Even the cleanest people in the world get mildew or mold in their houses — where there is moisture, these sneaky substances will quickly spring up unbidden and unwanted. While mold and mildew are mostly harmless, it’s important to know the difference between them and avoid build-up for the health of your household. Here’s how you can spot the difference between these two fungi.
What is Mold?
Fungi, like mold, help break down organic materials in nature and function the same way in your house or apartment. Mold's growth depends on moisture and oxygen. It comes in various colors, from grayish-black to green, and often manifests as a fuzzy, textured growth on organic matter, such as food and clothes.
What is Mildew?
You’ve probably encountered mildew on your shower curtain liner or bathtub grout. Mildew is also a mold, but it grows flatter and paler than more common types of the fungus. Mildew is often white or light brown and almost powdery when dry.
Can These Substances Hurt You?
Both mold and mildew are mostly harmless beyond an unseemly appearance and a bad odor. However, certain types can negatively affect your health. Black mold is not always dangerous and is often recognizable by little spots on walls and baseboards. However, toxic black mold can damage your lungs if inhaled regularly. There is a higher chance of the black mold you encounter being toxic if it exists in a consistently humid environment, like attics and basements, and if it has a heavy smell of decay.
In general, spending time in a damp, moldy environment can cause allergic symptoms, worsen conditions like asthma, and cause serious problems like cancer.
Mildew is often more easily detected, making it less likely to stay in one place long enough to cause health issues. However, consistent exposure can cause cold or flu-like symptoms or worsen pre-existing conditions like other fungus. Some species can even produce mycotoxins, toxins that can cause serious symptoms, including poisoning and immune deficiency.
How to Prevent Mold and Mildew
Prevention is key when combatting home fungi. You can discourage mold and mildew from growing by investing in a dehumidifier. This affordable gadget removes excess moisture from your home, preventing future mold or mildew growth. To strike the balance of preventing your home’s air from drying out and discouraging fungal growth, aim to keep the overall humidity under 50%.
Regular scrubbing and thoroughly drying after cleaning can help prevent mold colonies from growing. While toxic black mold is one of the most dangerous types, it's also one of the easiest to clean with over-the-counter products or a simple baking soda and vinegar mixture. If you suspect you already have mold, call a professional to get your home evaluated and treated.
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