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What's the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?

In common usage, the terms "mildew" and "mold" are for the most part interchangeable. In some cases they are used in the same phrase: "mold and mildew". The terms are used to describe the physical appearance of common fungi seen growing on objects both inside and outside buildings. This includes solid surfaces such as walls, floors, ceilings, as well as fruits and vegetables (fruits and vegetables are usually referred to as "moldy"). Mold growing on a shower curtain or bathtub is generally referred to as "mildew" (note the contextual use of the term).

 

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Mildew is a term also used by plant scientists to describe plant diseases such as powdery mildew of roses and lilac. There is a difference between the scientific use of the word mildew as it applies to plant pathology and mildew in buildings and on clothing.

 

Mildew on clothing may be and often includes the same mold types that that grow on building materials that we might describe as moldy. Note mildew is commonly used to describe fungal or mold growth in bathrooms and clothing. It is usually a distinction without a difference.

What's the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?:  Created on December 11th, 2005.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014

 

About Dr. Thad Godish, Ph.D., C.I.H.

Dr. Thad Godish, Ph.D., C.I.H.

Dr. Thad Godish, Ph.D., C.I.H., is professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at Ball State University. He directs the university's indoor air quality/indoor environment research, teaching and public service activities.

His research studies have included: formaldehyde contamination of residences and associated health problems; mold contamination of buildings/sampling methods; building radon; indoor air quality problems in school buildings; emissions from combustion appliances/combusted materials; sick building syndrome; and lead-based paint contamination in residences.

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