By Professional Organiser Jennifer Manefield of Jennifer’s Decluttering Solutions
I always feel a bit of a dinosaur when clients look at me, perplexed, when I suggest that opening windows might reduce a humidity and mould problem in any room in their home. Particularly in their wardrobe if that wardrobe is against an external wall. A home always loses and gains heat more rapidly through an external wall and the result can be condensation within the room and inside your wardrobe.
The housekeeping rituals of our grandmothers or great-grandmothers are often absent, or dim and little understood memories. But go on a holiday to say Italy, and the daily, weekly and seasonal rituals of aired rooms, bedding and seasonal wardrobe changes are a constant presence if you care to note.
In summer, cascading geraniums compete with clothing hung to air from window boxes. Every morning, even on the iciest of days, heating is turned down, bedding is pulled back and windows opened wide to let hot, stale, steamy air out of every room and freshen the house. People mark the change of seasons with “il cambio stagione” when wardrobes are emptied, clothing and bedding are aired, washed or dry cleaned, and then packed carefully away for the next time they are needed months later.
In many parts of Australia, the change of seasons requires nothing more than a hoodie, jacket or coat over your day-to-day clothing. Seasonal allergies are more of a problem than temperature change.
In the age of air conditioners and climate control, people don’t realise how beneficial some circulating air can be. Certain windows, cupboards and wardrobe doors rarely even get opened. I’ve seen wardrobe railings bow and sag under the weight of all the hanging clothes. Hangers packed so tightly that when you try and remove one, clothing cascades to the floor. It gets hurriedly bundled up and shoved back in, often on the shoes stacked three-pairs-high in the bottom or in a handy shelf compartment to be dealt with “later”. Sound familiar?
So why it is such a surprise and even a disappointment when you find evidence of mould in corners; your stored doona mottled; shoes covered in white mould; or old favourite pieces of clothing marked and yellowing when you want to wear them?
Don’t have your aircon set to 18°C if outside it is 35°C as this temperature difference just encourages condensation. You will still be comfortable at 24 or 26°C and probably save a bit of money too.
Get into the habit of “airing” your room. If not every day, then when you strip your bed to change the sheets. Don’t make it straight away, but let the mattress and pillows air and open your wardrobe and cupboard doors. Ceiling fans are great for getting the air moving.
Bite the bullet and once a season or twice a year Empty. That. Wardrobe.
Wipe your shelves out and vacuum the bottom of the wardrobe. Check clothes for tears and stains. Clothes in good shape that you haven’t worn in a year, don’t fit or things you bought by mistake: donate them and make someone else happy.
Put your shoes out in the fresh air. See if they need new heels or soles. Donate the ones you aren’t wearing that are in excellent condition or sell them. Same goes for handbags and belts.
Overwhelmed? Well. the idea of doing this is always worse than the actual doing… so just give it a go. You will save yourself not only disappointment but money. Your asthma and allergies may well improve too.
Yes, modern houses and apartment living, and our busy working lives might seem to make it all a bit more difficult. In Australia, there are times of the year when allergies, asthma and hazard reduction burning or bushfires make opening those windows impossible. So, let’s look at a few modern tools to manage humidity in your wardrobe.
Read the instruction manual for your air con system. They often have settings that can be adjusted to reduce humidity, not just heat or cool air.
Giving things the space to breathe is a good strategy. So, choose the same sort of clothes hanger to maximise the use of space as well as let clothes hang properly. You should be able to move a hand between each piece of clothing hanging in your wardrobe, otherwise air can’t circulate.
Your grandparents may have kept their clothes in chests and wardrobes of cedar. Cedarwood contains thujaplicin, a natural antibacterial and antifungal agent, and some types of cedar also have insect-repellent qualities. Today you can still benefit from these protective properties by trying products like these in your wardrobes.
Cedar Fresh will protect your clothes without chemicals.
Humidity in the wardrobe can be managed by a combination of the strategies above and products like these which can really help in modern homes where maybe your clothes are kept in a walk-in robe or change room with no external openings. This product is endorsed by the National Asthma Council of Australia.
Open shoe storage lets you see your shoes and the air circulate. If you prefer closed containers for your shoes, then I suggest saving the tiny white sachets of silica gel that come in the box when you buy new shoes and tucking it in with each pair of shoes.
It is a combination of useful products and good habits that will let you get on top of any wardrobe humidity problems you have.