The mold vs mildew issue frequently comes up when unidentified fungal growth appears in a home. While both are a type of fungus, they tend to be quite different in their effect on humans living in the house. However, neither mold nor mildew is a welcome sight to a homeowner interested in maintaining a sanitary and healthy indoor environment.
Is It Mold Or Mildew?
Simply by looking, can the average homeowner tell the difference in a mold vs mildew comparison? Probably not. As a general rule, mildew appears in colorations that range from white to grayish. Mold, on the other hand, may take on a wide variety of hues from yellowish to green, red and solid black. For this reason, when toxic mold growth is suspected in a home, visual appearance should never be the only factor in making a definite mold vs mildew determination. Professional mold remediation always begins with technology such as air sampling to identify the kind of airborne spores and estimate the extent of contamination within the house. Once the source of active fungal growth is located, physical samples of suspected contamination must be tested to make an accurate final determination of the type and toxic potential.
Moisture: The Usual Suspect
A common element in the mold vs mildew comparison are conditions that spawn the growth of both categories of fungi. Where mildew is evident inside a house, mold may often be present, too. That’s because the common denominator is moisture.
This can be direct moisture from sources like:
- Small plumbing leaks
- Previous water damage such as a flood or other inundation
- A bathroom that is frequently steamy from bathing
Even simple high humidity can be enough to encourage both mold and mildew. Dormant mold spores exist everywhere in nature but remain in an inactive state until exposed to moisture that triggers active growth. Once dormant mold shifts into the active growing phase, it begins releasing millions of microscopic airborne reproductive spores into the indoor environment.
For susceptible individuals, inhaling these toxic spores can cause allergic reactions and is a major suspect in a wide variety of other symptoms and chronic illnesses. While mildew also produces spores, they tend to be more benign than toxic mold and cause relatively minor symptoms in a fewer number of persons.
What Works and What Doesn’t
Techniques for remediation of mold vs mildew also differ greatly. Often, eliminating the appearance of mildew contamination can be accomplished using DIY methods. Simply wiping away mildew and applying a common household disinfectant to the surface such as a diluted mixture of water and bleach is usually enough to eliminate mildew.
Toxic mold is another matter, and successful treatment should be left to a mold remediation professional—not a do-it-yourselfer. While mildew tends to grow only superficially on surfaces, mold growth often penetrates into common building materials like drywall or wooden structural components. Simply wiping or washing away the superficial evidence of mold is not sufficient to prevent recurrence. Common consumer-level disinfectants are also not rated to neutralize most types of toxic mold.
Mold Is a Whole-House Event
Mold contamination affects widespread areas of a structure as spores migrate via air currents and are also circulated through the ductwork of the HVAC system. While simply eliminating a localized occurrence of mildew may be sufficient to resolve the issue, professional mold remediation of an established contamination usually also entails techniques, including:
- HEPA-grade vacuuming to remove spores on surfaces throughout the home
- Replacing air filters
- Disinfecting certain HVAC components