While one tends to be more serious than the other, both mold and mildew can cause problems in your home. Besides being unsightly and generating a musty odor, mold and mildew can cause serious health problems for you and your family, not to mention doing serious structural damage to your home. That’s why it’s so important to be on guard against letting mold and mildew grow in your home.
In order to protect your family and your home against mold and mildew, you need to understand what they are, because each type of fungal growth requires a different approach. Know where mold and mildew are most likely to grow, so you can monitor your home for their appearance. Know how to deal with mold and mildew yourself, and when it’s time to call in the professionals.
Mold vs. Mildew: What’s the Difference?
When it comes to identifying mildew vs. mold, you need to understand the characteristics of each type of fungal growth. Mildew is typically considered an early stage mold, and is therefore less serious and easier to treat. Both mold and mildew require moisture, high levels of oxygen, warmth, and darkness in order to flourish. Mildew likes to grow on flat, damp surfaces, and can most often be found in bathrooms and on window sills. It can also be found on paper, fabrics, and organic materials in your home.
Mildew may appear either powdery or fluffy, and is usually yellow, gray, or white in color. It can turn brown or black with time. Its growth appears flat, and it can cause a musty smell.
Mold, on the other hand, looks fuzzy, and may be white, black, blue, gray, green, brown, or even red. It can appear as irregular spots on any surfaces in your home where a damp, warm, dark environment is present. It, too, can create a musty odor. Though thousands of mold fungi appear in nature, mold inside the home is typically caused by one of five fungi:
- Alternaria, which is gray, black, or brown, and has a downy or wooly texture;
- Cladosporium, which is black or olive-green and can grow in cool conditions;
- Aspergillus, which is white, yellow, green, grey, black, or brown;
- Penicillium, which is green or blue, spreads easily, and causes a strong musty smell; and
- Stachybotrys chartarum, a toxic form of black mold that can cause serious illness.
Unsure whether you have mildew or mold? An easy way to tell the difference is to spray some bleach on the affected area. If it lightens, you have mildew. If it stays dark, you’ve got mold.
How Mold and Mildew Affect Your Home and Your Health
While mildew usually only causes cosmetic damage, if any at all, mold can cause serious structural damage to your home. That’s because mold and mildew fungal growths actually eat the surfaces they’re growing on. In nature, this allows fungi to break down and decompose dead plants and animals, but in your home, it’s bad news. A serious mold infestation can drastically compromise your home’s structural integrity, and even minor infestations can require completely replacing the affected materials.
Mold and mildew can also cause health problems. About ten percent of people are allergic to mold and mildew spores, and can experience allergy symptoms including:
- Itchy, dry skin
- Sneezing or coughing
- Runny nose
- Irritation of the eyes, throat, and nose
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms can be mild to severe, depending on factors such as age and whether or not you have asthma. Stachybotrys chartarum, or toxic black mold, can cause severe symptoms even in people who are not allergic, which can range from respiratory problems, to fatigue, chronic sinus infections or asthma attacks, and depression.
Dealing with Mold and Mildew
If you have mildew, you can get rid of it with bleach cleansing spray and some elbow grease. Clean surrounding areas well to ensure that you’ve removed all of the fungal growth. Wear a face mask and gloves while cleaning, especially if you are allergic. Prevent the recurrence of mildew by eliminating sources of moisture, or, if that’s not possible, clean the mildew regularly.
If you have mold, you should call a professional remediation company. Not only will your home probably require extensive repair to eliminate the mold and prevent its return, but dealing with a mold infestation yourself can cause severe health problems if you don’t use proper safety equipment. It’s best to let the professionals deal with a mold problem.
Mold and mildew can be smelly, unsightly, and even dangerous. Don’t let fungal growth get out of hand in your home. Take steps as soon as you suspect a mold or mildew infestation, to keep your home and family safe and healthy for years to come.