In this article, we’re dealing with two common household issues that everyone could live without – mildew and mold. We’re examining the differences between both of these household problems, and helping you deal with both. Let’s get right into it, starting with the basics of each:
What is Mold
To understand the difference between mold and mildew, it’s easiest to get a basic understanding of what each substance is.
Mold is a fungus. It thrives in moist environments, and its growth can quite easily get out of control, especially if left untreated. Mold growth is technically just rapid growth of multicellular filaments. The result is a large group of fungi that usually resembles a fuzzy, discolored patch. The mold actually penetrates the surface of the affected material, which can make it quite hard to deal with.
Mold is considered a single organism, known as mycelium. There are thousands of species of mold. Later in this article, we’ll examine some of the most common household varieties.
What is Mildew
Mildew, like mold, is also a fungus. It grows as thin hyphae, and is usually white in color. Mildew grows best in areas that are warm, damp, and on organic surfaces such as wood, leather, plants, and paper.
Practically speaking, mildew is much easier to remove than mold. Its growth is mostly flat (as opposed to mold which may grow vertically), and does not penetrate the surface of materials.
Common Types of Mold
Not all mold is created equal, just as not all mildew is created equal. Depending on the type, and extent of the problem, you may require a different approach. It is a much more diverse substance than mildew, so we’re including a guide to the most common types.
Here are the most common types of household mold:
Aspergillus: Aspergillus is a type of mold which is quite commonly found indoors. It generally starts off white, but develops into a yellow, green, or black color. The texture is “velvety”. You’ll often find this mold appearing as dark spots on walls.
Alternaria: Alternaria mold tends to grow in areas with a great deal of moisture (showers, sinks, bathrooms, etc.). Alternaria mold tends to have a fuzzy, almost “wooly” texture, and is usually dark in color (black, dark brown, or grey).
Cladosporium: Cladosporium mold is commonly found on household surfaces such as carpets, curtains, and wood floorboards. It is generally dark, often gray-green or black-brown in color. It has a “spotty” appearance, and is very difficult to tell apart from other common molds.
Stachybotrys Atra (Black Mold) – Black mold is the most dangerous mold variety that you might find in your home. As you might imagine, it is very dark in color, often black. It appears in areas of high-moisture. If you think you have black mold, you should definitely contact a professional.
And More: Unfortunately, this is not an exhaustive list! In fact, there are thousands of varieties of mold. Although the above list covers many of the common household molds that you might encounter, you may be facing a different kind of mold altogether.
If you think you have a mold problem, then it is almost always best to have a professional look at the issue. Not only can they properly identify and address the issue, but they can also alert you if the mold you are dealing with is toxic.
How to Tell the Difference between Mold and Mildew?
Now that we have an understanding of mold and mildew, let’s get to some practical knowledge. How do you tell the difference? How can you know if you are facing a mold or mildew issue? The best way to tell the difference is by knowing the general appearance of each substance. Let’s cover that next:
Appearance of Mold: The major identifying trait of mold is its “fuzzy” appearance. It is quite a bit fuzzier than mildew, and tends to grow in a pattern with a less regular shape. The fuzzy mold can even stick up above the surface of the object.
You can also identify mold by its broader range of colors. Mold may appear in many different colors – including black, white, brown, yellow, grey, green, and everything in between.
Appearance of Mildew: In contrast to mold’s fuzzy appearance, mildew is quite a bit flatter. It almost looks like a powdery substance. Mildew also doesn’t penetrate the surface of objects, which means it won’t stand vertically above the object itself. Mildew is usually much lighter in color, especially near the start of its growth cycle. Most mildew will be white, grey, and even a tinge of yellow.
Getting Rid of Mold and Mildew
Now, on to the most important issue – how do I solve this problem?
In this section, we’re taking you through some DIY methods for removing mold and mildew.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although household solutions are effective, be aware that mold is often an issue that requires the assistance of professionals. If your problem is extensive, then you should only rely on professional assistance. Not only will DIY methods not effectively solve the problem, but there could be mold present that is quite dangerous if not dealt with.
How to Get Rid of Mold
If your mold problem is small, or has just started to develop, you may be able to deal with it yourself. There are mold removers you can buy – some that use heavy chemicals to deal with mold. Of course, you need to pay careful attention to the instructions when using these dangerous products.
Aside from that, mold typically penetrates deep into surfaces, so it isn’t generally something you can deal with yourself. You’re best to have a professional evaluate the situation and recommend a fix.
For milder mold issues, check out our comprehensive review of the best all-natural mold removers.
How to Get Rid of Mildew
Mildew, on the other hand, is much easier to deal with than mold. Mildew grows on top of surfaces, and doesn’t penetrate as deeply as mold. It can generally be handled by a commercially available cleaner and a scrub brush. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the cleaner, as some contain heavy chemicals and bleach.
How to Prevent Mold and Mildew
We’ll finish our article with the most important piece of advice that you will receive. The most effective way to handle a mold or mildew issue is to make sure that it doesn’t become a problem in the first place!
The best thing you can do to prevent mildew and mold is to keep excess moisture out of your house. You can do this by keeping your air ducts clean for proper circulation, having your heating and cooling systems running properly, fixing any leaky appliances or plumbing, and by running a dehumidifier. By following all these steps, and with a little luck, you’ll never even encounter a mold or mildew issue worth your concern!