The terms “mold” and “mildew” are often thrown around together when describing what can happen if you don’t clean up damp surfaces or standing water. If you spot a slimy, powdery, or fuzzy growth in your home, you might be wondering: is it mold or mildew? Is there even a difference between mold and mildew?
The two certainly have similarities. They are both fungi; they both grow in warm, damp places; and they both send you scrambling for rubber gloves and a scrub brush if you find them growing in your home. But mold and mildew also have striking differences. Here’s what you need to know.
- How mold forms: Mold grows in the form of multi-cellular filaments or hyphae. Colonies reproduce by sending microscopic spores into the air. As mold grows, it digests the organic material it forms on until it’s completely destroyed. Then, it moves to adjacent organic material, and thus the damage spreads.
- What mold looks like: Mold comes in just about every color and texture you can imagine. It can be green and fuzzy or black and slimy. Other common colors include orange, brown, pink, and purple.
- Uses: Mold is actually very useful. Without it, leaves wouldn’t decay, and soil enrichment wouldn’t take place. Mold is also the foundation of penicillin and other important antibiotics. In addition, mold is used in the production of many food products, including cheese, soy sauce, and some types of bread.
- Health effects: Of the thousands of molds that exist, only a few are known allergens that aggravate the skin, eyes, and lungs. Even fewer molds produce mycotoxins, which can cause adverse health effects. Still, long enough exposure to high concentrations of any mold could cause a bad reaction. Common symptoms reported from mold exposure include wheezing, asthma attacks, coughing, burning eyes, and skin rashes.
- How mildew forms: Mildew is a surface fungus that often appears in damp places, such as shower curtains and walls, window sills, and basements. Plants are also susceptible to powdery and downy mildew growth. This fungus reproduces by sending out spores, just like mold. In fact, mold colonies often start out as mildew. You can prevent it from spreading by cleaning up mildew as soon as you discover it.
- What mildew looks like: Downy mildew first appears as yellow spots, which become brighter and then change to brown. Powdery mildew is white and resembles talcum powder. A patch of gray or white fungus on a surface is most likely mildew.
- Uses: Mildew has no useful function in medicine or food production.
- Health effects: Mildew is most dreaded by farmers because it can infect and kill crops. Among humans, inhaling mildew can cause coughing, headaches, scratchy throat, and respiratory problems. Mildew can even grow in the lungs of sensitive individuals and cause dangerous infections.
Schedule Mold Remediation Services
If you see mold growing in your house or you detect its characteristic musty odor, schedule mold remediation services as soon as possible. The longer you ignore the problem, the further the mold may spread and the worse the problem can become.
If mold growth is confined to one small area, you may be able to remove it yourself with warm, soapy water and a bit of bleach. However, once mold growth spans more than 10 square feet, it’s important to contact a professional for mold remediation.
To help meet all of your home service needs, check out Neighborly. Once on the site, click on "Join the Community" to find providers to service all your home needs.