Photo of a hand holding a cleaning cloth wiping condensation off a window with the caption "Is Condensation a problem?"

Does it ever look like your windows are sweating? Or maybe your air conditioning unit, your pipes, and even the walls and floors of your home? You might be wondering why it’s happening, and whether it’s a cause for concern.

Condensation happens when cold surfaces meet warm, humid air. In your house, this can be just a natural occurrence. But it depends. Sometimes, it can lead to serious issues. We’ll help you determine whether your condensation problem is actually a problem, plus suggest some easy steps to fix it.

In this in-depth article, we’ll first explain what condensation is, then discuss what causes it in your home. We’ll also provide tactics for reducing condensation so your home can be comfortable and safe.

Let’s get started!

What Is Condensation?

First, we’ll talk about how condensation develops. Condensation is a part of the water cycle, or the processes that water undergoes continually.

In the air is water vapor. When molecular or atomic clusters with a high gaseous volume develop, condensation will form. That may sound really complex, but we’re really just talking about snowflakes or raindrops.

Through condensation, we get clouds. Clouds release the water or precipitation, sending it to the ground and starting the cycle over again.

Clouds are not only composed of water molecules, but also smoke, salt, and dust. These cloud droplets grow and become the big, fluffy clouds you admire every time you look up into the sky. Clouds are a sky-high example of condensation.

In some instances, condensation can occur closer to the ground, in the form of fog.

Outside of weather, you see condensation all the time in day-to-day life. If you take a drinking glass out of a warm dishwasher and pour cold water into it, condensation will appear. After you take a shower, there is usually condensation on your bathroom mirror.

If you’re someone who wears glasses, then you understand the effects of condensation all too well. When you sit in an air-conditioned car and then exit the vehicle into a hot summer day, your glasses will fog up. That’s also true if it’s cold outside and you’re trying to warm up by sipping a warm coffee or hot chocolate.

Photo of a clear plastic restaurant glass full of iced tea and covered in condensation sitting in the sun on a wooden table.
Condensation in your home happens exactly the way it does on your iced tea glass.

What Causes Condensation On Windows And Other Parts Of My Home?

Condensation is perfectly normal in the above situations, but what about when it’s in your home? It’s not unheard of for your windows to develop a wet layer of condensation. Less commonly, it can occur on other household surfaces.

Appliances such as your washing machine and air conditioner can have condensation on them. Much more concerningly, your home’s ceilings, walls, and floors can, too.

At first glance, the condensation on the surfaces of your home could almost look like a water leak. But even when you turn off the water supply to your home, the condensation problem persists.

Inside the home, condensation still occurs in the same conditions as it does outside. In other words, a cold surface and warm, moist air must meet. The cold surface causes the warm air to cool down, which will then make it contract. This condenses the moisture in the air, leading to drippy windows and stained ceilings.

Before you notice condensation throughout the rest of the home, you’re most likely to see it on your windows. If you constantly rub your shirt sleeve on your windows to defog them, even when the weather isn’t rainy or wet, then your home is too humid. It will likely only be a matter of time before other surfaces become slick with condensation.

Even though windows are the litmus test for humidity issues, window condensation can have other causes. If your windows are old, the seals can begin to break down. This allows outdoor air inside.

Let’s say it’s a warm summer day. You have your air conditioner running indoors as you usually do this time of year. As warm air leaks in through the gaps in the seals of your windows, it meets the cool surface of the windows and condensation occurs.

If you only have one window that has a condensation issue, then it’s more than likely that the window seal is old and should be replaced. When most of your windows are foggy all the time, then it’s your home’s humidity that’s the problem.

Should I Be Worried About Condensation In My Home?

Since condensation is a natural part of the water cycle, you’ll never be able to avoid it completely. It’s normal when your bathroom windows and mirrors fog up after a shower. Even a window getting foggy occasionally might not be cause for concern.

However, if all your windows are foggy, or if the water drippage is occurring on your ceilings, walls, and/or floors, you must do something about it. Here’s why.

Water Damage & Stains

Condensation, being a form of water, can lead to water damage. Water can corrode metal, warp wood, and soak through the insulation behind your walls. Water stains on your walls or ceiling can be unsightly and hard to remove.

Photo of a brown water stain on a white drywall surface.
Preventing water stains is easier than getting rid of them.

Health Issues

What’s worse, the humid, damp conditions create the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. You can clean the mold from your walls or floors. However, unless you reduce the humidity in your home, it will be a recurring issue.

For those with allergies or asthma, breathing in mold could exacerbate their symptoms. Even in healthy people, it’s not wise to be around mold. You could develop wheezing, coughing, and upper respiratory tract symptoms, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC).

Potential Structural Damage

Besides your health, severe condensation could compromise the structural integrity of your walls and ceilings. In worst-case scenarios, your ceiling or wall could begin falling apart from the water damage.

11 Ways To Prevent Condensation In Your Home

By reducing your home’s humidity, you can prevent further water damage. Here is a collection of suggestions to control humidity.

Replace Windows

How old are your windows? If they’re a decade or two old, then it’s not a bad idea to get new ones. Today’s windows are more sustainable than ever. You can select from double-paned and triple-paned windows with low-emissivity or low-E glass that restricts how much ultraviolet and infrared light get into your home.

Caulk, Seals & Weatherstripping

It’s not only the seals around your windows that can invite in outdoor air to begin the condensation process, but the seals around your doors and appliances as well. Check your weatherstripping, too, and replace it if it’s old and worn. As a bonus, air sealing your home is one of the best steps you can take toward greater energy efficiency.

Get an Extractor Fan

Also known as exhaust hoods, extractor fans are a must in rooms like the kitchen or bathroom that are especially prone to condensation. Today’s extractor fans are eco-friendlier than ever, so your quest for a greener, less humid home can be successful.

Use a Dehumidifier

Another device that will reduce the moisture in your home is a dehumidifier. By pulling the moisture from the air in the rooms that are prone to condensation, you’ll eliminate the dripping and fogging. (Did you know a super-efficient heat pump water heater can double as a dehumidifier if you put it in the right place?)

Photo of a white dehumidifier appliance on a laminate house floor between a brown couch and a houseplant.
A dehumidifier can help keep things dry if you live in a perpetually moist climate.

Open A Window

This might sound counterintuitive, since you don’t want to let outdoor air into your home. But outdoor air is not the only culprit for humidity. Lots of indoor activities generate warm, moist air—even breathing!

By opening a window, you can release some of that warm air and ventilate your home. We don’t recommend this on those sticky, humid days, but rather when the weather is temperate or even cool.

Reconsider Growing Houseplants

Do you have a big green thumb? Houseplants are great for keeping the air clean, but they, too, can contribute to the humidity in your home. If you have plants clustered together, reposition some so they’re spaced further apart. Or you could get a few fake plants to keep the look.

Don’t Put Furniture Against External Walls

How much of your living room or sitting room furniture is against the walls? You want to keep some space between your couch or table and any external walls, creating a distance of at least two inches. Now air can circulate behind your furniture.

Avoid Overpacking Closets and Cabinets

Here’s a small tip that can make a big difference. In your kitchen, limit how much food and dinnerware are in your cabinets and on your shelves. Tidy up your coat closet and bedroom closet so they’re not packed to the gills with clothing.

What’s the benefit of this, you might ask? When everything in a dark, enclosed space is tightly packed, moisture can develop from the lack of ventilation. This will foster mold growth. No one wants mildewy clothes or musty food, so it’s worth taking the time to declutter your home.

Keep Your Aquarium Covered

A turtle, lizard, or fish is a fun pet, but the light and heat their tank generates can worsen your humidity problem. Covering these tanks, especially when your pets are sleeping, takes away one more source of humidity in your home.

Use Lids When Cooking

Since the kitchen is one of the most humid parts of the house, using an extractor fan is not enough. You also don’t want to produce excessive humidity while you cook. Whenever possible, cover your pots and pans.

Oh, and leave your extractor fan running even when you’ve already plated and served dinner. After it goes for about 10 minutes, you can be sure that the humidity in your kitchen is well under control.

Vent Your Dryer

Down in your laundry room, your dryer could be contributing to your humidity problem each time you run a load if the unit isn’t vented correctly. A well-vented dryer will also make less noise when it’s on, not to mention it’s less likely to release dangerous fumes.

Conclusion

Condensation, as part of the water cycle, is a natural occurrence. But natural isn’t healthy when condensation develops on your windows, walls, ceilings or floors. The culprit is usually excess humidity, which can be caused by everything from showering and cooking to breathing.

You can’t remove every trace of humidity in your home. But by making a few easy lifestyle shifts, you can reduce the amount of humid air and control condensation. Best of luck!

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