For the purposes of health and cleanup, there is no distinction between mildew and mold in how one would address the situation.
Mildew is often a term used to describe the growth found on living plants in horticulture. You would say you have mildew growing on your pumpkin vine for example. These types of mildew are more specifically known as powdery mildew or downy mildew. If you’ve ever noticed a white powdery film on a tree leaf or the yellow blotches midsummer, those are most likely a type of mildew.
Mildew can grow on non-living surfaces in the home, but usually requires a more temperate (warmer) environment than other fungal species due. It is generally white or light in appearance and has a whispy or delicate texture to it. Mildew like this can generally be cleaned from surfaces relatively easily, but it should be managed in much the same way as any other mold growth.
The term “mildew” has been used interchangeably with “mold” for years. When you hear people say they don’t have a “mold” problem, but, rather a “little mildew” was growing, they generally mean to imply that there is not a health risk associated with the growth in their home. Even if the referenced area is technically one of the few mildew species growing in the home, it poses similar health risks to other fungi including mold with regards to allergies. Not only that, but if the conditions are right for mildew to grow, they are also right for other molds to grow and it is very likely already present.
Depending on the level of exposure, mold can cause congestion, coughing and sneezing (respiratory problems); joint pain, fatigue, and headaches (flu-like symptoms); and possibly other more serious health problems in certain individuals. Whether it’s mildew or mold you are dealing with, it may not be a problem you want to solve on your own. You can hire a mold remediation expert to evaluate your home perform any needed cleaning. For further information on hiring a professional check out our Guide to Hiring a Mold Remediations Company.