Mildew Vs Mold – What Is the Difference?

To many people, mildew and mold are just the same kinds of gross substances. They are different microorganisms that you should treat differently if you want to avoid their adverse effects. Mildew vs mold – what is the difference?

Typically, mildew looks gray or white and is dry and sometimes powdery. It is always flat when it forms. Meanwhile, mold can be black, blue, red, or green and is typically raised, not flat, when it forms. The smell of mildew is milder and musty, like the smell of damp socks. Mold has a stronger and more pungent smell.

With its raised profile, the substances forming the mold sometimes become fuzzy. When mildew develops, its substances tend to be flatter in shape. Mildew starts as a white substance and then transforms its color into gray or brown. Its substances also turn powdery. Mold has darker colors and does not turn into powder form.

Read on to learn more about mildew and mold, their differences, and how you should deal with them.

Mildew Vs Mold

Mildew Vs Mold

Mold Starts as a Raised Substance

Mildew forms as a gray or white, dry, and even powdery substance. It constantly forms flat on whatever surface it sticks itself on. Meanwhile, mold often starts as a raised substance with black, blue, red, or green color.

Mildew’s Smell Is Milder Than Mold

The smell of mildew is milder than the smell of mold. Mildew’s odor is somewhat musty, while that of mold is strong and pungent. The substances that develop into mold almost always stay fuzzy, while mildew always turns into a white and powdery substance. 

Mildew and Mold Develop Due to Moisture

Both mildew and mold are fungi that develop because moisture is left unchecked and becomes excessive in cramped spaces. These small creatures grow in a wide range of temperatures. There are even some strains that develop and thrive at higher temperatures.

Both Can Cause Damage to Your Home

What’s dangerous about mold vs mildew is that they can both cause damage to your home. Not only that, because they can also bring in health problems to your home. That is why you must have adequate knowledge of how to prevent them from invading your home.

Mildew Grows on the Surface

Many people mistake mildew for mold. But they are two different fungi. Mildew is a specific type of mold which FEMA describes as mold in the early stage. It stays on top of the surface and does not penetrate it. This fungus grows onto the surface where it lands. So, if there is some growth between the tiles in your bathroom, it is probably mildew.

Mold Refers to All the Species of Fungi

Mold, meanwhile, is commonly referring to all the species of fungi. These microscopic substances develop what is called hyphae or multicellular filaments. They often form on windowsills, shower walls, and other spots where there are high moisture levels.

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More Detailed Information About Mildew

Indicates Mold Growth

When speaking of mildew, it refers to certain types of mold. The word ‘mildew’ is the genetic term they use to indicate mold growth. Mildew exists as tiny spores that can travel through the air. This is the usual way they enter homes.

Can Penetrate Any Surface

When they land on any humid or damp surface inside your home, they will start to grow and colonize. But they can’t penetrate any surface. While they can’t burrow inside surfaces, they can still do cosmetic damage where they land. They often collect in spots such as the grouts on your bathroom tiles.

Get Rid Using Scrub Brush

You should remove mildew once you notice it because it is unsightly. It is easy to spot, and you can get rid of it easier than eliminating mold. With a scrub brush and a good house cleaner, you can easily remove it from the surface where it landed.

Mildew’s Color

The consistency of mildew is usually downy or powdery. Its color is typically white or gray. After some time, this substance changes into yellow color and eventually into brown or black. If the mildew starts as yellow stains, it will ultimately turn powdery. Given enough time, it will change into darkish brown color.

Not as Dangerous as Other Toxic Molds

Mildew is not as dangerous as other toxic molds. It will not also cause significant damage to your home. While this may be true, you still need to remove it once you notice it starts to form in the spots where it landed. Mildew can still adversely affect your health, and it can also do cosmetic damage to your house.

Some Mildews Produce Mycotoxins

While they are not as dangerous as toxic molds, your health can also be affected with prolonged exposure to mildew. Some species of mildew produce mycotoxins. You can have mild to severe symptoms if you have constant exposure to these substances.

If you have pre-existing conditions like asthma or allergies, you need to remove mildew the moment you notice it. They grow on surfaces and can’t penetrate deeper, so it will be easy to remove them.

Again, mildew vs mold – what is the difference between them? Usually, you can spot powdery white, gray, or yellow mildew on moist and warm areas’ surfaces. Meanwhile, you can find fuzzy or slimy green or black molds underneath a moist or wet surface.

Detailed Information About Mold

mildew vs mold smell

All Species of Microscopic Fungi

Mold is a more inclusive term. All species of microscopic fungi are under this term. Their scientific term is hyphae, which are fungi that develop as multicellular filaments. They can grow and thrive on organic matters such as paper, leather, and cloth.

Can Form in Floors, Walls, and Ceilings

Molds can also form in floors, walls, and ceilings in homes where the moisture level is high. They can produce a powerful musty or pungent smell in places where air circulation is restricted, such as basements or attics.

Over 100,000 Species of Mold

Scientists have identified over 100,000 species of mold. Many of them are harmless to humans. However, some of them tend to grow indoors. If allowed to colonize, they can adversely affect your health and cause damage to your home.

In any organic place where oxygen and moisture are present, mold will usually develop. These may include plants, paper, insulation, carpet, furniture, and wood. Since they grow best in damp places, you can find molds in kitchens, bathrooms, crawl spaces, and basements.

Can Cause Real Damage Wherever They Develop

You will also see them behind appliances where water or moisture usually collects, such as on windows and in leaking roofs. Molds can penetrate the surfaces they have latched onto. So, they can do real damage wherever they develop.

As molds develop and form, they grow become porous. At this stage, they penetrate the surface and cause real damage to your home. If you notice irregular patches of purple, brown, pink, green, orange, black, or any other color in any part of your home, more likely than not, it is mold.

Most Often Molds Are More Dangerous Than Mildew

Depending on the species, molds are more dangerous than mildew because they can cause health problems. The likelihood of you getting sick also depends on the length of your exposure to the mold and if you have a lingering health issue such as asthma or allergies.

Differences Between Mildew and Mold

mold or mildew
Mold Removal

People will not be confused about the matter of mold vs mildew if they only know their differences. These two microscopic substances have characteristics and properties which differ from one another:

1. Mildew Stays on Top of the Surface

While mildew and mold both need the same conditions for growth, their manner of development is quite different from each other. Mildew spreads outward while mold spreads downward.

That is why I have told you that mildew spread on the surface where it landed and did not penetrate it. Meanwhile, mold spreads on the surfaces it latches onto and then goes deeper, which then causes more damage to the structure.

In other words, molds eat into their base, which makes it more difficult to remove. It burrows vertically deep into the invaded spot. Mildew stays on top of the surface and spreads out horizontally.

2. Mildew Forms First Before Mold

Typically, you will first see mildew forming before you see mold develops. Mildew first shows itself as a small dot. Then it slowly horizontally grows while remaining just on the top surface of the spot that it invaded. Meanwhile, mold usually grows inward. It eats into the surface that it invaded, and then it goes deeper and causes structural damage.

3. Mold Is More Dangerous than Mildew

There is one difference between mildew and mold that you should be seriously aware of. Admittedly, both fungi can cause health problems. But mold can cause severe health problems, mainly if you are dealing with black mold.

Black mold is scientifically called Stachybotrys chartarum. This is the mold that you need to watch out for. You should prevent it from entering your home.

4. Differ in Appearance

If you know how mildew and mold look like, you will see that they are different. Mold is a slimy formation that looks like a raised black, green, blue, or red substance. Mildew looks like a flat substance that is white or gray and is powdery or dry.

5. Differ in Smell

Their smells are also different from each other. Mildew’s odor is milder than the smell of mold. It is a musty odor that you can compare to the smell of damp socks. On the other hand, the smell of mold is stronger, and it grows because it generates volatile microbial compounds. The smell of mold is typically pungent.

6. Mold Removal Is More Difficult

Since mold burrows deep into the surface, removing it will take some time and effort. Mildew only stays on top of the surface. So, just using ordinary household cleaners will do the trick. But it is not so with mold.

If you have identified the culprit as a type of mold and not just mildew, you must use the proper procedure to remove it. The right procedure will depend on the kind of mold that you have identified. So, right off, you have to identify the type of mold before starting the disinfection.

You can remove certain mold species with special cleaning products such as bleach. You need to wear goggles and gloves if you use such cleaning products. If you have identified it as Stachybotrys chartarum, you need to call for a mold removal service. They are the only ones who can eliminate this type of mold infestation.

How to Prevent the Mildew and Mold Formation

A wiser move is to prevent the development of mildew and mold in your home. This is much easier and safer than being forced to remove them once they have already invaded your home.

Here are some tips on how you can do this:

  1. Always keep your premises clean
  2. Reduce humidity inside your home by using dehumidifiers
  3. Use exhaust fans in areas where moisture is present to increase air ventilation
  4. Inspect vents for clothes dryers regularly and ensure that they are always clean
  5. Ensure that sources of mechanical venting like HVAC vents are not blocked and are always open (if possible)

Conclusion: Mildew Vs Mold – What Is the Difference?

Mildew usually has a whitish or grayish color. It develops as a flat and dry but sometimes powdery substance. Meanwhile, molds can be black, blue, red, or green. When it forms, it is usually raised from the surface and is slimy.

When it comes to odor, mildew has a milder and musty smell, while mold is stronger and more intense. These two gunky substances can affect your health in different ways, so you have to deal with them differently.