Editors Note: The following content has been provided by Kitty Bates (right), a content expert at Restorations UK, a leading mould remediation expert, working closely with businesses, homeowners and insurance providers for mould removal and cleaning.
With inflation rising to levels not seen since 2011, thanks to global supply chain problems, reopening the worldwide economies post pandemic and Brexit, there has been a stark increase in the cost of living. UK energy bills are expected to rise by up to 30% this winter. While these problems may seem unrelated to mould growth and prevention, the two are intrinsically linked.
As the cost of heating homes rises, people turn their heating off more and keep their windows shut to trap the heat in. For those living near the break line, this poses a huge problem as the conditions for mould growth, warm and potentially damp environments, begin to appear.
The problems that mould presents
Mould can cause serious ill health, and is linked to numerous illnesses, from memory problems to lung function. Some people, like with hay fever, are allergic to mould, and mould in any excess can trigger serious allergic reactions.
If you have a house with young children, or with elderly people in, they will be more affected by mould. Therefore, it’s important to prevent mould as far as possible to keep people healthy.
What causes mould?
Mould is caused by excessive damp and/or poor ventilation. As mould creates spores that fly through the air and move around, without correct ventilation, mould can continue to spread. Similarly, with condensation on the inside of windows as the winter brings cooler weather, mould can grow quicker as there is excess water that can easily turn into damp.
In areas where damp is more likely to be prevalent, such as bathrooms and kitchens, mould can grow quicker as there is more likely to be steam created and trapped.
Mould can also grow through rising damp, where sitting water in the ground rises to the surface, even if that is through foundations of houses.
How to spot whether you have mould
Mould can be invisible when in the air, but when it settles on surfaces it becomes noticeable. Most people will know what mould looks like when on food, in the green and white furry state, and when it is on windowsills or window seals in the black spore state.
There are a few ways that you may notice you have mould:
- You have a lingering cold or flu that disappears when you stay away from home. A lingering illness that doesn’t go away, and seems to worsen when you spend more time in your home is a sign that you may have a mould problem.
- There is a damp or musty smell to your home. While older homes especially seem to have a comforting mustiness, if the smell is unpleasant and persistent, especially in newer homes, then it may be a sign or mould.
- You have spots of damp that don’t go away. In heavy weather, some homes may get damp spots as they struggle to weather the storm. However, if you have persistent damp spots that don’t go away in any weather, then you may need to check for mould.
- Your home has flooded in the past or is in a flood plain. Previous floods in homes that haven’t been dried out, or homes in flood plains where there may be residual water, should be checked for mould, as this can be a common beginning point for long term mould issues.
How to prevent mould, while being economical with heating
Mould can be prevented, to an extent, in a few ways. While winter makes it less favourable for some prevention methods, it is also important to prioritise health over some comforts.
Here are some easy ways to prevent mould:
- Open windows, especially in the mornings. Overnight, as we sleep, our bodies produce a lot more heat. If you don’t want to sleep with the windows open, then open them for a few hours in the morning to allow some air in and release the overnight condensation. While it’s good to keep windows open throughout the day, the cold weather can make this unbearable, so by opening them for a few hours in the morning, you can keep the heat in as the temperature peaks in the middle of the day.
- Boil kettles near an open window, and only boil what you need. Trapped steam from boiling kettles can cause excessive damp problems, and lead to longer term health issues. By immediately allowing all the steam to escape, you reduce the risk of mould forming near where you boil your kettle.
- Close bathroom and kitchen doors when not in use. As bathrooms and kitchens are the predominant areas where mould can form, keep the doors closed and open windows, especially after cooking or bathing. You should also aim to keep the windows open as much as possible in these two rooms to allow for good air circulation. As they warm up quickly when in use, this will not affect your energy bills too much.
- Keep curtains a good distance from windows. If curtains, or curtain linings, get caught on condensation or damp from windows, then they can become major growth spots for mould, and by opening or closing them, you encourage the mould to spread. Therefore, aim to keep curtains dry, and away from windows, especially in rooms that are prone to condensation.
- Use a dehumidifier. If rooms are prone to damp and condensation regardless of the other measures you put in place, consider investing in a small dehumidifier. It can be most effective if left on during the day when everyone is out of the house, and you will soon notice how much water it can collect.