An inevitable part of caravanning is having to deal with condensation forming inside the van from time to time.
Whether it’s the rainy humid weather or the chilly nights that are causing the wet windows and walls, condensation in caravans is a common cause of frustration.
It’s important to actively reduce and prevent condensation in the caravan as much as you can in order to minimise long-term damage and mould growth.
Here we tackle the causes of condensation in your caravan, as well as plenty of actionable steps you can take to stay on top of it.
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What is Condensation?
According to National Geographic:
Condensation is the process where water vapour becomes liquid. It is the reverse action of evaporation, where liquid water becomes a vapour.
Condensation happens in one of two ways:
- The air is cooled to its dew point
- The air becomes so saturated with water vapour that it cannot hold any more water
In simple terms, condensation is formed when there is too much liquid in the air. When those tiny liquid particles touch a cold surface, they form as little water droplets.
Condensation is created when the air temperature differs from the temperature of the surface.
This is why when the outside temperature decreases overnight, you’ll notice condensation forming on the caravan walls, windows and roof since the air temperature inside the van is much warmer.
Causes of Condensation in Caravans
Lack of Ventilation
One of the largest causes of condensation in caravans is due to it being such a small, enclosed space. Add to that multiple people breathing and sweating and you can see how quickly the water vapour levels in the air can increase.
When it’s cold or rainy outside, it makes more sense to keep the caravan closed up in order to keep the warmth in.
The lack of ventilation will subsequently cause condensation to form inside the caravan, particularly when the outside temperature begins to drop at night.
Cooking Inside the Caravan
The next reason for condensation in caravans is caused by the everyday task of cooking.
It makes sense when you think about it. As you’re cooking or even boiling the kettle, thousands of tiny droplets of moisture are added to the air inside the caravan.
If you don’t have the exhaust fan going and/ or windows open for ventilation, there is simply nowhere else for those water vapours to go besides forming on the walls, windows and roof.
Showering Inside the Caravan
Much like cooking in the van, showering inside a closed-up caravan will also cause condensation. Hot showers will increase that level of condensation with the addition of steam floating around in the air.
We all know how quickly a regular-sized bathroom can fog up in a house, but when you’re showering in a tiny caravan cubicle, the amount of space for the water vapours in the air to escape to is very much compressed.
Storing Wet Towels & Clothes Inside the Caravan
If the weather outside is dismal, it can make sense to hang wet towels and clothes inside the caravan to attempt to dry them out.
However, if the caravan is closed up, the only place for the water to go, as it evaporates from the fabric, is into the air and eventually onto the walls and roof.
Breathing & Body Heat
It is estimated that 55 – 60% of an adult’s body is made up of water. From there, approximately 1/4 of our daily water intake is lost in respiration (breathing). Plus, we also lose a fair amount of water through sweating, with the volume varying from person to person.
So, where does all of this water loss go? Into the air of course.
It’s easy to see why a caravan can feel like it’s dripping in condensation when waking on a cold morning, especially if there has been a family of people breathing and sweating in there all night with the windows closed.
The final contributing factor to the forming of condensation in caravans is the weather.
Remember, condensation forms as a result of a difference in the air temperature and surface temperature.
So, if you’ve got a warm caravan, filled with breathing humans rubbing up against cold or humid air temperatures outside, then those two opposing air temps will cause condensation to form.
Just like, if there is prolonged rainy weather, which forces the caravan occupants to keep the windows closed, cook inside and hang the wet towels inside, condensation can take hold pretty quickly.
Not only that, if the air is already saturated with water vapour, it doesn’t take much for the excess to turn into water droplets on the caravan’s surfaces.
How to Stop Condensation in Caravans
Open Vents, Hatches & Windows
The biggest contributor to condensation in caravans is the lack of ventilation. By opening up the windows and hatches, you ensure that the trapped moisture has a way of exiting.
If the weather outside is too cold or wet to throw open the windows, then you can just crack a few of them open a little to encourage airflow.
Dry the Air Out with a Heater
One of the quickest ways to combat condensation issues inside a caravan is to turn the heater on.
Drying the air out reduces the moisture content in the air, which helps to stop condensation in caravans.
I highly recommend installing a diesel heater for keeping warm and reducing condensation while caravanning off-grid. They can be found on eBay for a few hundred dollars and easily installed at home (if you’re handy on the tools).
When you’re hooked up to 240-volt power, simply switch the air conditioner split system (if you’ve got one) onto the heat setting.
You don’t have to run the heater all day and night to eliminate condensation. Keeping the heater on low and maintaining the temperature is ideal. However, if you can’t leave it on, then switching it on periodically will also help to keep the air dry.
Circulate the Air with Fans
Another way to keep the air moving inside the caravan and speed up the ventilation process is to switch on some fans in addition to have some windows and vents open.
We had four 12-volt Sirocco fans throughout our van – one for each sleeping person. The best thing about these particular fans is that they can swivel around in all directions to point wherever you need them to.
Put Wet Towels & Clothes Outside
Although it’s tempting to hang the wet towels inside and store any wet clothing in the bathroom, if you’re dealing with heavy condensation, it’s best to put them outside for the time being.
Once the weather warms up, the rain clears or the condensation stops becoming such an issue, you can go back to hanging the towels inside if need be.
My absolute favourite caravan modification is to install a permanent awning clothesline. That way, as long as the awning is out, you’ve always got plenty of line space for hanging wet things.
Having a clothesline under the awning is particularly handy in wet weather. Granted, the items may not completely dry (unless there’s a wicked breeze), but it’s better than leaving them piled up in the washing basket and getting smelly.
Cook Outside (if possible)
If you have the option of cooking outside during times of high condensation, then that would be option number one.
Many caravans these days come with slide-out kitchens and BBQARM attachments for the BBQ set-up. So, as long as the weather is good enough, cooking outside is preferable when trying to reduce the amount of condensation in the caravan.
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Use Campground Showers (if possible)
If you are camping in conditions where you’re worried about excess condensation building up in the van, pop over and use the campground showers instead of your own, if that’s an option.
The steam from the shower can be a massive contributor to caravan condensation, especially if you’ve got a family to get through at shower time.
Use Exhaust Fans
If you don’t have the option of cooking outside or showering at the campground amenity block, then it’s essential to make full use of your caravan exhaust fans. Be sure to put the pot lids on when cooking to reduce the amount of steam.
I also recommend opening (or at least cracking) some windows and vents as well to speed up the process of letting the extra moisture vapours out.
When showering in the van, be sure to close the bathroom door as well in order to reduce the amount of moisture particles that can spread throughout the rest of the caravan.
Use Moisture Absorbers
Since condensation in caravans is caused by having too much moisture in the air, it just makes sense that we need to somehow reduce that moisture content.
Spreading moisture absorbers throughout the caravan cupboards will help to draw some of the excess moisture out of the air.
These are especially handy in the back of clothing and linen closets where you’re trying to keep your fabrics dry.
I often found that when we were dealing with condensation, the clothes that were sitting against the front wall of the caravan would sometimes get damp.
It helped to pull those items away from the wall and put moisture absorbers in that space.
Once the absorbers start to fill up with water, you can either empty them out and refill with more moisture beads, or throw the whole container out and start with fresh ones.
Use a 12v Dehumidifier
Using a dehumidifier can also help to reduce the amount of moisture in the air.
How a dehumidifier works:
Moist air is drawn in by a fan, which then passes over some cooled coils. The moisture particles stay on the coils and drip down into the dehumidifier’s collection tank, which can be emptied out when full. The leftover warm air (without the moisture) is then blown back out.
You can pick up 12v dehumidifiers on eBay that will plug into a 12-volt cigarette socket. Just check the fine print and what connections it comes with before ordering.
Alternatively, if you are regularly hooked up to 240 power, you can use a normal dehumidifier.
Open Up the Cupboards
If you are finding condensation on the back walls of your clothing or linen cupboards, it helps to open up the doors and let them air out as much as possible.
The changing temperature outside along with a lack of airflow can cause these lonely pockets to end up with water droplets on the walls.
Unfortunately, I’ve had first-hand experience in finding damp clothes hiding in the back of the closet. I can tell you that it’s not a nice surprise given that keeping on top of the laundry in a caravan can be challenging enough as it is!
Once you’ve wiped down the wall, it’s best to pull the items away from that surface and pop in a moisture absorber. Don’t forget to open the doors as often as you can to increase the ventilation.
Wipe Down Wet Surfaces
When you do find wet surfaces in the caravan from condensation, it’s important to wipe them dry with a cloth. Wring the wet cloth out into the sink, then hang it outside to dry once you’re finished.
This goes for the shower as well. Once everyone has finished showering for the night push all of the excess water down the drain and wipe over the surface with a towel to dry it out. Make sure the wet towel goes outside to dry.
The idea here is that you want to reduce the amount of moisture available in the caravan, which will in turn reduce the amount of condensation later on.
Dealing with Mould in a Caravan
It’s important to stay on top of the caravan condensation so that you don’t end up with a larger problem. I’m talking about mould.
Mould is not good for human or animal health, it doesn’t look so nice, plus it makes the caravan smell musty.
Mould spores are a part of nature and will always be in the air, but it pays to reduce the chance of them taking hold inside the caravan as much as you can.
The ideal breeding condition for mould is still, undisturbed damp air.
The best ways to prevent mould:
- Ventilate the caravan
- Wipe down surfaces to reduce dust & dirt
- Keep the air dry
As you can see, dealing with condensation and tackling mould in a caravan both require the same tactics. Keep the air as dry and well-ventilated as you can, plus regularly wipe down the surfaces.
White vinegar is the best way to clean up mould. Just spray it onto the surface and leave for 1 hour, then wipe off.
While it’s tempting to attack mould with bleach, it’s actually been proven to be ineffective because it won’t penetrate the membrane underneath. Basically, it will bleach the surface (so you think it’s gone), then return with a vengeance.