MOULD is not only horrible to look at but also dangerous to breathe – and the thing I dread most when winter comes around.
Every so often it starts loudly whirring, beginning the mysterious process of dehumidifying the air when it detects too much moisture.
But I can’t have it on all night as I’d never sleep with the racket it makes.
The nights, however, are our biggest problem.
With four of us sleeping across three bedrooms and the heating on, the air tends to steam up pretty quickly without being able to escape through the windows – which I refuse to open in this weather.
On winter mornings I switch Dennis on and he’ll light up red with humidity readings measuring up to 88 per cent, well above the level of 65 which we’ve set and are happy with.
The machine then sucks in about a third of a bucket of water over one day as it works down the humidity.
Needless to say, I don’t enjoy emptying the water down the loo every few days, although it’s oddly satisfying to know all that liquid isn’t sticking to my walls.
With Dennis switched off at night, I need effective (and cheap!) ways of keeping condensation away while we sleep.
Seeing dark patches of mildew on the wall is miserable – but we’re always ready to zap them with spray-on mould remover.
Here is what I tested to beat them.
1. Unibond dehumidifiers
We spend a fortune on topping up our many Aero 360 dehumidifiers which we have stationed on every windowsill upstairs.
Thanks to the “ultra active” crystals inside them they quickly fill up.
They also aren’t that cheap – with the Aero 360 container itself costing around £9.74 and the four-packs of refill tablets £10.99 from Robert Dyas.
What I love about them is the fact you know they are working.
You can see the water gathering up in the containers so you know they are doing their job.
But we easily get through four every six weeks in winter – even though maker Unibond says they should last several months.
If I put a new tablet in, I’m confident that I won’t wake up to a humidity warning from Dennis in the morning, or condensation on the windows.
These are the SAS of the mould-killing world and they don’t mess around.
Salt has the power to draw in moisture – and there’s plenty of internet folklore to suggest bowls of it around the house can dry out the air.
So I decided to swap my Unibonds for bowls of rock salt to see if they worked just as well in clearing the air overnight.
To my surprise, they worked pretty effectively.
There was no red warning from Dennis after setting them up for the night.
The reading from my dehumidifier said 62 per cent.
I did notice a couple of centimetres of water at the bottom of my windows, on the inside.
I don’t get that with Unibonds, so clearly this isn’t as good.
After a day of lying on my sills, the salt had clumped together, which I guess must be because the particles had drawn in water.
If you just put out a bowl of salt, there’s nowhere for the water to drain, so my feeling is I’d have to keep swapping the salt to get them working.
But salt is not that expensive, at £1.70 for 500g from Tesco, so maybe using it in mould-prone corners of my home might not be a bad idea.
3. Baking soda
Baking soda is also meant to suck in the damp – so I tried it out in the same way as salt, leaving bowls of it on my bedroom and bathroom windowsills.
The reading in the morning was around the same as the salt – 60 per cent – and again there were a couple of centimetres of water on the sills.
The baking soda had gone all clumpy and wasn’t stuck to the bowl.
I couldn’t say which was better baking soda or salt – but I was happy with the effects of both.
4. Cat litter in socks
It sounds like an old wives’ tale but putting cat litter in a sock is meant to help reduce dampness.
I duly shovelled a bowl full of cat litter – costing £7 for 10 litres from Tesco – into my husband’s socks and dispersed them in the usual dehumidifying spots.
I can’t believe they were as effective as an Aero 360 dehumidifier, as the socks I used were pretty thick, whereas the 360 container has lots of holes in it to give the tablets proper exposure to the air.
But in the morning the reading was 59 and there was no water on the windows, so my sock-sappers seemed to have done their job.
One problem is that you don’t know when the litter is saturated with water.
With the Aero 360, you can see when the tablet has been used up and the water bowls are full.
So you might get caught out if the cat litter has sucked up the maximum it can.
5. Cat litter in bowls
I also decided to have another go at cat litter and just put bowls of it out onto the window sills.
I can’t see why a sock would be needed.
The main issue of course is that our cats might get the wrong idea when they see them lying about and use them as a toilet.
For some reason, this didn’t work as well.
My humidity reading was 60 per cent – but there was a centimetre of water at the bottom of one of the windows. I’ll go back to the socks.
My tests weren’t exactly scientific as each night our indoor temperature varies, which will have a big impact on humidity.
One evening we even had snow.
There’s no saying when the heating will click on and off to keep us up to our preferred indoor night temperature of 18C, and that will affect our moisture levels.
That said I was surprised that the humidity stayed down to an acceptable level with all of my makeshift dehumidifiers.
There was a bit of window wiping required in the mornings at times, but it was minimal.
I don’t know how long they’d stay effective, I imagine all of them – the salt, the baking soda and the cat litter – would need regular refreshing to stay effective.
My plan for now is to keep my natural dehumidifiers lying around, preferably on top of cupboards or hidden behind curtains, where they can’t be seen.
They do look a bit weird.
I’ll still buy my Unibond Aero 360 tablets as I find them reassuring, but my hope is the other methods will slow down how often I need to buy those costly refills.
A Mrs Hinch fan recently revealed the easy £1 hack to stop mould growing back and you probably already have it in your bathroom.
Plus, a property pro has shared how to avoid getting mould in the first place.