For some people, the very thought of either mold or mildew is enough to have them running for the hills. There are some characteristics of the two that are strikingly similar, while some set them apart. In either case, you do not want them in your home so as soon as you find one of them, get rid of them. Both mold and mildew are fungi, and both can cause health issues ranging from simple sinus infections to problems with skin, respiratory, and circulatory systems.
The Colors of Mold and Mildew
Although most people refer to all mold as “black mold” or “toxic black mold,” there are actually a stunning number of types and a wide array of colors.
- Mold can come in colors that range from yellows (Serpula Lacrymans) to pinkish (Aureobasidium) to greenish-black to pure black.
- Mildew typically is either white, gray or dark gray. Some mildews may take on a slightly greenish tinge.
Show Us What You Are Made Of
- Mold is made of different spores and a colony can have several distinctive and identifiable types in one group.
- Mildew tends to be a specific type within its formation.
- Mold can grow to outrageous sizes, especially if it is not detected for a long time. Some of the really fast growing varieties can overtake an entire room in a matter of days. The average mold can start growing in as little as 24 hours. Penicillium is one of the fastest spreading mold types and can start in a small area in one room and quickly spread throughout a house.
- Mildew tends to remain small and concentrated in a single location. It also tends to spread out flat within that area.
- Mold can be slimy, fuzzy, or hairy. Some mold may have a little of all of these features in a single colony.
- Mildew tends to be drier with a more powdery appearance. You can blow mildew spores off of an item and see how powdery it is.
Easy to Get Rid Of?
- Hands down the “winner” here is mildew. Because it stays relatively small and does not permeate most surfaces, you can typically wipe it away with a regular cleanser and not worry about it showing right back up. Mildewed clothes can be washed and dried thoroughly but be warned: mildew can stain clothing and the smell can be impossible to get out. The longer the clothes have been sitting in mildew, the more likely they are to be completely ruined.
- Mold, on the other hand, can permeate a surface and must be handled more aggressively. Some mold can be cleaned with a bleach and water solution (10:1 ratio), while other mold, especially if it is a large amount, must be dealt with by a professional.
- No matter which you are dealing with, prevention is better than having to get rid of it so the same steps can be used. Keep things dry and ventilated and monitor areas that are prone to mold and/or mildew before a problem gets started.
Dangerous to People and Pets?
- Both mold and mildew can cause problems to either people or pets in the home because of the spores. Even if we do not see spots or patches of mold or mildew, the spores are present in the air. We breathe them in and ingest them through the foods we eat. For many people the spores will cause no health problems at all, but for others the affects can be quite severe.
- Pets are at high risk of problems with mold and mildew because of their sensitive noses and because they are close to the places where the spores are often found. Several types of mold are typically found in carpets including: penicillium, cladsporium and fusarium.
- Others who are at risk from mold and mildew include the very young, the very old, and those who have chronic breathing problems. Anyone who has a compromised immune system may also be at high risk for health problems related to mold or mildew.
- Mold on food can be a problem that leads to vomiting and/or diarrhea. While it typically can be seen, smelt or tasted, small amounts of the spores can be present and eaten before the actual mold starts growing to a noticeable level.
Time to Call a Professional?
- Any time that your health is at risk is a time to call in a pro.
- If you suspect that you have a mold problem, call in someone who can do a thorough inspection. They can also tell you what you are dealing with and how best to handle it.
- If there is the chance that pieces of carpet or drywall will need to be cut out and replaced, you might need to hire a professional. There is not only the repair work, but the clean up to consider. The damaged items will need to be handled in a way that the mold spores are not simply blown about the entire house. Drywall is also a notoriously difficult material to work with especially for one person. Leave that to the skilled professionals who know what they are doing.