The best ways to get rid of damp and condensation, and stop mould from building up

Banish damp and condensation

Bathroom with blue walls, white tiles and oval bath
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If your home is currently suffering from damp and you're wondering how to get rid of it, the answer is to catch the culprit and learn how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings.

Condensation on walls and ceilings is normal, especially in the cold winter months, but if left to sit, it will lead to mould and damp. The tell-tale signs of damp are musty smells and black marks, so if your home has either of these, it's time to learn how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings and rid your house of this nuisance.

Aside from marking walls and ceilings, damp can damage clothes and furniture and it can also trigger health problems like asthma. And while you can learn how to stop dampness coming through walls, it's often better to tackle the problem at the root cause, which more often than not, will be condensation.

'While condensation on its own isn’t much of an issue, the consequences of it can be rather damaging to your home,' says Simon Boden, Property Sales Expert, House Sales Direct. 'If not treated properly, it can cause damp which then would form into mould and it can be just as bad for your health as it is for your house.'

Dark grey kitchen units with belfast sink and wall panelling with peg rail shelf

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

How to stop condensation on walls and ceilings

So the question is, how do you get rid of damp and learn how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings? 

We've asked the experts and pooled together all the tips and tricks you will need to work out how to tackle the problem and make sure it doesn't bother you this winter and beyond.

Signs you have damp in your home

  • Musty smell: A damp room has a musty, distinctive scent. As soon as you open a door you won't be able to mistake it.
  • Wall marks: Dark marks on the wall are all signs that you could have damp. Damp can also manifest as discoloured plaster, caused by moisture in the wall.
  • Lifting or peeling wallpaper: If you find your wallpaper is curling away from the wall, this is likely to be caused by internal moisture, a sign of damp.
  • Cold walls: If your internal walls are cold to touch this could be a sign of damp forming. Internal walls should be warm and dry to touch if there is no moisture trapped in them.
  • Excessive condensation on windows: Condensation around windows is common in winter. However, an excessive amount that never seems to clear is a sign that you could have damp.

What causes damp?

In its simplest form, damp is caused by condensation. As the temperature falls, condensation rises, creating moisture on windows each morning which will eventually cause mould and damp.

'You will first start noticing droplets creating around the edges of your windows and then small black dots could start appearing around the window and spread towards the ceiling', says. 'Those are the first signs of mould creating and you should act immediately.'

houses at a coast showing the roof tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

But that's not the only cause of damp. Leaking pipes, wastes or overflows might be the culprits, often intensified by a lack of cavity wall insulation. Rising damp that comes up from the ground is commonly caused by having a damaged damp-proof course, or no damp-proof course at all. Or there could be water penetrating from outside because of a missing roof tile, leaking window frame or blocked gutter.

'Anything involving heat will help kill off any bacteria,' advises cleaning expert, Matthew Harrison from Price Your Job. 'Therefore using a steam cleaner is an effective way to kill mould that is present, as it will penetrate the surface and kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria and germs.'

'However, using steam on mould will not kill an ongoing mould issue, as it does not get to the root of the issue. To prevent future mould problems, you should consider draught proofing and other jobs which will prevent moisture from entering your home.'

What kind of damp do I have?

Luckily damp is easy to identify. You will need to start by sourcing the cause in order to accurately remedy it. For example, a damp patch on the wall at the top of a chimney breast suggests a leak from the chimney stack, a wet patch at the top of a wall may indicate a leaking gutter and damp near windows might mean a damaged drip groove beneath the window sill.

There are three types of damp to be aware of:

Bathroom with blue walls, white tiles and oval bath

(Image credit: Future)

1. Condensation caused damp

The most common form of damp is often caused by poor heating and ventilation. It occurs when activities such as cooking raise the level of humidity in a building. This air condenses on cold surfaces, such as windows and walls.

'The more moisture there is in the air the more likely it is that you will get condensation', explains Chris Michael, Managing Director, Meaco. 'Moisture in the air comes from drying clothes in the house, boiling vegetables, putting the kettle on, bathing, showering, open flame gas style heating, damp clothing, breathing and the damp British weather.'

Running water on windows is the most obvious signal of condensation, and if left to build up, it can lead to stained curtains, decaying window frames or moulding on paint and wallpaper.

2. Rising damp

This is where water enters a structure from the ground. It's more rare than damp caused by condensation, as moisture has to travel up from the ground through capillary action. Symptoms include decayed skirting boards and floors, stained plaster, and peeling paint and wallpaper. If the damp in your home is occurring lower down, it could be a case of rising damp.

3. Penetrating damp

This is when water enters a building from outside and moves through the walls, often creating stains or mould growth at some distance from the leak. Causes are defects in guttering and pipes, faulty flashings, poor pointing and cracked rendering.

How to get rid of condensation

As with everything, prevention is easier than working out how to get rid of damp. 'Once damp starts, it can sometimes be difficult to remedy the issues it causes, such as mould growth and structural damage', says Ian Henderson, Managing Director, Boiler Plan

'Prevention is always easier than the cure - which is pretty literal when it comes to mould, considering the health risks that can come along with it!'

Here are a few quick and simple remedies for how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings.

1. Wipe down windows and sills every morning

White cast iron radiator underneath windowsill

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Remove the condensation as soon as you see it as this will stop any mould from building up. Use kitchen towel, a squeegee or a window vac – we like Vileda's Windomatic, £39.99, Amazon. It might help to occasionally wipe down walls and window frames with a fungicidal wash.

If you're removing mould caused by condensation, the NHS recommends that you wipe it away with a cloth dipped in soapy water. When you're done, use a dry cloth to remove any moisture, and throw both cloths away. Be careful not to brush the mould, as this can release mould spores.

2. Deal with steam from cooking

white kitchen with skylights and red decorative letters EAT

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Fiona Walker-Arnott)

Always cover pans and pots when cooking. This won't just prevent steam escaping, but also helps to save energy. You could also close the kitchen door when cooking to stop steam escaping to other parts of the house. Cracking a window or the back door open will also let excess air escape.

Improving your heating and ventilation systems will go a long way to solving condensation issues. Install extractor fans in kitchens to reduce moisture. You can pick up powerful cooker hoods for less than £200, so this can be an extremely cost-effective long-term solution.

3. Get rid of bathroom moisture

Showering or bathing can produce lots of steam and moisture. When looking for how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings in the rest of the house be sure to keep the door of the bathroom closed and open your bathroom window when showering.

Be sure to have a bathroom extractor fan fitted to help clear the excess moisture in the room. This is even more important if you don't have a window in the bathroom.

'An extractor fan takes the moist air out of your bathroom and transports it outside', says Rikki Fothergill, Bathroom Ventilation Expert, Big Bathroom Shop. 'You should clean the extractor fan every so often to remove dust and dirt – this ensures it runs effectively.'

4. Ensure ventilation

kitchen with washing area looking out to kitchen with planted daffodils and open shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

'Try to regularly open windows to allow air to move freely and let moist air escape from the property', says Adam Pawson, Marketing Director, Safestyle UK. 'Ventilation systems such as extractor fans can also massively help to reduce the condensation in your homes.'

Ventilating your home can be as easy as opening a window for at least 15 minutes each morning. If you have windows that can be locked in a slightly open position, all the better.

If you're looking for how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings in a particular room, consider fitting air bricks. These are bricks with lots of tiny holes in them and can be added to exterior walls, allowing air to pass under a suspended timber floor. Traditionally made from clay, they are now more commonly made of plastic. Plastic bricks allow for better airflow and are less easily broken. Long term, they will prevent damp and moisture from damaging the floorboards.

5. Keep your house warm

To keep the damp at bay during the colder months, try to keep your home at a steady warm temperature. Damp happens when warm air hits cold walls, so by keeping your house warm the surfaces don't get cold enough to create condensation. 

Try setting timers for your heating to turn on at intervals throughout the day using smart home tech like the Learning Thermostat, £219, Nest.

radiator in white room with plants

(Image credit: Future PLC / Hannah Argyle)

6. Install insulation

Good insulation is just as important, especially if you have cold spots on walls where condensation builds up. Cavity wall, loft insulation and other specialist options can combat damp – though in rare cases it can also cause it, so always consult with an expert before you start your project.

You should also consider replacing draughty old doors and windows with double or triple glazing for how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings.

7. Buy a dehumidifier

Pro Breeze 500ml Compact Mini dehumidifier in bathroom

(Image credit: Pro Breeze)

Contents in a home left empty for long periods can easily be damaged if they absorb and hold excess moisture from the air. The same applies to properties that feel permanently damp, due to their location, (perhaps built against the side of a hill) or age.

This is where buying one of the tried and tested best dehumidifiers comes in. It will reduce the level of humidity in the air, by sucking in air from the room at one end, removing the moisture, and then blowing it back out into the room again, adding warmth in the process.

And you don't have to splash too much cash. Although more powerful dehumidifiers can tend to be expensive, the best dehumidifiers under £100 can still help to reduce condensation.

8. Don't hang clothes to dry inside

If possible, try hanging clothes outside to dry - even in winter. This will help with how to stop condensation on walls and ceilings in the house. If you have space see about investing in a tumble dryer which will help contain the steam and moisture when drying clothes. For a more affordable alternative, look instead to heated clothes airers.

If you do have to leave clothes to dry inside, stick to airy, well-ventilated spaces and position a dehumidifier nearby to suck up the excess moisture.

clothes hanging from laundry rack in a blue room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to get rid of penetrating damp

wooden window frame set in brick with planter and garden under window

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Start by cleaning your gutters, but you may need to repair or replace them. It might be your window sill dip grooves – designed to shed rainwater so it doesn't run down the house wall – are blocked and need to be reformed.

How to get rid of rising damp

Serious damp problems may require that you consult a qualified surveyor. They will take a moisture reading at your home, identify the cause of the problem and advise you on the right course of action. Find a professional in your area at The Property Care Association scheme.

It may be that the problem is easily remedied, but your surveyor could recommend installing a new damp-proof course, which can cost £1,000s. This involves injecting the walls with chemicals that will form a water-repellant barrier. This can be done from the outside of the building, or your specialist may need to strip the interior wall back to the brick to inject the course. They will then recover them with a specialist plaster.

What causes condensation on walls and ceilings?

Condensation droplets on window

(Image credit: Meaco)

There are three factors that cause condensation on walls and ceilings:

  • The level of moisture in the air 
  • The air temperature of the room
  • The surface temperature of the windows, walls and ceilings

'Condensation occurs when your property is too humid and the warm air hits cold surfaces', explains Jonathan Rolande, Property Expert and Founder House Buy Fast. 'This leads to the air cooling quickly and creates droplets on nearby surfaces such as walls/windows.'

Walls and ceilings are common hotspots for condensation because they are usually colder than the air in the room. 

'Condensation occurs most in rooms where steam rises, as the steam then touches the cold walls and ceilings', expands Karl Huckerby, Cleaning Expert, Spare And Square. 'Rooms where this is common include the kitchen and bathroom, as steam is created through cooking or through using the shower or bath.'

How do you fix condensation on the ceiling?

The first priority with treating condensation on the ceiling is to decrease the amount of condensation occurring. Decreasing the level of moisture and humidity in the room will let the damp fade away instead of worsening.

'Check air bricks haven’t been blocked, and ventilate after cooking and bathing if you can, by leaving a window slightly ajar', says Jonathan. 'Use lids on cooking pans, as this saves money too. Moving furniture away from walls is wise too as it will help to prevent stale air pockets.'

Laundry room with washing machine next to clothes airer beneath dehumidifier

(Image credit: Meaco)

A dehumidifier is your best friend when treating condensation on the ceiling. It will circulate air evenly around the room, reaching the level of the ceiling and decreasing the moist air around it.

'A dehumidifier is a simple but effective machine that removes the excess moisture from the air and turns it into water for you to pour away', says Chris, Meaco. 'This means that you will not have enough moisture in the air to condense on the ceiling and the air will feel warmer because the 'damp chill' will be removed the air.' 

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike. 

With contributions from