home, they’re at risk of leaking, which can lead to damp. This can also cause mould, which is a much bigger problem. Re-grouting your tiles is a good way to overcome this, and is easy enough to do by yourself.

Plus, regularly cleaning tiles – cold surfaces that can attract mould – greatly minimises the chances of mould growing in the grout. Dirty tiles can create porous deposits that are the perfect breeding ground for mould.

Final thoughts…

Damp prevention is a common concern, and all kinds of homes are susceptible to it, from huge mansions to tiny studio apartments.

If you have a damp problem, it’s important to solve it as quickly as you can. Not only does damp have an unpleasant musty smell, but it can cause health problems, and damage the foundation of your home.

While treating damp effectively is always good, preventing it is even better, and luckily there are many things you can do to prevent damp from occurring in the first place.

While some of the steps above, like purchasing a dehumidifier, extractor fan or tumble dryer, involve spending money, many don’t cost a penny – from opening doors and windows to airing your bed and cooking with the lids on.

Remember, however, that if you’re seriously concerned about damp or mould in your home, it’s always best to call in a professional.

Do you have any additional tips for tackling damp? Are you planning to use any of the tips above? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.