19 Aug. 15

Mildew vs. Mold: What’s the Difference?

While these two words are often used interchangeably, and although they are in the same family (fungi), mildew and mold are actually quite different.  They do have some commonalities however. Mold and mildew both have a liking for moist, warm and poorly ventilated areas where they are best able to thrive.  Mold usually appears to be more rigid and resistant to removal while mildew appears to be less resistive.

Both can develop in any area of the home or outdoors where there is an apt environment and there is almost an equal level of danger of infections and allergies from both. Both mildew and mold grow when spores find their way into suitable environments for colonies to mature.  They need porous, organic material to grow on, with some examples being: wood, fabric, drywall, insulation, carpet, padding, upholstery, foods, etc.; but rarely grows on synthetic man-made materials, like plastics or most metals.

More on Mildew

Around the house, mildew can usually be found in bathrooms, where the abundance of moisture provides a suitable environment for the fungus to grow. It can also be found on belongings, such as pieces of paper or clothing that gets damp and are left in one spot for several days or weeks. Mildew in these situations is more often than not a thin, powdery growth of fungus. When it is untouched and continues to grow for a long period of time, it could turn into what most people would refer to as mold.

More on Mold

Mold often looks fuzzy or slimy, depending on the variety. Heavy mold might begin to look like a plant growth covering the surface. Some surfaces that are covered by mold might begin to rot. Mold can also appear in various colors, from red, to yellow, to green, or black. On a wall or ceiling, some types of mold might appear to be irregularly shaped spots of black or gray.  Severe mold growth will look moss or plant-like and can begin to eat away at the cellular integrity of its host.

There are several types of mold, and a few of them are black in color. Some of these molds are completely innocuous. Others produce toxins called mycotoxins. The most dangerous strains of mold are Chaetomium and Stachybotrys chartarum. The latter is the strain of mold that is often called black mold. Stachybotrys grows on commonly used building materials such as drywall, insulation or wallpaper.

Misconceptions About Mildew and Mold

It is a general perception that mold develops on foods and mildew develops on flowers. However, both mold and mildew can develop on foods and flowers are not very likely to develop mold.

Also, mold is often associated with moist places and mildew is associated with drier places. Mold and mildew can both develop in dry as well as wet areas. The key to their growth is not liquid or fluid, but moisture content. Humidity can also lead to the growth of either or both.

If you see mold or mildew in your home, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Whether it winds up being mold, or if it is mildew, it should be removed so that it doesn’t cause any health issues or spread its spores any further.