It is not uncommon for people to interchange the use of mold and mildew when speaking. Mold and mildew, however, are actually a bit different. Though both are types of fungi, they do look different, yet both can wreak havoc on your home and to your food. In fact, clean-up and remediation from mold damage is a common project for contractors.
First, let’s review the differences between mold and mildew.
- Mold – Mold has a fuzzy appearance and can vary in colors including orange, green, black, brown, pink, or purple. It can be found in many different shapes and is most often green in color.
- Mildew – Mildew could appear powdery or downy. Mildew usually starts to appear as yellow spots that get brighter in appearance over time. Then, the color will start to change to brown. Powdery mildew, however, is whitish in color and slowly turns yellowish-brown before it turns black.
Mildew can best be described as a particular type of mold. Mildew is primarily a plant disease that can create significant damage to crops and plants. The powdery mildew that was mentioned above mainly affects flowering plants. Downy mildew is commonly found in agricultural products, such as on grapes or potatoes.
Mold, on the other hand, can live indoors, and there is believed to be an estimated 10,000 or more species according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typical molds found indoors include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, and Aspergillus.
Exposure to mildew and mold is bad for your health
Exposure, in particular excessive exposure, to damp and moldy environments can cause a variety of health effects. Though some people might not experience any effects from exposure, others are extremely sensitive to molds. For these people, mold exposure often results in health concerns and discomforts such as a stuffy nose, irritated throat, coughing and wheezing, irritated or itchy eyes, and in some cases irritation to the skin.
Those who are allergic to mold are far more susceptible to severe reactions. Also, people who suffer from compromised immune systems and those who are fighting chronic lung illnesses can develop dangerous infections in their lungs due to mold exposure. These people should take steps to stay away from areas that are likely to have mold. Compost piles, cut grass, and forest and wooded areas often have an abundance of mold that can trigger allergic reactions.
Unfortunately, mold can be found both outdoors and indoors. Mold usually enters your home through open windows, vents, doorways, as well as heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside also has the ability to attach itself to your clothing, shoes, and bags. Your pets can also carry mold into your home.
Mold damage is often formed when mold grows in the interior of your home where moisture may develop and build-up. For example, a leaky roof or windows, or even pipes can grow mold. Further, mold grows exceptionally well on paper products and cardboard, ceiling tiles, and products made from wood. But that isn’t all; mold can also grow in paints, wallpaper, insulation, dust, drywall, fabric, carpet, and in the upholstery of your furniture.
While it may be possible to avoid taking a walk in the woods, or mowing the lawn, or visiting a compost site, unfortunately, it is hard to avoid mold or mildew when it grows in your home.
Mold can create significant damage in your home
Treating a household mold problem promptly will not only prevent a mold problem from getting worse, but it can literally save your home. The more that mold is left to fester and grow, the more damage it will do, and the more costly your repairs or replacement costs can become.
As mentioned, mold feeds and grows on organic materials; mold eats away at items such as wood, paper, many fabrics, and even glue in some cases. Mold can eat away, causing serious damage to drywall, wallpaper and other wall coverings, carpet, wooden studs inside your walls, the floorboards, ceiling tiles, and other structures inside your home. Left unchecked or untreated, mold can cause damage that is significant enough to cause your ceiling to collapse, your floorboards to collapse, or your walls to fall down.
Though these extreme cases don’t happen with one exposure, many materials in the home can quickly become damaged beyond the point of repair over time. For those who live in the hurricane zone, they are at greater risk for mold development and long-term damage. Molds require warm, moist environments to flourish. As flood waters recede, wet structures and materials coupled with warm temperatures such as in the southern portions of Florida, provide an ideal environment for the growth of molds as well as other fungi.
How to prevent mold and mildew
In most cases, you can find mildew on the window sills and in your shower walls. Mildew forms wherever moisture levels are high. Just like mold, mildew needs warmth, darkness, oxygen, and moisture in order to grow. When these conditions exist, mildew can easily grow on a surface within your home.
Mildew can grow and spread just as quickly as other molds, though in most cases, the damage caused by mildew is cosmetic in nature and can be treated quite easily. Use your sight and smell to identify whether mildew is growing in your home. The presence of a persistent musty smell in a home that is well-maintained is a critical signal that there is hidden mold growth. This musty smell should never be ignored. Remember that early detection can prevent great troubles. Prevention is the best approach to keeping your home, and your family, safe from exposure to mold and mildew.
Here are some simple steps that you can take to reduce mold and mildew exposure in your home.
- Keep surfaces dry — In particular, your kitchen and bathroom are more prone to prolonged damp surfaces. Taking efforts to keep countertops, floors, tubs, and shower stalls dry will help in preventing the development of mold and mildew. Your laundry room can also develop mold and mildew, so be sure to leave your washing machine door open when it is not in use. Washing machines, especially front loaders, need time to dry out after a wash cycle.
- Use a dehumidifier — Your home should be kept at a humidity level of between 40-50%.
- Air filters should be changed regularly —HVAC filters and HEPA filters are highly prone to developing mold and mildew.
- Keep the air circulating in your home — Stagnant air traps humidity, which makes for the perfect conditions for growth of mold and mildew. Keep the air flowing in your home by opening windows and using fans.
- Use an indoor air purifier — Indoor air purifiers can remove mold spores from the air in your home, helping to prevent them from forming clusters and growing.
Homeowners, especially those who live in geographies with high humidity levels should inspect for mold and mildew regularly. The earlier that it is caught, the easier it is to treat.
How to decrease exposure to mold in your home
There are several steps that you can take to decrease exposure to mold inside your home. Mold growth can be slowed by intentionally controlling humidity levels, ventilation systems, and cooking areas in your home. But, if there is mold growth inside your residence, you should clean up the mold immediately and then have the root cause of the problem fixed as soon as possible.
Homeowners can take steps to remove mold that is growing on hard surfaces by using commercial products or soap and water. You can also make a homemade bleach solution by mixing one cup of bleach into one gallon of water. If you decide to make the bleach solution, it is important to follow these tips as you clean up the mold:
- Do not ever mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners as this can produce dangerous and toxic fumes.
- Before mixing the solution, ensure proper ventilation by opening the windows and doors of your home to let in the fresh air, and leave them open during cleaning and for quite some time after cleaning.
- Make sure that your skin does not come into contact with the bleach solution. Avoid coming into contact by wearing rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles to protect your eyes during cleanup of the affected area.
- Start by removing all of the mud and dirt on the floor. Neither the bleach solution nor soap or any other product will reliably remove mold from a dirty floor.
- If you believe that you will need to remove mold from more than ten square feet, it is advised that you refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. This document offers great insights and recommendations that can be used in schools, commercial buildings, and your home.
Drying out a mold-damaged home
It is recommended that you reach out to an expert if you have serious mold damage. An expert can help you to ascertain the severity of the situation and in some cases, can you help you with home warranty claims, provided that the damage is covered. Regardless of whether or not you decide to reach out to an expert or go at it alone, it is important to remedy the situation quickly and effectively.
If you notice that your walls are warping or that you have plaster that is crumbling or paint that is blistering, or even new cracks in your tiles that are getting persistently deeper, it is very likely that you have an imminent mold issue on your hands. If the walls or the floor feel wet and softer to the touch or have inexplicable stains, you should arrange for immediate mold testing by a professional.
If you have confirmed the presence of mold, you will need to dry out the home. Start by turning off the main power, and exercise caution if wiring is wet or moldy. Before you turn the electricity on again, it is highly advised that a licensed electrician check the house’s electrical system.
Make sure that you open the windows to allow fresh air into the home when the humidity is higher inside than outside. Use fans or a dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture. If mold is growing already, do not use a fan as the fan may spread the existing mold around which can create further problems. Use the furnace only if the ducts are not inundated with mold. A licensed plumber of HVAC technician should professionally check forced air central heating ducts that have come into contact with mold.
Remove all wet items such as furniture, rugs, bedding, toys, and carpeting. Discard water-logged or moldy carpeting as in most cases, you will not be able to clean the carpeting to remove the mold effectively. Clean and disinfect all other items and discard all food products that could be contaminated. Anything that is not stored in a watertight container should be disposed of.
If mold has made its way to your interior, including the walls and ceiling, you will need to remove all wet or polluted porous materials. These materials may include ceiling tiles, drywall, and various wood by-products. If the wallboards are soaked, you will need to remove to a foot above the watermark and discard the lower materials. Walls can be drained and further dried by removing the baseboard and then drilling holes close to the floor. You can dry panel-type walls by gently stretching the bottom panel edge out and away from the studs. Next, check the interior of the wall for mold that can be hidden and harder to spot.
For floors and exterior walls that have experienced mold damage, you will need to remove all wet insulation. Rigid insulation can be reinstalled after proper disinfection and drying has taken place and if needed.
Porous materials such as your upholstered furniture, rugs, bedding, and curtains, or other items made of pressed particle materials need to be carefully inspected to see if they are contaminated. If you find that you are in doubt of the extent of the damage, it is better to be safe than sorry and you may prefer to discard the item. However, if something has been damp or wet for under 48 hours, it is possible that you will be able to clean and disinfect it with a pine-oil cleaner.
Any items that you have taken time to dry without professional assistance, especially after a hurricane or flooding, should be fully dried and monitored for multiple consecutive days for any evidence of mold or mildew growth or development of odors. If mold has developed at that point, you should discard the item.
Trust the experts for assistance in removing and repairing mold damage
Though we have provided suggestions and guidance in removing mold damaged items, the best course of action is to retain a licensed and experienced professional. Mold removal specialists have the necessary experience and professional equipment to remove mold and mildew from your home completely. These professionals know the mistakes to avoid and what not to overlook. Most importantly, they can find and eliminate the source of the mold, and then prevent future mold growth by replacing the necessary materials and applying unique products that help to hinder the development of mold in the future.
With the number of health risks that mold and mildew can cause, it is best to exercise extreme caution. Mold remediation is a unique skill that is not always best for the do-it-yourselfer.
If you’ve registered that your home has mildew or mold damage, don’t panic. Reach out to a public adjuster like Bulldog Adjuster for help with your home damage claim and so we can help you get the largest possible settlement from your insurance company so that you can afford costly repairs!