Mold VS Mildew: What Is the Difference?

Double the trouble. Mildew and mold are like Jessie and James from Team Rocket. Both often stick together, causing havoc, and are not pleasant to be around with. However, most people will have trouble telling them apart. These 2 fungi are identical in many ways but one is more deadly than the other. With the increasing number of respiratory problems, let's learn more about mold VS mildew and the differences between them.


What Is the Difference between Mold and Mildew?

There are subtle differences between mold VS mildew from the appearance (texture, color), stages of growth, and health risks. First off, mold is fuzzy, slimy multiple nuclei (Multinucleate) that grow in black or green patches with a hint of brown, white and yellow colors. Mildew is a multicellular, fuzzy, powdery look in black, white, grey, blue, green, or yellow patches. Mold can penetrate beneath porous materials while mildew has a flat growth and will remain on the surface of the material. Mold will literally grow on anything both indoor and outdoor. Common places include food (bread, meat, cheese), wall, ceiling, bathroom, garage, kitchen, basement, crawl space or boat. Mildew will also grow in places mold resides, but it will likely grow on objects that are exposed to wetness such as fabric, paper, and leather goods. Both mold and mildew have a distinct musty smell but thankfully mildew has a milder, less invasive odor.

The Differences Between Humidifier and Dehumidifier

Fuzzy, slimy in black and green patches.Fuzzy, powdery in black, blue, green, white, grey, yellow patches.
Common places
Food, wall, ceiling, bathroom, garage, basement.Cloth, paper, leather good.
Strong musty odor.Mild musty odor.
Dangerous.Less dangerous.
Hard to remove.Easy to remove.

What Are The Effects Of Mildew VS Mold?

You can get sick from mildew or mold. In general, mildew is less harmful than mold other than impacting plants, crops, and minor allergic reactions. You will experience allergic reactions like runny nose, cough, red eyes, sore throat, dry skin, or headache. Once mildew has been removed from the surface, all your health symptoms will be gone with the wind. Mold is much more dangerous as it can cause irreversible damage to our health, food, and building structure. Other than the same eyes, ears, nose, and throat symptoms as mildew, mold is not particularly kind to an asthmatic person. It can aggravate asthma conditions with children and elderly the higher risk group. If you are unfortunate to encounter the toxigenic black mold, you are at risk of the following diseases: hallucinations, respiratory tract damage, heart inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, infertility, impotence, lung cancer, or liver failure. Removing mold can be tricky as they may have penetrated been within the wall, ceiling or floor. Symptoms may recur from time to time until the room is completely mold-free. Seek medical advice or treatment immediately if one is experiencing mildew or mold poisoning.

How Hard Is It To Remove Mildew VS Mold

You can easily remove mildew with some soap, vinegar, baking soda, essential oil and give it a good scrub. On the other hand, mold requires additional efforts and stronger mold remover tools to eradicate the fungus for good. If there are too many deposits hidden inside porous materials like dry wall, you may need to seek mold removal expert.

In short, mildew easy, mold hard. If you see tell-tale signs that the fungus is expanding on your ceiling or wall, it’s time to take some actions. The helpful tips below will work on mold and mildew.

  • Mix water with either detergent, bleach, ammonia, or talcum powder and apply it on the affected area. Scrub thoroughly and wash it away with water.
  • A better alternative is to mix water with non-toxic solutions such as vinegar, baking soda, essential oil, or tea tree oil. Apply on the infested patches and start scrubbing until the fungus has been removed.
  • If mold has eaten into your wall, building structure, hire a licensed professional to perform full mold remediation. The mold removal expert will evaluate your home condition, perform testing, and begin the removal process. It is expensive, time consuming, and may involve some hacking and renovating, but that is the only way to go.

Other preventative measures to consider:

  • Get a dehumidifier and ensure the home relative humidity level does not go beyond 50%.
  • Get a HEPA air purifier or UVGI to capture airborne mold and mildew before they settled on your home.
  • Apply insulation and protective coating on the wall that inhibit mold and mildew growth.
  • Remove any mildew-affected plants or mold-infested items to stop it from spreading further damage.
  • Change or wash air filters regularly to prevent clogging.
  • Inspect and maintain your HVAC system regularly to ensure no mold or mildew is growing and circulating in the air ducts.
  • Buy mold and mildew protection sprays. Apply accordingly.

We do get a lot of questions asking are mildew and mold the same? No, they are not the same despite you often see them grow side by side together. Nonetheless, both mold and mildew do share many similarities as they are types of fungi that are commonly found in the home. They thrive on wet and warm conditions with humidity levels above 50%. Finally, mold and mildew will grow rapidly and easily spread through airborne.

What Is Mold?

Mold (mould) is a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments structures called hyphae. It has a fuzzy (hairy) appearance with darker green or black color. A typical mold can germinate in 12 hours with good condition. There are 4 stages of growth cycle: Hyphal growth, spore formation, spore dispersal, and spore germination. As mold grows, it can emit microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) gases which are the chemical compounds linked to the musty smell. There are 13 common types of mold in the home. From Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, Acremonium, Aureobasidium, Chaetomium, Fusarium, Mucor, Trichoderma, Ulocladium, and Serpula Lacrymans.

What Is Mildew?

Mildew is a fungus that is closely identical to mold but appears in lighter shades of color. You can tell them apart with its unique powdery appearance in black, white, blue, green, grey or yellow highlight. The 2 common types of mildew are Powdery mildew and Downy mildew.

Other Mold Types That Can Be Found in Homes


Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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