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Mold or Mildew? What’s The Difference?

Removing Mildew

Did you hear about the partying mold guy? He was a fungi to be with. Ok, but seriously, how can you tell whether you have mold or mildew? Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to tell just by how they look, feel, and smell.

Touch it (use gloves) Mold is usually raised, so if you run your finger across it, you’ll feel it. Mildew is flat. Mold can vary by what kind it is, but it’s usually a color other than white (black, green, red, or bluish). Mildew is usually greyish or white. Mold usually looks hairy or fuzzy, and some kinds can look slimy. Mildew typically looks powdery.

You can often tell the difference by the odors they put out, too. The stinkier it is, the more likely it is that it is mold and not mildew. Not that mildew doesn’t have a smell, but it’s usually not as foul-smelling. The more active your mold is, the smellier it tends to be. This is because when it’s growing it emits microbial gases. If it’s not overly smelly but has an odor it’s probably mildew. If it smells more dank or earthy, it’s probably mold. Think about the difference in smells between socks that are wet vs socks that have been worn for quite a while.

Another difference is how easy they are to remove. Mildew, because it’s usually just on the surface, is pretty easy to clean up with common cleaners. Mold, on the other hand, because it’s usually deeper and tends to be more invasive into substrates, is not. Common household cleaners can’t reach deeper mold where it’s growing, and the type of remover or chemical needed to eradicate it varies depending on what kind it is.

Where they grow, which we noted above, is one more thing that makes them different. Mildew grows on top of things, where mold burrows into them. You might find mildew on the surface of walls, tiles, siding, or other materials. Mold, though, can dig in deep, expanding through one material and into the things behind or under it. For example, mold in drywall might be visible on the surface, but it may also work it’s way through the drywall, into the framing, and into the insulation. Both tend to grow where there is dampness or high humidity.

They differ in how dangerous they might be. Mildew can cause health issues if left to grow, but they are usually less severe than health problems caused by mold. When mold is growing it releases spores into the air, so people who are living or working in the space can inhale them. Relatively minor problems like allergies, sore throats, or other respiratory issues can result from smaller mold infestations. Larger infestations or more dangerous types of mold can cause a number of much more serious problems.

If you think you might have a mold problem, it’s best to call in a pro to check it out.

As always, the team here at Violet Frog is happy to help.