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Mold vs Mildew – What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between mold vs mildew? You often hear the terms used together or interchangeably. Although they have many similarities, there are some important differences.

Are both mildew and mold a fungus?

Yes, mold and mildew are both fungi, but then, so are mushrooms!

What is Mildew?

Mildew is a specific type of mold. It has that characteristic musty smell, kind of like old socks. You may find it on shower walls, bathroom tile grout, windowsills, fabrics, plants, and other places where moisture levels are high.

It has a flat, dry, powdery appearance and only spreads vertically. Young mildew is white or gray, but turns yellow, brown, or black over time.

Mildew grows on the surface (unlike mold, which penetrates its host), making it far easier to clean than mold. Use a good scrub brush, an antimicrobial cleaning product, and some elbow grease, and you can safely remove mildew from non-porous materials.

Though it doesn't cause serious health risks like mold does, you may still experience respiratory issues, sore throats, and headaches. Mildew also causes cosmetic damage. Therefore, mildew should be removed as quickly as possible.

What Causes Mildew?

The number one contributing factor for mildew growth is moisture. It also prefers darkness and limited air movement. Discourage mildew by consistently wiping up excess water, using the bathroom and laundry room fans, and repairing plumbing leaks.

Also consider using an air purifier or dehumidifier to reduce overall household moisture.

How to Clean Mildew

  • Ventilate the area so as not to breathe in harmful fumes.
  • Wear a face mask and rubber gloves.
  • Use an antimicrobial mold and mildew remover.
  • Remove all traces of mildew, seen and unseen, by cleaning all around the affected area.
  • Replace items that cannot be cleaned such as carpeting, drywall, and insulation.

Mold vs Mildew

Mold has a stronger odor than mildew. But we don’t recommend you intentionally smell a mold patch up close as inhaling mold spores can cause health issues.

Mold is harder to get rid of than mildew because it penetrates organic material and lives deep inside.

Black Mold vs Mildew

Black mold has a pronounced raised texture. Upon closer examination, mold appears fuzzy and sometimes slimy. Although mold can be red, blue, or green, it is the black mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum) found in homes that is the most dangerous.

It's interesting to note that while mildew has no real benefit, certain types of mold are used in foods (like cheese) and medicines (like penicillin).

Dangers of Mold vs Mildew

When we disturb either mildew or mold during cleaning or renovation, the spores go airborne. You can’t see them, but they are there, and they contaminate the air and make it dangerous to breathe.

The CDC recognizes the severity of indoor mold hazards. Symptoms of black mold exposure include chronic upper respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks. For individuals with compromised immune systems, mold can lead to a variety of health problems, including pneumonitis.

The City of Phoenix Housing and Urban Development provides a helpful Mold Information flyer.

Are You Concerned About Mold or Mildew in Your Home?

Follow these 17 mold prevention tips and stay on top of the common areas of mold in your home.

You can probably kill mold and mildew on your own if they're minor occurrences. However, if you're suffering from unexplained cold or flu-like symptoms or otherwise suspect a hidden mold problem, you need professional help.

Contact Arizona Total Home Restoration for a mold inspection and testing, and possible mold remediation services. We'll confirm if you're dealing with mold vs mildew and the best treatment method.

Do not touch any visible mold and don’t disturb it or expose it to drafts of air. This is to prevent mold spores from becoming airborne. During mold remediation, spores are removed from the air with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) air scrubber. After remediation, a mold inspector will test the area again to confirm that the treatment has been completely effective.