No matter the time of year, relative humidity in Hong Kong is a sticky issue that is difficult to control. It’s particularly troublesome in the spring, and when the summer heat intensifies, humidity levels tend to soar to well above 80 percent. Even in autumn, when relative humidity hovers around 70 percent, life can be uncomfortable for you, your wardrobe and your prized possessions, so it’s crucial to take steps now to banish any unwanted moisture.
When the air becomes heavy with excess moisture, it can create condensation. As water vapours become liquid, surfaces mist up, clothes discolour and damaging dampness, with its inhospitable musty aroma, sets in. Without treatment or relief, condensation becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mould can creep over walls, ceilings, floors and furniture. Many people may not be aware that airborne viruses also thrive in high humidity, causing respiratory issues and exacerbating allergies to the likes of pollen. But there’s hope among the encroaching damp and gloom; we have the means to control moisture at home.
Tip 1: Keep the dehumidifier going
Optimum humidity levels can depend on the weather, though for confined indoor spaces keeping within the 30 to 50 percent range is best – ideally 45 percent – which is a definite challenge for any Hong Kong home. The best prevention of the onset of condensation and its crippling effects is to equip the home with a dehumidifier or three. There’s a reason why the most discerning of fashion or sneaker collectors run a dehumidifier in their dressing room 24/7.
This is not some exaggerated method of preserving precious, delicate fabrics; it’s an essential moisture-control solution that enables you to maintain and monitor the humidity level of the room. As moisture-laden air is drawn in, condensation collects in the machine and not on your surfaces. As well as keeping the environment dry, dehumidifiers discourage the build-up of bacteria, mould and viruses, thus preserving the good condition of that stylish décor, furniture and home accessories.
Tip 2: Coat the walls with anti-condensation paint
Condensation occurs when hot, moist air meets cold, dry surfaces. This is often seen in the form of water droplets on walls, ceilings and glass windows, and if left untreated, the accumulation of moisture opens the door to mould. As a solution, anti-condensation paint made from acrylic can be used to add a protective layer of insulation to each room, ensuring cold walls and dry ceilings.
In contrast to oil- and water-based paint, acrylic paint is resistant to high levels of moisture, shielding walls and ceilings with a water-proof mask. Its inherent properties are also rugged enough to withstand blistering, flaking or cracking from extensive sunlight exposure, so this protective coat can combat the unpredictable nature of our rain-or-shine climate. For those who like to dress rooms with wallpaper, vinyl wall panels offer a protective barrier against any moisture accumulation and dampness within the concrete.
Tip 3: Air conditioners help cool down the room
Regulating the temperature of the home also plays a huge role in controlling relative humidity and the build up of moisture. Customised insulation systems are rare in Hong Kong homes, especially in high-rise flats, since the winter is neither long nor harsh enough to require regular central heating. Instead, temperature control generally kicks in during the summer, with air conditioning used to cool rooms and make hot, humid months bearable.
Humidity occurs in the presence of hot air since it absorbs more moisture than cooler air, which is typically too dense to hold it. To put it simply, the hotter the air in contrast to the temperature of a room’s surfaces, the more moisture is collected, and the greater the danger of condensation. While using air conditioning may not win any environmental awards, it will surely boost your internal battle with dampness.
Properly ventilate heated and wet areas to relieve condensation in the rooms
Tip 4: Keep clean air circulating
There is another effortless yet more natural and sustainable way to combat humidity, and one that won’t rack up an eye-watering electricity bill at the end of the month. Simply opening windows and doors enables the recycling of stale, hot air and its replacement with cooler, fresh air. Strategically placed electric fans can also help with cross ventilation, increasing air circulation without inflating your household bills to such an extent.
Keeping the air moving in hotter and wetter rooms like the kitchen and bathroom may be tricky. These spaces are not usually blessed with large windows and are positioned in less favourable areas of the home, away from the natural flow of air. Higher humidity is to be expected here due to trapped heat and moisture from daily activities such as cooking and bathing. Installing a powerful exhaust fan is therefore key to blow out the hot and welcome the cool air.
Tip 5: Stock up on succulents and desiccants
In a boon for plant-parents and those who enjoy exercising their green thumbs, greenery such as Boston ferns, ivy, spider plant, and flora like lilies and orchids, to name a few, are great at absorbing moisture, and thus serve as natural, sustainable dehumidifiers for the home. Succulents and cacti are also adept at soaking up water through their leaves.
Storage areas like closets and rooms with wooden furniture and cabinets need sufficient circulation to release stagnant air, which can become a breeding ground for dust, bacteria and spores that eventually transform into mould and mildew. Going green may not work here, so either use a dehumidifier and open windows (if that’s an option) and doors whenever possible, or use desiccant materials such as packets of silica gel, bauxite, calcium sulphate and montmorillonite clay to maintain dryness and avoid the onset of condensation.
Tip 6: Protect carpets and hardwood furniture
Avoiding the use of carpets and wooden furniture in densely humid areas is a wise choice to make, but if their decorative appeal proves stronger than the threat of mould at home, then it is essential to protect these vulnerable furnishings with some mindful arrangements. Prevent your precious hardwood furniture from the ravages of moisture and damp by not placing pieces directly in front of windows and heat conductors that will increase their temperature, leaving them at the mercy of condensation. Stop the rot before it has a chance to set in.
As for carpeting, professional companies can be hired for specialised cleaning to prevent bacteria, dust or spores from developing into mould when humidity levels soar. Taking these careful precautions during the drier autumn and winter months will make your home safer and more comfortable come spring and summer.