Mold and Mildew: What's the Difference?

Experts believe up to 70% of U.S. households have some kind of mold.

Mold can cause asthma, allergies and upper respiratory infections. That's why killing mold is more important for your health than you may think.

Here's how to tell them apart and how to effectively get rid of them.

What are they?

Mold is a fungus that grows and thrives where moisture and oxygen are present.

Indoors, mold growth can occur on wood, carpet, paper, foods and insulation.

Mildew, on the other hand, is a type of early-stage mold that generally grows on flat, moist surfaces. It tends to live on shower walls, window sills and other places with high levels of moisture.

Mold and Mildew - Compared

Although mildew is a type of mold, several key characteristics differentiate mold and mildew.


This is the biggest difference and the easiest way to tell the two apart:

Mold is generally green, red, blue or black, while mildew is white or gray.


Mold takes on a slimy or fuzzy look.

Mildew, on the other hand, tends to be dry or even powdery.


Mold is often raised; mildew appears flat.


Surprisingly, you can sometimes tell mold and mildew apart by smell.

Mold tends to be more pungent, especially as it grows.

Mildew has a milder, musty smell.

Where they grow and how they spread

Mold can grow on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles and wood products. It can also grow in leaky areas around roofs, windows or pipes. Paint, wallpaper, drywall, upholstery and dusty spots are possible too.

Mildew can grow in the same places but is mostly found on flat surfaces like textured ceilings and shower walls.

Mold and mildew are both prolific reproducers.

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