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Mold vs. Mildew: What’s the Difference?

Cropped shot of unrecognizable man cleaning moldy couch at home

The terms “mold” and “mildew” are often used interchangeably. True, they are both microscopic organisms that thrive in wet conditions and cause harmful health effects in sensitive groups. However, mold and mildew are quite different in how they appear and propagate. Learn more about mold vs. mildew and why their presence in your home or business warrants environmental remediation services.

What is Mold?

Mold is an overarching term for all species of microscopic fungi that grow in multicellular filaments called hyphae.

  • Where does mold grow? Mold can thrive on any organic matter, including fabric, paper, cardboard, drywall, and wood. It’s most likely to show up in basements, bathrooms, and anywhere with untreated water damage.
  • What does mold look like? There are over 100,000 species of mold, meaning the appearance can vary drastically depending on what type of mold you’re looking at. Still, mold is generally green, red, blue, or black. It often has a raised appearance and may look slimy or fuzzy.
  • How does mold grow? As burrowing fungi, mold can grow inside porous materials, making remediation difficult. In fact, it’s often necessary to replace affected belongings and building materials.
  • What does mold smell like? The musty odor associated with mold comes from microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). Mold produces these musty compounds, but mildew does not.

What is Mildew?

Mildew refers to particular types of mold and fungus with a flat growth habit.

  • Where does mildew grow? Mildew often lives on shower walls, windowsills, and other damp surfaces. It loves moisture, thriving in settings where the relative humidity is 60 percent or higher.
  • What does mildew look like? Usually, mildew is white or gray with a dry, powdery quality. It presents as tiny dots, like a fine layer of flour, and may turn brown over time.
  • How does mildew grow? Mildew is a surface fungi, so it’s usually easy to see and wipe up from moist areas using standard household cleaners.
  • What does mildew smell like? The smell of mildew is comparable to damp socks. The odor is generally mild compared to the musty smells caused by mold growth.

Cleaning up Mold and Mildew

If not remediated, mold and mildew will continue to grow and spread, sickening the occupants of the building and potentially causing structural damage. To ensure the threat is completely eliminated, hire a team of trained professionals to assess the situation, remove existing growth, and help you prevent future fungal outbreaks.

DKI has the knowledge, training, and experience needed to remove mold from your building. We provide commercial and residential mold remediation services from coast to coast, with over 200 locations in North America to serve you. From mitigation and remediation to recovery and reconstruction, DKI can guarantee the highest quality services, employing industry best practices to thoroughly rid your home or business of mold and mildew growth. Call us at 844.345.2255 or contact us online to request mold cleanup services today.