Illustration for the article titled The Difference Between Mold and Mildew and How To Get Rid Of BothPhoto: Rattiya Thongdumhyu (Shutterstock)

That green stuff that grows on stale bread – that’s mold, isn’t it? What about the black coating on damp parts of a basement? Which one has that musty smell? Basically: what is the difference between mold and powdery mildew? This is exactly what Michael Rubino, author of The Mold Medic: An Expert’s Guide on Mold Removal, addressed in a recent article for mindbodygreen. Here’s what you should know.

What is the difference between mold and mildew?

In short: powdery mildew is a type of mold. Per ruby:

Molds come in all sizes, shapes, textures, and colors, while powdery mildew is typically characterized by a white or gray powdery fungus.

If you see “powdery mildew,” you are most likely seeing a mold from the Ascomycota division that tends to be lighter in color and powderier in texture.

Which type is harmful to health?

That would be Aspergillus – a type of mold that some people are allergic to and that can make you sick. Rubino says that Aspergillus “looks more like a white / gray, powdery substance that fits in the bucket of ‘mold’.” He goes on to explain where to find it:

It’s a common, but potentially harmful mold that we often see in the home renovation industry – mostly on windows and surrounding frames and window sills; on doors and frames leading to the outside; under bath mats; on shower curtains, often between the liner and the curtain; and on bathroom mortar or sealant.

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How to get rid of mold and mildew

Even if you’re still unsure whether you’re dealing with mold or any other type of mold, you don’t want it in your home. Now the question is whether you should try cleaning it yourself or hire a professional.

If mold is a regular occurrence in your home – say, the bathroom – Rubino says there’s a good chance it can be found in other rooms as well. In this case, he recommends hiring an approved mold inspector to assess the damage and draw up a plan.

What you need to clean yourself will depend on the surface the mold is growing on. Here is Rubino’s advice:

Hard, pore-free surfaces

If you discover a one-off mold growth on hard, non-porous surfaces such as metal or glass, you can easily remove it with a mold remover (I recommend this) and wipe the area with a microfiber cloth. Because these areas are enclosed, the roots (hyphae) of mold have no chance of growing into them, so cleaning them quickly should help. Always make sure to dispose of the microfiber cloth when you’re done. Yes, do not wash; reject it!

Semi-porous surfaces

If you discover mold on semi-porous surfaces like hardwood, you may need to sand the area to completely remove the mold’s root-like structures. Otherwise, there is a risk that it will grow back easily. (Think of mold as a weed: if you just remove the stem, it will keep growing back. You will also need to remove the roots.)


You have two options for mold on textiles: Either you clean them with a textile cleaner that can remove mold (this is what i recommend) or replace them.