Okay, you’ve started to notice some sort of fungal growth on the wall of your home, the strong odor and apparent discoloration has given you the tell-tale signs of this intrusion in your indoor environment. However, you are not sure whether or not it is full blown mold that is growing or its partner-in-crime mildew. The age-old issue of identifying the different characteristics of mold & mildew is still ever present, with people more confused than ever on the varying characteristics of these different fungal growths. The terms mildew and mold are often times used interchangeably, with few subtle differences that can impact how mold and mildew are identified and treated when present in a personal indoor environment.

Mold and mildew are both complex fungal growths that contain many intricate nuances that can affect the quality of the air of the environment in which they are growing in and can affect the overall health of those individuals who are unfortunately exposed to the hidden or aggressively growing mildew/mold.

It is important to understand the overall impact of these two funguses, how they compare from one another, how they can affect a person’s overall health, and how you can stop these items in their tracks when they become present in the indoor environment.

What causes it to grow indoors

Mildew vs Mold: Key Characteristics

Did you know that mildew is a form of mold? This means that these two funguses will have a lot in common – but they will also have some significant variations that will help us to identify one from another. Mold and mildew are both classified as a fungi, and can be found both indoors and outdoors, depending on which has the desired conditions for them to grow. They both thrive in conditions of moisture and spread from surface to surface rapidly, which will cause a major problem for the environment and those exposed to the environment.

The two fungi’s can vary, and there are certain characteristics that will deviate from the other such as the health effects presented to those exposed, the smell of the fungi, the color appearance of the fungi, and how it effects the air quality inside your indoor space.

We are going to take a look at each of these key differences down below in the hopes of learning how to differentiate mildew from mold.

What is Mildew?

Mildew is identified as a type of mold that tends to grow on flat surfaces where moisture is present. This is one of the key differences of mold and mildew, mildew’s ability to grow on flat surfaces. This fungus will appear in a powdery or downy form on indoor surfaces. Powdery mildew growth will appear in a white coloration and overtime may turn yellow, brown, or even black. Whereas downy mildew growth will start with a yellow appearance and gradually turn brown.What is fungus growth

When mildew forms indoors and grows on surfaces, the damage that it can cause will be minor – usually mildew will only require cosmetic repair. However, in comparison to mildew growth indoors, when mildew grows outside it can have devastating effects such as the complete destruction of plants and food crops.

The concerns that mildew may pose to your health will also be mainly insignificant, especially in relation to the effects mold has on human health. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), has identified mildew to be the earliest stage of mold growth, therefore most of the risks to the indoor environment and health of those exposed are far less severe than that of mold.

Can Mildew Make You Sick?

If you experience prolonged exposure to any type of fungus, like mildew, it will make an individual more susceptible to certain health issues. However, the severity of these adverse health effects from mildew will depend on the prior health of those exposed and the amount of exposure that has occurred i.e. how long you were exposed to the mildew and how much mildew you were exposed to in the environment.

When you are exposed to mildew, either by physical contact or through inhalation, a wide range of health problems could strike inside your body such as respiratory issues (wheezing, nasal and sinus congestion, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and headaches). Mildew, as well as mold, will produce ultra-fine spores into the air in an effort to reproduce, when these spores invade your airspace and enter into your body a bout of significant health effects can occur and wreak havoc on a person’s health.

For those that are at a higher risk for mildew-related health issues such as infants, children, pregnant women, immune-compromised individuals, those with pre-existing conditions, and the elderly, need to take extreme caution when it comes to mildew growth in the environment, as it can affect them ten-fold in comparison to others.

Mildew Growth: Signs to Look For

Mildew will grow and spread just as rapidly and aggressively as mold, although the damage that mildew will cause is incomparable to that of mold. The mildew fungus can be somewhat of a predictable fungus that will often grow on window sills and shower walls – really wherever moisture is high. If you combine moisture with warmth, darkness, and oxygen you will have the ultimate conditions for mildew growth to occur indoors.

When it comes to identifying mildew growth in your home, there are two key signs that will appear – a strong odor and an evident discoloration on surfaces in your indoor environment.

What Does Fungus Smell LikeWhat Does it Smell Like

Mildew, similar to that of mold, develops an odor or smell that is commonly identified as musty – an odor that every homeowner dreads to smell in their home. The musty smell that is produced from mildew is elicited by chemicals emitted from the mildew called MVOCs. Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs) are a variety of compounds that are formed from fungi and bacteria and are released into the environment.

If your home begins to emanate a musty-like odor, it could be mildew or mold growth – you will have to identify which fungi it is by the color left on the surface by the fungus or by having a professional come out to identify the source of fungus.

What Does it Look Like

Mildew, as we discussed earlier, will likely be found on flat surfaces in either a powdery form or downy form. It will be easily identified by its patchy white, gray, or yellowish color that will be near some-sort of moisture build-up. Overtime, mildew will turn into a darker hue such as black or brown, when it gets darker you need to take action and quickly.

What is Mold & Molds?

Mold, in contrast to mildew, is a fungus that grows from microscopic, hazardous spores that float in the air. There are a wide variety of different species of mold, and they can be found everywhere in nature, with no area off-limits. Mold is actually vital to the ecosystem- are you surprised? Mold in the environment helps with the decomposition of organic materials such as dead trees and fallen leaves, and this process allows the nutrients that the organic materials contain to be released back into the soil, allowing other living organisms to utilize the nutrients.

Although mold contains properties that make it advantageous in nature, the results of mold indoors in a home can be less than beneficial and can lead to many issues within this space overtime. Not only can mold lead to significant health problems, it can also cause structural damage to the home or building that will require repair.

If you identify mold growing inside your personal environment, it will be nearly impossible to detect exactly what classification or type of mold it is – as there are estimated to be ten thousand to maybe even three hundred thousand different species of mold in the environment. To obtain the specific class of mold that you are dealing with, you will need to consult a mold-specialist who will be able to conduct testing to determine the type of mold that is present on your home’s surfaces.

Mold Air Purifier

Can Mold Make You Sick?

Mold has the significant potential to affect the health of those exposed, especially when mold is present in large quantities or mold spores are reproduced into the environment rapidly. This fungus produces allergens into the air, that can act as an irritant when ingested or inhaled by humans and will entice a flair of allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. An allergy to mold is common, and those that suffer from allergies and/or asthma will have an increased risk of acquiring this allergy to mold.

The major symptoms that will take place within an individual that has been exposed to mold will include the following:

  • Nasal and sinus congestion, runny nose
  • Respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing, chest tightness
  • Cough
  • Throat irritation
  • Sneezing/ Sneezing fits

Overall, the adverse effects of mold that impact an individual’s health will vary depending on the person. Some people will be more sensitive to the mold, while others will have a higher tolerance to the fungi.

How to Identify Mold

How to IdentifyGrowing and spreading quickly are two characteristics of mold, and these characteristics will help you to identify mold in your home. When mold is left on a surface for an extended period of time, it can eventually lead to potential structural damage that will be an alarming indicator.

Mold will enter into your home, typically from outside where mold spores will become attached to your clothes or pet, and even be swept inside from the air. Moisture is a must for mold, and thus if you have experienced significant moisture inside your home from a flood or storm, then mold will not be a surprise. Along with moisture, mold also loves warmth, darkness, and oxygenated areas for growth – making bathrooms, attics, and basements treasured areas for mold growth.

There are two primary ways to identify mold inside your home and they include sight and smell. What type of discoloration should you look for and what is the exact odor to be on the lookout for? Find out below!

How Long Does It Take to Grow & What Does it Look Like

The growth process of mold can be instantaneous, and discoloration can occur within a few days of induction into your personal indoor environment. When the ideal conditions are present for mold (warm temperatures, high humidity levels, moisture, and darkness), it can take mold anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for mold to germinate and grow. Mold spores will begin to colonize shortly after, in 3 to 12 days, and become visible in about 18-21 days.

When mold is done growing on the surfaces of your home it will appear as a discoloration on this surface. It will appear fuzzy to the human eye and can take on many different colors including black, white, gray, blue, green, brown and yellow. The blotchy discoloration along with a rotting of the surface from the mold eating away at the material of the wall will be major indicators of its growth.

What Does it Smell Like in a House

The smell of mold is sometimes not present within the indoor environment, or it will show up as a light musty scent. As the mold grows, it can emit gases known as microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) like mildew, that will release this musty odor that we associate with mold.

Tips to Preventing & Treating Mildew/ Mold Indoors

Now that we have gone over the different nuances of mold and mildew and the hazards that they can present to your environment, we will want to understand what we can do to prevent and/or treat these fungus growths. Prevention is the key when it comes to both mildew and mold indoors and learning the best tips to implement to aid in prevention will be crucial in staying ahead of the fungal growth.

These are the ideal tips to implement in your home to prevent mildew/mold:

  1. Eliminate Moisture & Keep Area Dry: There are some areas inside your home that are prone to moisture such as your bathroom, basement, or your kitchen. If you know that a specific area in your home is susceptible to excess moisture be vigilant in keeping these areas dry.
  2. Regularly Change HVAC Filter: Something that commonly falls by the waist side is that of changing your home’s HVAC filter. These filters are prone to growing mold and mildew, and therefore if they are not changed it can promote the growth and spreading of mildew and mold. Changing your filter as required will assist in reducing the chances of fungus growth indoors.
  3. Implement a Dehumidifier Inside Home: Mold and mildew love humidity and having a dehumidifier will help to reduce the humidity level and help to keep your home at an ideal humidity level of 40-50%.
  4. Purify your Air with Efficient Mold Air Purifier: Indoor air purifiers that eliminate spores from fungus growth like the EnviroKlenz Mobile UV Model can remove those hazardous mold spores from your air and will help to prevent them from forming clusters or growing in the environment. EnviroKlenz is able to both capture the mold spores within a hospital-grade HEPA filter and kill the spores utilizing a safe UVC light that shine on the HEPA to provide a high efficiency kill of these microorganisms.
  5. Maintain Good Air Circulation: When air becomes trapped inside your home, it will allow for a breeding ground for mold spores. Keeping the air circulation flowing will help to flush out contaminated air and replace it with fresh outdoor air.

Conclusion: Mold vs Mildew

Although mold and mildew have differentiating features, they can both plague your indoor air and affect your home and health. Preventive measures are critical and will go a long way when it comes to keeping your home and your health clear of potentially hazardous mildew and mold growth.

EnviroKlenz® Medical Disclaimer:

“Any information that is provided on this website is not for the use by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The material and statements illustrated within this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. Nor does the author in any way guarantee or validate the validity, totality, or efficacy of any claims and will therefore not be held responsible for the content of any claims. Always consult your medical physician for any specific medical advice or recommendations.”

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