It is every caravan owner’s worst nightmare – unlocking their pride and joy after a period of storage only to be met with a musty smell and those dreaded black spots of mildew and spreading damp patches. Be honest, did you cringe just reading that first sentence? While new caravans are built using materials which make it far less likely, there are still thousands of older-style wood construction caravans in use, meaning damp is still a major issue. Not only does it greatly affect the look and comfort levels of your caravan (and value), damp and the associated mould and mildew problems can have serious health implications for you and your family.
Here’s our guide to avoiding damp in your caravan and how to deal with it should the issue arise. These tips are equally applicable in touring caravans and static caravans.
Preventing damp and related issues
As always, prevention is better than cure, and it is far easier to do what you can to stop damp, mildew and mould setting in than it is to get rid of them once they’ve found a new home. Following these steps will help to prevent that nightmare from becoming your reality:
- Clean and vacuum the entire interior of your caravan regularly. Wipe down all surfaces with an anti-bacterial or disinfectant product and make sure everything is properly clean and dry before you lock up again
- Don’t leave your caravan locked up for lengthy periods of time. Even if you won’t be using it for a few months, remember to visit and let some air circulate every now and again. If you store it away from home, try to find someone local who can take on this task. Your storage facility may be able to help, or at least point you in the right direction
- No matter how well you’ve cleaned your caravan before the off-season, give it a thorough clean again before you use it. Don’t forget the exterior!
- Always open the bathroom and kitchen windows as much as possible, particularly straight after the shower or oven have been used. Don’t let moisture build up
- Check often for any signs of leaks, damaged seals or other issues (no matter how small) which could allow moisture, bacteria and fungus to collect and breed
- Don’t forget about your cupboards – clean inside all cabinets, wardrobes and other storage units regularly and dry completely before replacing contents
- If something gets spilled or water is splashed in the kitchen or bathroom, always clean it immediately
- Wipe condensation from the windows and doors as soon as you spot it
- If any soft furnishings, carpets, cushions or other materials get wet to the point of being unable to dry, remove and replace immediately
- If any areas of your caravan are particularly prone to moisture, use dehumidifying crystals and other moisture control products to keep it to a minimum
- Clean again before each break in your caravan comes to an end
Basically, the best way to keep your caravan free of damp, mould and mildew is to keep it clean and dry at all times (or as close to it as you can possibly manage)
Recognising the signs of damp
No matter how careful you are, your caravan could still be susceptible to damp and the associated problems, particularly if you own a wooden-construction model. Learning to recognise the signs of damp is essential and will enable you to deal with the problem swiftly.
- Musty smell on entering the caravan
- Black marks around windows or doors, or on walls
- Staining on walls
- Walls which feel soft when pressed with fingertips
- Damp-looking patches on walls or ceilings
The most reliable way to check for damp is to invest in a damp meter. These can be purchased relatively cheaply from hardware stores, eBay and similar outlets and are great at detecting the early signs of damp. If you do suspect your caravan is likely to fall foul, the price of one of these will be infinitely less than the cost of sorting out a rampant damp problem.
Whether you use a damp meter or check manually, remember to check absolutely everywhere – inside cupboards, wardrobes and drawers, behind seats, in every nook and cranny… leave no area unchecked!
If you suspect that your caravan has water ingress in any of the panels or floor it is best to consult a professional.
There is no quick fix for water ingress and an engineer will be able to assess the extent of the damage and advise on the best course of action, as it is possible that specialist equipment will be needed to remedy the problem.
Removing mould and mildew
- Make sure to wear appropriate protective clothing before you start dealing with damp, mould or mildew (just have a look at the section on the health risks if you don’t think it’s necessary). This should include decent gloves, a face mask and an apron or overalls.
- Never use bleach to clean up. Use either a solution of washing up liquid and warm water, or a mixture of one part vinegar to one part warm water to deal with the mould and mildew.
- Use a scrubbing brush to thoroughly clean the affected areas
- Dry completely
- Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of clove oil to 1 litre of water and apply to the affected areas to stop the damp from returning. Wipe off and dry after twenty minutes.
- If the mould and mildew are particularly bad or recurrent, it is well worth investing in the services of a professional to sort the problem properly
Once you have cleared the mould and mildew, remember to follow the steps we gave for preventing the issue. We’re sure you don’t want to have to deal with it all over again the next time you visit your caravan!
Health risks associated with damp, mould and mildew
Many people underestimate the potential health problems caused by the presence of damp, mould and mildew, but the truth is that they can have a very serious effect on health, particularly in small children, the elderly and others with underlying health conditions.
The following are some of the most common health risks associated with damp:
- Allergic reactions can be caused by inhaling spores
- Those with asthma can experience asthma attacks or even added complications if mould and mildew spores are breathed into the lungs
- People with weakened or compromised immune systems can be susceptible to lung infections when exposed to damp, mould and mildew
- It’s not all about physical symptoms – mental health can also be affected. Some proven effects include memory loss, mood swings, chronic fatigue and migraines. Nothing particularly pleasant, we’re sure you will agree!
- The skin is also prone to reacting to damp and spores – hives, skin rashes, eczema, bacterial infections and fungal infections are all possible
As you have no doubt realised by now, keeping your caravan clean, dry and free of damp will take some time and effort, but it is far preferable to risking the effects of not doing it. Always keep your health, and that of your family, friends and pets, as a priority (alongside your financial investment in the caravan, of course!)
Buying a second-hand caravan
If you are buying a caravan privately, we would recommend that you employ the services of a caravan engineer to complete a pre purchase check for you. They will be able to confirm whether the van you are looking at is a bargain or not. Not only will they look at the structure of the caravan but also make sure that the gas and electrics are safe as well as many other checks. The MCEA have a nationwide network of mobile engineers who can carry out pre purchase checks – remember it could be money well spent.
Beware of any seller who is not keen on having an independent person survey their van and ask yourself, what are they possibly hiding?
Do you have any experience with damp in your caravan or any tips to avoid it? Tell us about them below.
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