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Indoor laundry drying poses a health risk

Date: 19 October 2020


Indoor laundry drying poses a health risk

Drying laundry in the home poses a health risk to those prone to asthma, hay fever and other allergies, according to research.

Drying your clothes indoors can lead to condensation and mould 

We know the UK and Irish weather is cold and wet for many months of the year, but did you know this can pose a serious health risk for people, especially those who suffer from asthma, hay fever and other allergies? Part of the problem is caused by drying laundry on radiators and drying frames which increases indoor moisture levels by up to 30%, creating ideal conditions for mould spores. 

Mould spores produce allergens, irritants, and even toxic substances. The risk by unknowingly inhaling or touching mould spores can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes, skin rash and more commonly, asthma attacks.  

Dr Osborne, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Health at the University of New South Wales states: “from a health perspective... many biological agents are found indoors, and they usually thrive on dampness and inadequate ventilation. They have found that dampness itself has been a good indicator of risk of asthma and respiratory symptoms. There are other studies that show inhalation of fungal spores... are linked to allergic sensitisation and asthma”. *(1) 

The Glasgow school of Art carried out an environmental assessment of domestic laundry drying and found that ‘The average load of washing releases around 2 litres of moisture into the air during the drying process, creating the conditions in which mould spores grow and dust mites thrive.’ *(2) 

 

Our Laundry Drying Habits 

Rubber glove pointing to green mould on wall

Research supports the fact that many homes have too much indoor moisture, a third of which can be attributed to indoor laundry drying. We've all had to dry our laundry indoors at some point when the weather outside is just too cold or wet, so you wouldn’t be alone in being unaware that this could be seriously affecting your health.  

Hanging washing on radiators and laundry airers is common practice, but researchers are calling for a stop to this. Rosalie Menon, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, carried out research in people’s homes to assess their laundry drying habits. She found the majority of people had laundry drying in main rooms, including bedrooms and living areas. 75% of these households researched had moisture levels which would contribute to the development of harmful mould and growth in dust mites. *(3) 

 

Health Effects 

Mould in the home is a common health problem affecting tens of thousands of people in the UK, according to Malcolm Richardson, Professor of Medical Mycology at the University of Manchester. He stresses the fact that “mould and dust mites can form in any poorly ventilated house, no matter how grand or ordinary.” *(4) 

The Asthma Society of Ireland is also strengthening the argument against indoor laundry drying, stating that “moist environments encourage the growth of mould and spores.” These spores can cause serious allergic reactions in some people, mainly those who suffer from existing allergies. However, these reactions are not just limited to allergy sufferers. *(5)


The list of people who are at a higher risk of health issues arising from mould and spores include: 
  • Babies Three Blue Asthma Inhalers
  • Children 
  • Elderly people 
  • People with asthma 
  • People with hay fever 
  • People with weakened immune systems  
  • People with skin issues such as eczema 

Phenna Kenny from The Asthma Society of Ireland explains that “normally when people breathe in these spores their immune system helps to get rid of them by coughing or sneezing.” What’s concerning with this mould is that it’s invisible to the naked eye. The good news is not everyone is sensitive to mould and so you may never experience a reaction. However, if you are concerned this could happen, you can take steps to prevent future health concerns surrounding mould. *(5) 

  

How to prevent further damage 

"My advice would be when in doubt, dry wet washing outside, in a tumble dryer or in a well-ventilated indoor space away from bedrooms and living areas to be safe rather than sorry", says Professor David Denning from the National Aspergillosis Centre in Manchester. *(5) 

Unfortunately, we can't change the weather, but we can change our household habits, so here are a few ideas to prevent further health risks associated with indoor laundry drying: 

  • We know that living in built-up areas and cities there can be issues with outdoor space. Where possible it is suggested that you dry your washing outside even if it takes longer due to cold air during the likes of winter months. If this is not a viable option, then making use of a tumble dryer is suggested, ensuring it is placed within a well-ventilated indoor space. This space should be away from all bedrooms and living rooms as these are the most lived in areas of the house.  Dad and children sneezing in bed with allergies

  • It is advised that in addition to not drying clothes indoors, you should also avoid packing clothes too tightly into wardrobes and cupboards that may be susceptible to getting damp. 

  • The worst months for drying laundry indoors are October to March, so avoid these months as mould is more likely to build up in homes due to major weather changes and people forgetting to ventilate accordingly. 

  • Open windows regularly to ensure your home is well ventilated, helping in the prevention of mould building up indoors. This includes using extractor fans to increase the ventilation when cooking, cleaning, showering etc.  

  • Keep all household items in clean, dry areas away from areas where mould is more likely to grow. This includes showers and sinks, so make sure these areas are free from leakages where moisture problems can be avoided.  

  • If mould already exists in your home, wash it off hard surfaces using a mixture of vinegar, water and soap. The build-up of mould will be prevented if this process is followed as needed.  

How Can BEAM Help? 

We have mechanical ventilation solutions to help with mould and condensation issues and prevent it from happening in your new build or existing home. Our range of ventilation systems are perfect for ensuring fresh filtered air is supplied around your home 24/7 to prevent the build-up of mould. Our range includes the following: 

Our range of Heat Recovery Systems provide the best of built-in freshness with continuous clean, fresh, filtered air circulated around the home. An AXCO MVHR system from Beam will: 

Beam Engineer replacing Mechanical Ventilation filters
  • Contribute to the energy efficiency of your home 
  • Supply constant clean, warmed, fresh filtered air 
  • Reduce/eliminate surface condensation 
  • Enhance heat distribution from your heating system  
  • Eliminate mould, mildew and musty odours 

Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) is the ideal solution for condensation and mould issues in existing homes. It is designed to gently ventilate the home continuously from a central position in a landing or hallway. The moisture-laden air is diluted, displaced and replaced with fresh filtered air and will provide the following: 

  • Stop streaming windows
  • Remove mould and musty odours
  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Save energy 
  • Aid radon dispersion 

If you have issues with condensation in bathrooms, Mechanical Extract Ventilation (MEV) is an excellent alternative to noisy extractor fans. A single low energy MEV fan is ducted to multiple wet rooms, continuously extracting stale, polluted air to outside. The unit increases automatically when sensing humidity and will provide the following benefits: 

  • No need for noisy extractor fans
  • No draughts from extractor fan openings
  • Eliminates condensation and mould growth
  • Removes musty odours and encourages fresh air throughout 
Child sleeping on pillow with white teddy

Let’s face it, your family’s health should always come first! By making these small changes to your laundry drying habits you could be saving them from developing allergies and severe health problems in the future.  

Today, people are sealing their homes more tightly to be energy efficient and more comfortable, but this is not always accompanied by ventilating them accurately and avoiding the problems that this brings, I.e. condensation, mould growth. 


  

Get in Touch today to speak to an expert to find the best solution for your home.  


  










 

*(1) https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/can-damp-and-mould-affect-my-health/ 
*(2) https://www.gsa.ac.uk/research/sustainability/environmental-assessment-of-domestic-laundering/ 
*(3) http://radar.gsa.ac.uk/2765/1/RBRI_A_708599%5B1%5D_Porteous_revise.pdf 
*(4) https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/prevent-mould-damp-health-uk-14299354 
*(5) https://www.her.ie/health/youll-think-twice-about-drying-clothes-indoors-after-reading-this-experts-advice-460180