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horrible damp smell in built-in wardrobes - please help

(17 Posts)
racingheart Wed 28-Dec-11 23:14:01

We have huge built in wardrobes in two bedrooms but can't use them as they make all the clothes smell musty. They'r eon outside walls. Previous owners have lined some of the compartments with polystyrene which hasn't seemed to help.

We tried those crystal things that turn pink when you hang them but they turn pink immediately and seem to stay pink. They spent most of their time being plugged in to dry out so I gave up.

Any ideas? Can't really afford to pull them down, build new and get new fitted carpets, much as I'd love to, and I'm sick of piles of clothes everywhere.

AnotherMincepie Thu 29-Dec-11 16:34:54

If there is a damp problem then you'll need to get the builders in to sort it out once and for all. How about asking some builders to check it out and give you a free quote? The damp could be caused by something as simple as a leaky roof where a tile is missing, or chimneys which aren't in use but aren't covered over.

BananaPie Thu 29-Dec-11 19:49:26

Could it be caused by condensation? Quite common if it's a north facing wall with little airflow.

smithster Thu 29-Dec-11 20:05:14

cat litter? The crystal type? may be thr same thing as the crystals you mention. sounds like you need to treat the cause though as you'll be breathing thr damp in too, not good for chest.

racingheart Thu 29-Dec-11 21:47:12

Thanks for your replies. I hadn't really thought about what might be causing the damp - just wondered how to get rid of it. A couple of builders have said they thought it was lack of ventilation - that air bricks should have been put in when the wardrobes were built. I wasn't sure what they meant. They didn't seem that keen to put it right.

Pretty sure the roof is OK as it's been looked at fairly recently but there is an open, uncapped chimney, so I might get that checked out.

Has anyone tried those dehumidifiers - the kind that look like heaters - used in caravans to get rid of damp? I wondered if one of those would dry them out well enough for us to be able to clean and repaint them, and use them again.

VivaLeBeaver Thu 29-Dec-11 21:55:36

We had this.

We got one of those heater dehumidifiers and it did sort it mainly. We also keep the wardrobe doors half open to encourage good airflow. And we use the crystal type dehumidifers in the wardrobes.....if you get the heater type one that should do most of it, with the crystal ones for the targeted area.

It worked well for quite a few years until last winter when it was really cold. The colder it is, the worse it gets, dh says it's the cold air from outside hitting the warm air that causes the condensation. We have an old house with no cavity wall. So last year dh put a false plywood back on the wardrobe and put polystyrene sheets under the plywood. So far it's been ok this year and the dehumidifier is actually downstairs now.

PigletJohn Sat 31-Dec-11 01:04:01

condensation inside wall-cupboards, and behind furniture, is very common. It happens because the wall is cold on the outside, and the furniture prevents heat getting to it from the room, so the surface of the wall is particularly cold, and cold surfaces attract condensation.

One of the things that will help is reducing moisture in the house, and especially in that room. So ventilation using windows or trickle vents, and avoiding draping wet washing around the house or on top of radiators will make the biggest difference.

You can also ventilate the cupboard to the outside, which will make it drier but colder. It probably won't need an air-brick, you might get enough airflow (depending on wind direction) with one or two one-inch holes. These can be drilled using a hammer drill and a long bit as used for putting overflow pipes through walls. It will be better if they are very high, since water vapour rises. If you can drill one on the back wall and one on the side, there will be more chance of a thoughflow of air.

You can also insulate the walls by sticking insulating foam to it, but there must be no gaps. Wherever there is a gap, and moist air can get to the wall, there will be even more condensation and damp than at present. You can buy 25mm polystryrene slabs quite cheaply at builders merchants and bigger DIY stores. The thin stuff like wallpaper has very little insulating value.

Trizelda Sat 31-Dec-11 01:19:53

We had a flat with a musty was horrible. Builders wanted to put an airbrick in but we bought a dehumidifier and it solved the problem within a day or two. It needs turning off at night or you wake up very dehydrated! Good for drying washing too. You can set it at a level so that it switches off once the air is dry enough. Think the brand was EBAC...not sure if they are still going. We sold the dehumidifier with the flat eventally.

southeastastra Sat 31-Dec-11 01:23:47

we had this, i stripped back the plaster to bare wall then redid it and painted with a damp repellant paint thing, best thing it to totally remove the wardrobe though and get freestanding ones

racingheart Sat 31-Dec-11 19:46:37

Thank you all. I looked at dehumidifiers in John Lewis today. Sounds like that will get rid of the problem, then we can wash away any mould if there is any and put the clothes back in the wardrobes.
Trizelda - I'll look for Ebac - the one they recommended was Delonghi I think.

JoeMalone Sun 27-Sep-15 11:20:00

Running a dehumidifier is expensive and unsustainable in the long term. Your first course of action should be to improve ventilation to the property and not by opening windows! Install a continuous running centrifugal fan to the bathroom, make sure that trickle speed is wired to run continuously with boost speed wired to the bathroom lighting circuit.

Are you living in a solid walled property? How many bedroom, bathrooms and occupants are there in the property?

PigletJohn Sun 27-Sep-15 12:02:16


JoeMalone Sun 27-Sep-15 12:25:14

Yes, anonymous, no need to shout. It's a blog.

Sinead16 Mon 22-Feb-16 21:06:15

Can u wallpaper on top of the polystyrene boards

Oiseau1 Sat 14-May-16 20:44:07

Hi racingheart, I know this post was a few years ago but I wondered how you got on with the dehumidifier and if this was enough to do the trick?? Just noticed we have the same prob confused

dervrubel Tue 12-Jul-16 16:08:30

my problem with damp and wardrobe is that I have a missing skirting board along the wall behind the wardrobe. I am running out of ideas how to fix it. The gap behind the wardrobe is no more than 10cm no chance to get there at all. what can I do. thank u. tom

monicaglenfield Tue 12-Jul-16 17:15:49

Try a hanging wardrobe dehumidifier This will absorb any moisture that has built up inside the wardrobe and stop the clothes smelling.

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