Many people use the terms mold and mildew interchangeably and it's no wonder. These tiny fungi are similar in appearance and thrive under similar conditions. Both can be found in warm, moist areas of your home, such as the bathroom and kitchen, and both require immediate attention to eradicate. Both respond to the same treatment, but if you are the inquisitive kind, you may be interested in how they differ.
What is Mildew?
Mildew is often referred to as downy or powdery mildew. This fungi grows in moist areas and produces a flat pattern. Mildew can be present on plants or other organic materials, such as wood or natural fabrics. It can also be found on plastics, such as your shower stall. Mildew can be white, yellow, brown or black, depending on the species and the stage of growth. You may notice mildew on wet clothing that has set in a warm area. During hot, humid weather, laundry left in the washer or in a damp hamper may mildew. Mildew typically discolors clothing or fabrics when wet and looks powdery when dry.
What is Mold?
Mold is also a fungus that grows in warm, moist areas. It looks fuzzy or furry and can be green, brown, yellow, gray or white. Sometimes mold can even look blue. You can find mold on any organic material, including rotting food. If you observe a fuzzy growth in cracks or around the baseboard in your home, you probably have a mold problem.
Where do Mold and Mildew Come From?
Mold and mildew spores are present in the air, but need the right environment to begin growing. In nature, they are necessary to break down organic matter, like tree stumps, old branches, and fallen leaves. It is a natural part of the life cycle in forests. The problem arises when mold and mildew take up residence in your home.
Are Both Mold and Mildew Health Risks?
Both mold and mildew pose some health risks, but mold presents a more serious health concern. While mildew can cause allergy symptoms and may cause some breathing difficulties, mold can also cause migraines, joint inflammation, mental difficulties like depression and confusion, and fatigue along with the typical allergy symptoms.
How Do You Get Rid of Mold and Mildew?
FEMA recommends cleaning all hard surfaces, such as glass, metal and plastic with a non-ammonia detergent. Scrub the area down and rinse it well. Saturate the material with a 10% solution of bleach and allow it to set for 10 minutes to kill the mold spores. For fabrics and other porous material, wash it them with a pine oil cleaner. Porous material that has been wet for less than 48 hours can often be cleaned.
Will Mold and Mildew Come Back?
Unless you change the environment, mold and mildew is likely to return, even after a thorough cleaning. To prevent mold and mildew from recurring, correct any water leaks or sources of excess moisture in your home and dry the area out thoroughly. You can do this by opening windows on a dry day or with fans. Installing a new exhaust fan in your bathroom and instructing all household members to use it after showers will go a long way to preventing mold and mildew. Regular cleaning and mopping up all spills also helps to prevent mold and mildew.
What About the Mold I Can't Get To?
Mold often grows inside walls or under the floors in areas where water leaks from faucets, pipes or when it rains. These areas are difficult to reach and typically require the services of a professional trained in mold removal. When left untreated, mold will continue to flourish, posing both a risk to your health and to the structure of your home. If you suspect mold in your floors or walls, seek the advice of a mold removal professional before trying to correct it yourself.