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What’s the Difference Between Mould and Mildew?

What’s the Difference Between Mould and Mildew

Over time, condensation in your home can lead to damp patches forming on walls or behind furniture which provides the perfect breeding ground for mould and mildew to grow.  In poorly ventilated damp areas of houses, you will often see patches of black mould growing on walls or on ceilings, and you may also find colonies of mildew on surfaces.

The spores that spread mould and mildew are present in the air all the time as part of household dust, but unless they have the right conditions to grow, they are normally harmless.  In damp conditions, where they can form colonies, moulds and mildew can become a problem for people who have weak immune systems or allergies as the concentration of spores in the air grows.

Although they are both types of fungus, and Moulds and Mildew are distinct species and are quite easy to tell apart.

What does Mould Look Like

The most common moulds that you find as a result of damp in a property are black moulds which spread on walls or ceilings.  Moulds normally appear moist and shiny.  They spread in small clusters of dark green or black and do not protrude from the surface they are growing on.

Some moulds such as Stachybotrys chartarum or “toxic black mould” are particularly harmful to health and need to be removed professionally.

What does Mildew Look Like

Unlike mould which has a shiny, wet appearance and is very dark coloured, the mildew that grows in your home will normally be white or very light green and is covered in thin white filaments called Hyphae.  These filaments can break off the main colony and spread around the house to form new colonies.

While Mildew can form in the same places as mould, it is often found hidden away behind wardrobes and in places where it can grow undisturbed such as behind cupboards or on furniture.

Tracking Down Mildew

Because mildew is often hidden from view, the first sign that you have a problem can be a stale or musty smell in your rooms.  Mildew is quite pungent as it builds up and has an easily recognisable smell.  As it thrives best in warm and moist conditions, you will often find mildew growing in places where the air is still for long periods of time as this allows the delicate filaments to build up.

Removing Mildew

There are special anti-fungal cleaning products available for mould and mildew removal, but you can also make your own with dilute bleach.  This will kill off the spores of the mildew and slow regrowth.  When cleaning mould or mildew, it is important to wear gloves, a mask and eye protection to prevent inhaling the spores as this can provoke an allergic reaction. 

When you have finished cleaning away the mildew, you should dispose of any cloths used so that the spores do not spread into other areas of your home.

Both Mildew and mould can leave stains on paintwork and furniture that are hard to remove, so you may need to paint over any affected areas once you have allowed them to dry.

Preventing Mildew

Cleaning mildew is only a temporary solution if you do not take steps to remove the conditions that allowed it to develop in the first place.

Condensation damp is the most common cause of both mould and mildew in your home, so ensuring that wet rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms are well ventilated is important to prevent mildew from growing.

Find out More

If you are concerned about the potential risks to your health of allowing mildew to grow in your home, speak to one of our local ventilation specialists.  They can conduct a free home survey which will identify the cause of your mildew problem and then provide advice about the best things you can do to stop mould and mildew forever.