Know the difference in mold and mildew in your home.

What is the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?

November 06, 2020

There are many similarities between mold and mildew. Each are classified as types of fungi. Both mold and mildew are frequently found in homes. Moist, humid environments are the best locations for both mold and mildew to grow and populate. Both spread easily and can survive on various different surfaces. In yet another similarity between mold and mildew, each can have harmful health effects if left unattended to thrive and infest your home. So what’s the difference between mold and mildew?

At Mold Inspection Network’s DIY Mold, we understand the importance of knowing the difference between mold and mildew. After all, it is vital that you know the real differences between these two forms of fungi in order to plan and develop effective cleaning and prevention methods as how we get rid of mold and mildew vary greatly. 

Today, we will be highlighting the differences between mold and mildew so that you’ll have a better chance of taking proactive measures to prevent the growth of each in your home. Let’s get started!

Types of Mold

One of the major differences between mold and mildew is how many different types of the classification of fungi exist. According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 10,000 different types of mold species known to live indoors. While many of these types of mold are relatively harmless, there are six major types of mold that can have damaging health effects. These include:

  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus (the most common form of household mold)
  • Cladosporium 
  • Chaetomium 
  • Stachybotrys chartarum (toxic mold)
  • Penicillium 

Types of Mildew

Compared to mold, there are far less different types of mildew. Mildew is classified in just two different types and each of these types are known to cause great damage to crops and plants while also being known to cause some forms of harmful health effects and damage to property. The two different types of mildew are:

  • Powdery mildew: Known mainly to affect flowering plants. Appears as either white or gray splotches that turn yellowish brown or black in coloring as they grow. 
  • Downy mildew: Found most commonly in agricultural products. Appearance can vary in downy mildew depending on the surface that it grows on. Most commonly, downy mildew starts as yellow spots before eventually turning brown with age.

Differences in Appearance

Some of the most easily observable differences between mold and mildew are found in appearance. If you know what you are looking for, you will have a much easier time identifying and treating a mold or mildew infestation in your home according to type. 

The most obvious difference in appearance between mold and mildew is in coloring. Most commonly, mold is a little easier to identify due to the diversity in color. Some forms of mold are black or brown while other types can appear as orange, green, or even red. Mildew, on the other hand, is less varied in coloring with fresh mildew appearing as either white or gray most often. 

Another difference between mold and mildew in terms of appearance is in texture. Mold is a bit easier to spot than mildew as it is usually slimy or fuzzy in texture. Another tell-tale sign of mold is the appearance of spots that are irregular in shape and can be varied in coloring. These spots appear as a multitude of colors ranging from blue, green, brown, and yellow to gray, black, or white. 

Mildew is known to grow in a flat pattern and can be fluffy or, unlike mold, powdery in texture. Mildew is much easier to identify by way of texture as it tends to be thinner in consistency than mold. Remember, mildew is white, gray, or even yellowish in color before turning to black or brown as it ages. If you come across mildew that is darker in color, this is a sure sign of mildew that has been there for awhile. When mildew turns darker in color, it can be easily misidentified as mold, making it that much harder to discern between the two. 

Differences in the Health Effects of Mold and Mildew

Both mold and mildew are associated with a number of harmful health effects. While mildew grows less commonly in homes than mold as it is known most to affect plants and crops, it can pose health risks if it finds it way into your home. While there are many health effects in common between mold and mildew, mold is known to cause more severe health problems than mildew. Here are some of the various health effects that mold and mildew have in common:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Respiratory issues

As you can see, mildew isn’t nearly as harmless as you may have believed. Regardless, mold is the real concern here and causes a variety of health problems that you should be aware of. The different health problems caused by mold can vary widely depending on the particular type of mold. The most common health issues associated with mold exposure range from flu-like symptoms to neurological disorders. Here are some of the more harmful health risks posed by prolonged mold exposure:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart problems
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma attacks
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Inflammation
  • Neurological disorders
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Memory loss

Differences in Treatment of Mold Versus Mildew

Now that you know the differences between mold and mildew in terms of types, appearance, and health effects, it is important that we address the differences in how a mold infestation is treated as opposed to mildew. While proactive prevention methods are similar between mold and mildew, how an infestation is dealt with varies significantly. 

Both mold and mildew can be prevented by taking certain precautions. These include keeping all areas of your home as dry and air-free as possible. It is highly recommended to monitor the humidity levels in your home and to keep them somewhere around 40-50%. Humidity can be kept at a reasonable level by utilizing dehumidifiers. It is also important to maintain a regular check of your home for any possible leaks where water could find its way into your home, creating the perfect conditions for either mold or mildew to grow. 

If you determine that you have mold in your home as opposed to mildew, the treatment process will be much more extensive. Mildew is a surface fungus which means it can be treated with methods as simple as a commercial cleaner. It is important to remember to work in a well-ventilated area when cleaning mildew off of your home’s surfaces and you should take care to wear a face mask to prevent inhalation. Simply use a scrubbing brush and a cleaner to scrub mildew off of your home’s surfaces as an effective treatment method.

Things get a bit more tricky if your home is infected with mold. Mold, after all, can penetrate surfaces and infect household items beyond just the surface. This makes it a bit more challenging to eliminate mold from infected items. Mold spreads quickly so it is important to act as quickly as possible if you have confirmed that the growth in your home is mold and not mildew. If you are unsure of whether the growth found in your home is either mold or mildew based on appearance alone, it is highly recommended to either purchase an at-home mold testing kit (ours is top rated) or call a professional mold tester.

In terms of treating a mold infestation and eliminating mold from your home, it is highly recommended to call a mold remediation company. This works to not only assess the severity of the mold infestation in your home but also to take the most effective measures in eliminating the infestation. An expert will be able to positively confirm which of your items can be saved and when it is safe for you and your family to continue on with life in your home as usual without the threat of the harmful health issues caused by mold.

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