Mold and Mildew the Same or Not?

Mold and mildew both can have a green, grey and black velvety look, and will stain stone, ceramic or any porcelain that they are found growing on. There is also a distinctive rusty smell or odor that comes from mold and mildew, which causes one to wonder if mold and mildew are the same or not?

The truth is that certain types of molds are actually considered mildew. The distinctions between the two are very slight to the untrained eye. When mold begins to establish itself on an organic substance, it then creates a network of thread-like structures of cells called ‘hyphae’. The hyphae of mold grow outwards and look much like a net or a spider’s web. It is in this particular characteristic nature of its growth, when developing on a flat surface, that it is referred to as mildew.

Mildew and mold spores are everywhere in the air. Belonging to the fungi family, these microscopic cellular bodies have a very primitive and hardy cell structure. The hyphae growth feature of mold is what makes it so successful at producing large colonies known as mycelium. Mycelium is a mass of hyphae branches that grow threaded together, manifesting in a web like form, then become the vegetative part of fungus. These masses are also referred to as shiro.

While mentioned previously, mold growing on flat surfaces is commonly referred to as mildew. There is another type of mildew that grows on plant surfaces. A powdery type of mildew, which attacks plants, is known as ‘downy mildew’. Plasmopara viticola, appears on older plant leafs as yellowish and white colored patches. A close examination of the underside of the leaf will display the familiar white and grayish color familiar to mold and mildew. Downy mildew usually appears after big rains during the early spring or later in fall.

Understanding how molds reproduce and spread provide important information that will help you to prevent them from taking root in your home. Spore formation is how mold reproduce and spread. Using air currents, spores travel from place-to-place until they land on an ideal location which provides the right conditions for growth and further reproduction.

Both mold and mildew spores require organic material to grow onto and both need the presence of moisture to begin their reproduction and colonization process. Although they both need organic matter for food, they do not require sunlight to grow, as there is no chlorophyll or photosynthesis occurring to collect nutrition. Instead, they secrete enzymes from the edges of the hyphae to collect nutrition. Hydrolytic enzymes, which are secreted from the tips of the hyphae are very effective at degrading organic substances such as starch, cellose or lignin. These are broken down by the enzymes into simpler forms of organic material, which is then consumed by absorption into the hyphae or the mycelium colony.

As mold and mildew collect nutrition, the process helps to maintain an environmental balance because of the biodegradation they perform. Some molds are actually beneficial to mankind and are used in food production. They are also used in the creation of medical drugs such as penicillin. While they each have good uses, they can both become a health hazard when they are found growing in homes, schools, offices or other public places. Because mold and mildew can grow in almost any environment where moisture is present, and they do not require sunlight, dark places become ideal breading grounds for mold and mildew.

To answer the question “Are mold and mildew the same or not?” in many ways they are, but when it comes to the health hazards they pose to humans, toxic black mold seems to be far more dangerous than any type of mildew. If mold is spotted, it is best to hire a professional mold remediation company to make sure it is removed properly and will not return.

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