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Black mold vs. mildew: Which is more dangerous and how to remove it

What you should know about mildew vs. mold

eco friendly mold removal woman looking at
Burdun Iliya / Shutterstock

A homeowner’s worst nightmare is quite possibly finding black mold creeping from their walls or ceilings. The gross-looking substance is not only unsightly, but it can also do long-lasting harm to your health. But how can you tell black mold vs. mildew? And how do you remove these unwanted growths in your home?

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1 hour 30 minutes

What You Need

  • Safety goggles

  • Rubber gloves

  • Face mask with breathing protection

  • Baking soda

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Spray bottle

  • Sponge

Though black mold and mildew have many similarities, they are actually quite different in their appearance and how they need to be dealt with. If you suspect you have either black mold or mildew in your home, don’t panic — we’re here to explain which is which and how to get rid of it.

Mold growing in a shower
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mildew vs. mold

Mildew and black mold are both types of fungi that can grow indoors under the same types of conditions: dark and damp. That’s why it’s smart to check for them in you basement, especially if there’s been flooding, or near the shower or refrigerator.

Though the causes of mildew and black mold are similar, they look very different and have different impacts on people. Mildew can cause much less harm to humans’ health than black mold, but both should be removed.


  • Flat and powdery
  • Light colored (white, gray, light brown)
  • Can cause respiratory issues, headaches, or sinus congestion

Black mold

  • Bumpy and fuzzy
  • Dark colored (black, green, red sometimes mistaken for dirt)
  • Can cause headaches, skin irritation, and respiratory issues, including chest tightness, shortness of breath, or lung infections

How to remove mildew and mold

You can remove mildew can be on your own, while black mold may require a professional because it's much more dangerous and could potentially lead to black mold poisoning. Here are some tips for taking care of both.

Dark brown mildew or mold on plastic interior shower curtain in a light aqua bathroom
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Find the moisture source

Step 1: Once you find the spot you want to clean, determine whether it is black mold or mildew. If you’re sure it’s mildew, continue on.

Step 2: If it’s black mold, you’ll want to get a mold test kit and find out if there are any other black mold spots in your home. This is why we recommend hiring a professional for black mold inspection and removal.

Protect yourself and the area

Step 1: Put on your safety goggles, gloves, and respiratory filter.

Step 2: Wear clothes that completely cover your body.

Step 3: Prepare the area by closing doors and windows and sealing off any openings to other rooms or outdoors.

Treat the area

Step 1: Combine one part baking soda with five parts vinegar and five parts water in a spray bottle.

Step 2: Spray the mold or mildew and let it sit for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Step 3: Scrub the area with water and a sponge. Repeat this until it is removed. Be sure to use new water and new sponges each time.

Step 4: Let it dry for about 48 hours.

Step 5: Clean up the area to ensure no debris gets out of the room.

Determining that you have mildew or black mold in your home can be a drag, but knowing how to tell the difference and how each can be removed is key. Follow these steps and remember to control excess moisture in your home to prevent mildew and black mold from forming.

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