Mold and mildew are often used interchangeably to refer to the black or powdery fungal growth that occurs on natural, organic surfaces.
In truth, mold serves its purpose by breaking down organic matter in the outdoors. However, in interior living conditions, mold and mildew have very real hazards.
As noticed during a casual home inspection, a thin, black spotted area often seen around window sills or in bathrooms is often referred to as “mildew.” Presumably, the use of the simple term “mildew,” rather than the more troubling “mold,” is comforting to most people as a problem they can address themselves. A quick trip to the local store and a mildew remover seems to be all that is needed. While this may seem comforting, the truth of the matter is that most government offices and health-oriented agencies do not make much of a distinction between the two.
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In fact, FEMA describes mildew as simply being mold in its early stages. Other people refer to mildew as a specific type of mold. Although it may seem thin and spotty at first, indoor mildew can turn into a full-blown mold colony. Mold, which can be deeply rooted in building materials and even ventilation systems, can thrive in damp hidden places. Since mold reproduces in a traveling, airborne manner, mold spores can be carried throughout a building and build other colonies.
Simply using an over-the-counter product may help to clean the mildew stain, but does not truly address a problem which may be much less visible. Most products do not claim to solve a mildew or mold problem, but only offer the satisfaction of giving a quick visually clean look to your wall or shower. While this may be a somewhat effective solution for a non-porous area, spores may already have been released into the indoor air, continuing the problem on another surface in another location. On a porous surface, there is no doubt that mold can sink deep into the organic materials and grow quickly. Just a surface solution will not suffice.
Instead of quibbling about the semantics of mold vs. mildew, property owners and renters should be more concerned about obtaining professional mold cleanup. Treating a mold problem in the early stages, while it still may be commonly referred to as “mildew,” is always quicker and more cost-effective. Addressing mold concerns early means there is less of a chance of endangering a person’s health.
Mildew is often seen in kitchens and bathrooms and rightly so. Any source of dampness, water, or high humidity will allow the mold spores to settle on some organic matter and began to thrive. Eventually the colony will thicken and deepen its hold on the organic matter until it is decayed and destroyed. Meanwhile, mold spores continue to float through the air in an opportunistic fashion to land on another damp source of nourishment. If you have a problem with early mold or mildew in your bathroom or kitchen, you will probably need to take steps to address the cause of moisture build-up. If you have a one-time catastrophic event, such as a flood or massive leak, you will need to make sure steps are taken to dry out the area within 48 hours before mold spores can began to settle and grow.