One day, I opened my car door after not using it for a few weeks. To my horror, everything — and I mean everything — was covered in mold. The seat beats, the steering wheel, the seats, the floor, the roof, you name it.
As soon as the door opened, I almost puked. Trust me, I’m not particularly sensitive to smells, but the strong stench of mildew caught me completely off guard. I had a leak in my roof.
I wasn’t living in there. Thank god.
But, I can only imagine how bad it would be for someone living in their van.
To stop condensation in a van, add ventilation, and install insulation. Invest in dehumidifiers and refrain from taking anything wet into your vehicle — like swimsuits and clothing. The best way to stop moisture is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Why is there condensation in my van?
Condensation is a natural process that takes place when outside cold air meets interior warm or hot air. Condensation is formed when the moisture in the air is greater than the amount of moisture air molecules can hold.
That is measured by the dew point which tells you how much air is in the air at any given moment. While warm air can hold more moisture than cold air when the two meet the cold air will be saturated and again condensation will form.
The three most common spots you will find condensation are the windows, walls, and roof of your van. Sometimes your camper door may not seal right and condensation can do its destructive work.
Why is it bad to have condensation in a vehicle?
There are several dangers that can take place inside your car or van if you do not take care of the issue as soon as possible. Here are the most common ones:
1. Water damage
Water has a unique way of finding little crevices, cracks, and other vulnerable spots. It can damage wiring and other electronic essentials.
Too much moisture mixed with heat causes humidity. If the humidity level in your car goes above 65%, mold will find a way to grow.
Not only does mold damage furniture, but it can also cause breathing and health issues.
Rot occurs when the moisture gets into wood and fabric materials. However, it can also happen within your camper’s frame. Therefore, it is very important to minimize this at all costs. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a hefty price to completely renovate your van again.
Without proper insulation, rust can occur on both the inside and outside of your van. Unfortunately, this can seriously wear away at the strength and durability of your vehicle.
How to remove van condensation
The best way to remove condensation from your van is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some ways to remove or prevent condensation from your van or car:
1. Wipe down any condensation
Check your vehicle every morning for condensation. If you sleep in your van, chances are there will be some. Use a rag or microfiber towel to dry the interior of your car as quickly as possible.
2. Add vents in your vehicle
This will probably one of the more effective things for reducing moisture on this list. Adding airflow to your vehicle will let moisture escape, as well as keep it dry. Just be sure not to install two vents too close together, as the air needs space to flow.
Opening your windows works as well, but it’s usually not as effective if you can’t keep them open all the time.
If you’d like, you can install a 12-volt electric fan to provide more airflow. This should provide more airflow.
3. Seal up for leaks
A gasket may have worn out or perhaps your windows do not close tightly enough. Seal up any leaks that you find cutting those spots where the cold air can get in and create condensation.
4. Install a vapor barrier
A vapor barrier is any material installed in the walls or framing of your van that helps reduce moisture. It helps keep the cold air outside and away from your insulation.
5. Keep your van warm
Make sure to have a good space heater in your van that will burn all night at the temperature you want. Keeping your van warm stops condensation from forming as you sleep.
6. Don’t cook or boil water inside
This happens more often in winter than summer. People like to keep the vents, windows and doors closed so that the heat does not disappear. But this is also a key ingredient in helping condensation to form. Do your cooking, etc., outside the van.
7. Avoid propane heaters
Propane adds a lot of moisture to the air. Use an alternative heat source that produces drier air. If you like to use propane because it is cheaper, keep a vent or a window open.
8. Cover your windows
This is one of the best and easiest places for condensation to form. Before you go to sleep, put on window covers. It’s a little tricky to do and covers are not perfect solutions, but they help a lot.
9. Use externally vented air heaters
These produce less moisture than a propane heater and since fumes are vented outwards, you do not have to worry about harmful gases.
10. Install insulation
This barrier helps you save on energy costs as well as prevent condensation from forming. It does both by ensuring little heat loss. It also prevents, for the most part, contact of warm interior air with cold exterior air.
11. Add sound-absorbing material
The more layers the cold air has to go through to connect with the interior air, the harder it will be to create condensation. You are not going to be wasting money by adding another layer as this layer will help you sleep better by stopping outside noises from waking you up.
12. Use moisture-absorbing products
If you can’t afford a dehumidifier or some of the other options on this list, buy a moisture absorbing pack, such as Damp Rid. They are usually designed for small spaces and closets, so you should have no problem fitting them in your van.
On the plus side, they also usually get rid of that humid, moldy smell.
13. Don’t bring wet things into your van
Don’t hang wet clothes or shoes inside. The moisture from the clothes will evaporate and without proper ventilation, it’ll get stuck in your vehicle.
If your van is warm, that process will elevate the humidity levels and help create condensation, not to mention make the environment perfect for mold.
The best time to prevent condensation is when you’re building your van. The second best time is: as soon as possible. Luckily, there’s a lot that you can do.
How to prevent condensation in a parked vehicle
When you are not using your van and plan on storing it, there are steps you can take to prevent condensation from forming and causing those dangers to get a foothold in your vehicle. Here are those steps:
1. Open windows and vents every once in a while
All your van to fully vent and dry out. This will prevent that familiar mildewy smell.
2. Open your cupboards
If you have cabinets in your van, open their doors. Humidity can accumulate in these locations.
3. Keep seat cushions and mattresses away from the wall
Instead, take them out and put them in a well-ventilated location. At the very least, prop them up so air can get behind them.
4. Keep your fridge dry
Take out everything when not in use. Leave it open until it dries completely (of course, open your van while you do this).
5. Empty all water tanks
Keep your water lines and tanks free of water until you need to use your van again.
6. Make sure your toilet is emptied
If your van is lucky enough to have one, even a composting toilet, make sure it is clean, dry, and empty.
7. Don’t keep anything wet in your van
This includes clothes, rags, shoes, and swimwear.
Hopefully, this was helpful. Feel free to check out my other articles on van life!