The terms mold and mildew are used interchangeably by the public but actually refer to two distinct funguses. They have many similarities and differences that are easy to identify once one is given the proper information. Knowing the difference can be key in effectively combating whichever of these funguses is present in your home.
Molds are much darker in color than mildews. A mold will typically appear black, brown, purple, green or white and takes on an almost fuzzy appearance. It forms in hair-like strands called hyphae filaments. The filaments are multicellular growths of mold that develop from spores.
Mold spores are present in the environment virtually everywhere. They will not necessarily grow into these fuzzy hyphae strands though unless moistures are available to them. Once they have found a habitable, warm, wet location, mold can grow fairly quickly.
Some forms of mold, especially black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum by its scientific name, produce mycotoxins and are potentially dangerous. People with allergies or asthma can have strong allergic reactions to black mold that affect breathing.
Mildews, on the other hand, are much lighter in color, generally gray or white. They take on a powdery, dry appearance and are flatter to a surface, not fuzzy. Mildews are more likely to grow on fruits, vegetables, and plants.
While molds feed on biological materials in surfaces like wood and drywall, mildews are consuming the organic material of the plants. Both can cause damage to the location where they are growing. Mildew also requires moisture to grow and their spores prefer warm, wet environments as well. However, there are not as many health problems tied to mildews as to molds.
What about that pink slime in the shower, sink, and toilet?
A common misconception is that the slimy pink growth found in many bathrooms is mold or mildew. It is actually neither. That slime is an airborne bacteria called Serratia marcescens. This bacteria cannot be entirely defeated because the bathroom is full of microscopic bacteria that we add to its environment daily. Serratia marcescens has adapted to this habitat by developing a taste for soaps. Whether it’s shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, body wash or any other soap, the airborne bacteria will land on it and begin to form a colony. It also requires moisture, so keeping your bathroom free of soapy wet spots after showering will prevent its growth.
In fact, this same advice applies to mold and mildew as well. Be very careful about allowing moisture to sit in your home. It only takes a small amount to develop a mold, mildew or pink slime bacteria problem. Once this happens, especially with toxic black mold, you may need to call in an expert to handle the growth.
If you think you have mold or need any questions answered, please give The Mold Solutions Group a call and ask for Rich at (919) 918-7677.