Is It Mold or Mildew? What's The Difference?

Mold and mildew are often spoken of together as if they were the same substance. But while the two are definitely fungus cousins, there are a few striking differences between mold and mildew that are important to know, as they grow differently and therefore must be treated differently. In this article, we’ll give you a rundown of the differences between the fungi and how to get rid of them for good. 

MOLD VS MILDEW

First, let’s talk about their similarities: Mold and mildew are both fungi that develop due to excessive, unchecked moisture. They both grow in a wide range of temperatures, with some strains especially thriving at higher temperatures. Both of these types of fungi can eventually damage the home or cause significant health concerns. Safely and effectively eradicating mold and mildew is crucial to keeping you and your family healthy and your home in good shape. 

Let’s get to the differences between the two: 

Mildew is a fungus that can be easily recognized as a patch of gray (or even white) fungus lying on the surface of a moist area, like in the bathroom or kitchen, on fabrics and upholstery, on houseplants, and on items like books stored in damp basements or garages. If mildew isn’t removed promptly, it can often turn black or brown and can sometimes look like soil accumulation. Mildew is usually easy to remove and treat.

Mold, on the other hand, can be green or black and is often the result of a much larger infestation. This type of fungus can appear fuzzy or even slimy. If you detect a strong, musty odor anywhere in your home, then it’s likely you have a high concentration of mold. It can thrive in areas where there is leaking water (such as under the kitchen sink) or even in a neglected laundry hamper filled with wet bath towels. Mold can damage entire structures, including homes and vehicles, and it can cause long-term health problems for people exposed to it. For instance, the difference in the effects of Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as black mold) VS mildew is pretty stark, as reactions to toxic black mold can include respiratory issues, heart problems, joint pain, migraines, chronic fatigue, and depression. In addition, anyone who has a mold allergy may experience congestion, sneezing, and irritation of the eyes, throat, and skin. This is why it’s essential to prevent or treat mold as soon as possible.

What many people incorrectly identify as “mildew” in their homes is usually a strain of Ascomycota, a group of molds of which about 200 species have been identified. A common but potentially harmful type of Ascomycota mold found in homes and other indoor environments is Aspergillus, which can quickly develop in homes or buildings because the spores become airborne and cling to nearby surfaces. Alarmingly, Aspergillus can produce toxins called mycotoxins, exposure to which can cause a number of health issues, including allergy symptoms, asthma, chronic fatigue, immune deficiency, cancer, and neurological damage. Mycotoxins can be toxic when inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or consumed at very low concentration levels. 

Though only a lab test can verify the identity of any variety of mold, you can suspect that a mold is from the Aspergillus genus if it has a powdery texture (which is why it’s commonly mistaken for mildew) and an extremely high growth rate. Because Aspergillus molds can thrive anywhere there is oxygen and moisture; they can potentially be found throughout the home. Aspergillus infestations are often found growing around air conditioners and indoor ventilation systems; on bathroom grout or caulk; on shower curtains and under bath mats; on windows and surrounding frames and window sills; and under water-damaged carpet.

It’s important to note that all molds (mildew included) produce by means of spores. When those spores find an opportunity to grow where there is water or moisture, they will do so. Suppose you have mold perpetually growing in your kitchen or bathroom. In that case, it often means that you have a mold infestation elsewhere in the home that’s getting aerosolized and finding the perfect opportunity to flourish in that damp space. 

Important Safety Tip: When entering and cleaning a space affected by mold, it is essential to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Those who suffer from respiratory issues or a weakened immune system should avoid entering the space entirely. If the mold problem is severe, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a professional who is trained in mold cleanup. Local public health departments can offer advice on mold testing and refer you to an expert mold remover. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to major mold issues

HOW TO TREAT MOLD AND MILDEW

Another difference between mold and mildew is how difficult it is to get rid of each fungus.  However, there are a few basic precautions everyone working in moldy (or mildewy) areas should follow. First, always avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. It’s important to remember that mold spores aren’t likely to be airborne while undisturbed. But during the clean-up process, spores can float on air currents and can enter the lungs unless precautions are taken. A disposable respirator (such as an N95) will provide suitable protection for light mold cleanup. It’s also a good idea to wear heavy-duty work gloves and safety goggles or other protective eyewear (without ventilation holes) and a hat if you'll be cleaning up mold on ceilings. Those who suffer from respiratory issues or a weakened immune system should avoid entering the space entirely. 

With surface mildew, all it usually takes is a mildew killer, like Vital Oxide, a good scrub brush, and a bit of elbow grease to get rid of the issue. Mold infestations, however, can be a bit trickier to remove. First, for areas of small household mold, find and repair any sources of excess moisture and make sure the space is adequately ventilated. Next, remove all visible mold (a scrub brush, water, and Vital Oxide works well) and rinse with water. Finally, spray the affected area liberally with Vital Oxide (full-strength, do not dilute for mold removal) from a distance of 12 inches until visibly wet and allow it to air dry. 

Related: How to Get Rid of Mold From Every Home Surface 

VITAL OXIDE: YOUR SECRET WEAPON AGAINST MOLD & MILDEW 

Think of Vital Oxide as your secret weapon to combat fungus of every variety. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant and mold killer that eliminates mold and mildew on a molecular level – neutralizing spores and inhibiting fungal growth – without damaging the surfaces treated. Vital Oxide is also tested and proven effective in neutralizing mycotoxins. Unlike conventional cleaners and disinfectants that are only effective on hard, non-porous surfaces, Vital Oxide can also penetrate surfaces like carpets, upholstery, drywall, concrete, and wood – and destroy the roots of tough mold and mildew. Read more about using Vital Oxide for mold remediation here

At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary disinfectant powerful enough to eliminate tough mold and mildew without harsh chemicals. Follow us on Instagram for more great cleaning and disinfecting tips. If you have any questions, please Contact Us