We often hear the terms "mold" & "mildew" used interchangeably or together. Are they the same thing? Are they different? If so, how?
In this guide, we will describe several types of mold and mildew and explain the differences. We will also share some smart tips that will help you know whether or not it is safe to attempt removal on your own.
Always consult with a professional before attempting any type of mildew or mold removal. Mold and mildew can cause serious illness, including death.
Mildew Is Not As Dangerous As Mold
Mold is like the parent of mildew. Both are types of fungus that grow in dark, damp, warm environments. Although mildew is a kind of mold, there are many types of mold that are not mildew.
Once they take hold, both mold and mildew can be difficult to deal with. Of the two, mildew is a bit less challenging, and mold is a lot more dangerous.
Very large amounts of mildew can cause some health concerns; however, even small amounts of toxic mold can cause very severe (even fatal) damage to your health. That's why it is so important to be able to identify your fungal intruder before taking action against it.
Bleach TEST: To test any type of fungus, try wiping a small area with regular laundry bleach. Wait a few minutes. If the area lightens in color, it is mildew. If nothing happens, it is probably mold. Bleach is ineffective at killing most types of mold.
Mildew on a smooth surface can be safely cleaned away with a bleach solution or a household antifungal cleaner. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area and cover your mouth and nose with a mold mask while working.
Once your job is done, discard the cloth or paper toweling you worked with. Wash the clothes you wore and take a shower to get rid of all mildew spores.
What Is Mildew And Where Does It Grow?
It is common to find mildew both in the garden setting and indoors. This fungus grows on the surface of plant leaves, fruits and veggies. It also grows on porous organic matter indoors. Examples include:
In and around your home, you are likely to encounter these two kinds of mildew:
- Downy Mildew usually grows outdoors in the garden, but it can also affect surfaces in your home. This type of mildew is yellow at the outset. If it has a chance to grow and establish itself, it will become brown.
- Powdery Mildew first becomes noticeable as small splotches of gray or white on a surface. It usually grows in a pattern. If you do not address it right away, it will mature to a brown, black or yellow color.
Mildew is not quite as dangerous or challenging as mold because it has a different pattern of growth. Mildew grows on surfaces and does not attach itself with filaments, which are similar to plant roots.
Mold sends microscopic filaments into the materials it infests. This is how it spreads throughout porous materials rather than simply remaining on the surface, and this is why it is so challenging to deal with.
Is Mold Dangerous? Mold Is Everywhere!
Types of mold you see in damp, dark areas around your home may vary in appearance. Most are green or black in color, but there are some that take on a yellow, brown, gray, or even a blue hue. They differ in texture because some are fuzzy and some are slimy.
There are many health problems associated with breathing in mold spores, so it's important to get them under control as soon as you see or smell them.
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) has identified more than 10,000 different kinds of mold. They speculate that there may be as many as 300,000 different strains of mold in existence; however, there are five kinds of mold you are likely to encounter in and around your home. They are:
Five Common Types Of Mold
What does mold look like? While it’s not possible to identify all types of mildew and mold just by looks, here are a few common types in the home.
- The most dangerous of the black molds is Stachybotrys. It thrives in areas that are damp on a constant, ongoing basis. It is quite strong smelling, and it grows very quickly. It is associated with a wide variety of healthy problems.
- Toxic Black Mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum) is another dangerous type and should never be dealt with by non-professionals. This type of mold is often present after flooding or other water related natural disasters.
- Cladosporium is a green/black mold that is quite dangerous. It has a powdery texture and may seem either black or a very dark olive green in color. Its appearance varies from setting to setting because there are more than thirty different species of this particular kind of mold.
- Penicillium is a very musty smelling mold that grows on food products such as cheese and bread. It also grows on other organic matter, such as paper and cloth. It can get a foothold in wall coverings, carpeting and bedding if allowed.
- Brown mold is one kind of mold that does not need a lot of water to thrive is Alternaria. It often develops in insulation. It will also get a foothold in upholstery or bedding that is not cleaned frequently enough. This mold has a downy or wooly texture and it is brown in color.
How To Prevent Mold
Mold spores are always present everywhere, so it is important to keep your home dry, clean and well-ventilated to discourage their growth.
In warm, damp conditions mold can grow quite a bit in as little as a day or two. The longer it is allowed to grow, the farther it will spread and the more difficult it will be to remove it.
It takes just a bit of moisture and consistent temperatures ranging between forty and one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit to set up perfect growing conditions. If left to grow, mold can seriously damage indoor air quality in a very short period of time.
Regular Mold Inspections Keep You Safe
In addition to keeping your home clean and well-ventilated, you should perform your own mold and mildew inspections from time to time.
Take a few minutes once a month or so to walk around your house looking under sinks, behind toilets, in your basement or crawlspace and under your eaves and rafters for signs of water damage and mold.
Early detection is key to early intervention.
You may also wish to avail yourself of professional mold inspections a couple of times a year. Specialized techniques and equipment also allow professional services to detect mold before it becomes a problem.
If you are able to contract with a professional service to inspect your home on a regular basis, you may be able to save yourself a great deal of money and heartache by detecting and eradicating mold problems before they get out of hand.
Even though you might inspect very thoroughly and clean diligently when you see signs of mold, in a matter of days you may find your infestation thriving again despite all your hard work.
Mold remediation professionals are much better able to locate and eradicate all mold because they have specialized heat-seeking equipment that allows them to gather information about the exact location of mold within and beneath surfaces.
How Can You Tell If You Need A Professional?
If you notice mold or mildew in your home, the smartest thing you can do is call in a professional mold remediation service to deal with it. In this way, you can be sure not to expose yourself to possible danger. In fact, we recommend it!
After you have done your bleach test, you will know whether you are dealing with mold or mildew.
If it is mildew, you can usually deal with it on your own. It should only affect the surface of the object where it is present, and you can wipe it off with an antifungal household cleaner.
If the surface is porous or difficult to clean, you may need a professional even when just dealing with mildew. If it is mold, professional assistance is always advised. This is especially true if you have respiratory problems, a compromised immune system or severe allergies.
Don't undertake very large mold remediation projects. Non-professionals should not deal with areas larger than three feet square.
If you are unable to get professional assistance right away (e.g. in the event of a natural disaster) you may need to take some steps to deal with mold on your own. Begin by assessing the scope of the task.
DIY Mold Remediation With Extreme Caution
We always recommend that you seek professional help when dealing with mold. Mold can cause serious illness, injury or death.
For those who plan to tackle on small mold projects, the following are a few basic steps to consider:
- Be sure to wear OSHA rated protective gear. You'll need a respirator or a face mask that is rated for use when removing black mold. Cover your clothing with disposable coveralls.
- Seal the interior door to the room you are working in with six-millimeter plastic. This will keep mold spores from spreading to adjacent rooms as you work.
- Open all the windows to allow fresh air in.
- Set up fans in the windows to blow mold spores outside and away from you.
- Discard the fans after use because they are now contaminated with mold and will spread the mold if used elsewhere.
- Seek out the source of the problem and eliminate it. Common causes of mold in houses include: Cracked Foundation or Basement Walls, Condensation From Air Conditioner, Worn Window Seals, Leaky Plumbing, Leaky Roof.
- If you are not sure what caused your mold problem, search thoroughly until you find it. Then eliminate the source thoroughly by fixing the problem and removing all affected materials.
- Be sure to get it all. Mold damage is often hidden. You may have to do a lot of digging to eradicate all of the affected areas of your home.
- If you are working to simply get rid of mold in an emergency situation, you will need to remove carpets, damaged sheet-rock and other materials. Then dry the area and leave it exposed to air until permanent repairs can be made.
- Once you have completed your mold remediation efforts, be sure to establish good ventilation and air circulation. If you do not expect precipitation, leave the windows open and set up a new fan to circulate the air. If you are able to set up a dehumidifier, do so. This can make a huge difference.
TIP: If you are cleaning up mold after a natural disaster, be sure to document your progress from start to finish and keep all of your receipts. Your before-and-after photos, video and receipts will be extremely valuable to you if you apply for disaster assistance funding and/or help from your insurance company.
Don’t Take Any Chances
It's easy to see that removing mold is not a simple task, and it can be quite dangerous. That's why, if you have the choice you should call in a professional. If you suffer from respiratory problems, you should simply leave as quickly as possible and stay away until the problem has been resolved.