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Mold vs. Mildew In Your Camper: What’s the Difference and Does It Matter?

Mold and mildew are common household and camper nuisances that can pose severe health risks. We’ve come across both in our camper and house experience. While they may seem similar at first sound, understanding the differences between black mold vs. mildew is crucial for effective management, prevention, and eradication. It may even make or break an RV purchase, for example.

Today, we’re comparing mold vs. mildew to help you easily identify them. We also have some tips on how to clean and prevent these unwelcome guests. Let’s dive in!

Mold Vs. Mildew In Your Camper

Neither mold nor mildew is a great thing to find in your camper. Mildew is definitely the lesser of the two evils, but you still don’t want to ignore it.

After storing it for a couple of months or an entire winter, it’s actually pretty common to step into your RV and smell that hint of damp mustiness. While a little isn’t bad, we always want to avoid intense mold and mildew build-up and take care of it right away.

What Exactly Is Mold?

Mold is a type of fungus that thrives in damp and humid environments – both of which you want to avoid creating in your RV for long periods of time. It often appears as a fuzzy or slimy growth and can be found both indoors and outdoors. One of the most critical differences between mold and mildew is that mold can penetrate surfaces deeply, making it more challenging to remove completely. We’ve seen this in places like inside RV walls and ceilings. It’s never a good discovery.

Mold can manifest in various colors, including green, black, brown, or white, depending on the species. It can also release mycotoxins, which are harmful compounds when inhaled or touched, leading to health issues like respiratory problems, skin irritation, and allergies.

Mold vs. Mildew: What's the Difference?

Pro Tip: One of the biggest downfalls to RVs is water damage, which typically coincides with mold.

The Difference Between Black Mold vs Regular Mold

The common follow-up question to finding mold in your RV is, “Is this black mold?” Black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, is notorious for its dark greenish-black color and its production of harmful mycotoxins. It thrives in damp environments, often with a slimy texture, and emits a distinct musty odor. You can often find it in water-damaged areas. 

In contrast, regular mold encompasses a wide range of species, displaying diverse colors, textures, and locations. It typically has a powdery or fuzzy texture and can appear in shades like green, blue, yellow, or gray. While it may emit a less intense odor, it’s essential to be cautious and consider professional testing when unsure about the type of mold present. Black mold and regular mold can pose health risks if you don’t treat them.

difference between mold and mildew
Mildew usually appears in damp and humid areas of your home.

What Exactly Is Mildew?

Mildew also refers to fungus, but the term is generally used to describe types of mold that grow flatly. These molds are typically less harmful and invasive than mold. It appears as a powdery or downy growth on the surface of various materials, like walls, fabrics, and plants.

Unlike more intense molds, mildew does not penetrate deep into surfaces and is often easier to remove. It usually appears white or gray. You can find it in damp and humid environments like bathrooms and basements.

How to Tell the Difference Between Mold and Mildew

Identifying black mold vs mildew includes considering factors like its color, texture, smell, and location. Knowing how to tell the difference between mold and mildew will help you treat the unwanted growth. If you spot something suspicious growing in your home, consider the following ways to differentiate between black, green, brown, or white mold vs. mildew. 

Texture

One of the primary ways to distinguish between mold and mildew is by examining their texture. Mold typically has a fuzzy or slimy texture due to its three-dimensional structure. In contrast, mildew tends to have a powdery or fluffy texture and appears flat on surfaces. This textural difference can be a helpful initial clue when identifying whether you’re dealing with mold or mildew.

Color 

Color is another key factor. Mold can come in various colors, including green, black, brown, or even white. The color of mold can vary depending on the species and the materials it is growing on. Mildew is usually white or gray. While this distinction can be helpful, it’s crucial to note that some molds can also appear white or gray, so relying solely on color may not always provide a definitive answer.

Sheen 

Observing the sheen or glossiness of the growth can also aid in differentiation. Mold often has a shiny appearance due to its moisture content, while mildew is dull in texture. This difference in sheen can be more apparent when you compare the two side by side, helping you determine whether you are dealing with black or other kinds of mold vs. mildew.

black mold vs mildew
As soon as you spot mold or mildew, get it cleaned up.

Health Concerns With Mold and Mildew In Your Camper

Mold and mildew can pose health risks, especially to individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions. Mold, particularly black mold, can produce mycotoxins that can lead to severe health issues when you inhale or touch them.

Common symptoms of mold and mildew exposure include coughing, sneezing, skin irritation, and respiratory problems. It is essential to address these issues promptly to prevent health complications and ensure a safe living environment.

Keep in Mind: Mold can impact your RV air quality! Find out How to Measure And Improve Camper Air Safety.

difference between black mold vs mildew
Wear gloves and a mask to protect your skin and lungs when cleaning up mold.

How to Clean Mold Vs. Mildew In Your Camper

Before attempting to clean mold or mildew, you must take safety precautions like wearing a proper mask to protect yourself from inhaling spores and mycotoxins. Here’s a detailed guide on cleaning both types:

For Both: Ventilate and Remove Water Sources

Addressing the root cause of moisture is paramount in preventing mold and mildew. Ensure proper ventilation, fix leaks, and use dehumidifiers if necessary to maintain optimal indoor humidity levels. Your indoor humidity should ideally be below 50%. We often use our RV air conditioners to dehumidify.

Mildew Removal: Use Diluted Vinegar or Bleach

For mildew removal, create a mixture of one cup of vinegar or bleach per gallon of water. Apply the solution to the affected area and let it sit for approximately 30 minutes. Afterward, wipe away the mildew with clean water. Mildew typically grows on surfaces and doesn’t penetrate deeply, making it easier to clean.

Mold Removal: Mix 50/50 Ammonia and Water

For mold, especially if it’s more extensive or stubborn like ingrained in carpet or fabrics, create a solution using equal parts ammonia and water. Spray this mixture on the mold-infested area and let it sit for 2-3 hours. The ammonia helps break down the mold, making it easier to remove.

After the soaking period, use a scrub brush to gently scrub the mold away. Be careful not to spread mold spores while cleaning. It’s essential to remove as much of the mold as possible during this step.

After scrubbing, wipe off the mold residue with a clean rag. Make sure you completely remove all the mold and that the surface fully dries to prevent future growth.

Mold we found growing on the carpet under the couch in an RV for sale we were looking at. Needless to say, we decided to pass.

Proper Disposal of Used Tools

Correctly dispose of cleaning materials and any tools you use for mold or mildew removal. Seal them in a plastic bag and discard them per your local regulations for hazardous waste.

Prevent Mold and Mildew in the First Place

The easiest way to deal with mold and mildew is moisture control. In our experience, this is a constant battle. Especially if you travel to or store your RV in humid climates. We personally travel between Florida and Michigan, both of which are known for having humid and wet weather. In these climates, things don’t dry out well, so you must take a proactive approach to dehumidify, purify, and reseal your camper often.

Do Air Purifiers Prevent Mold and Mildew?

Air purifiers can be a valuable addition to your indoor environment to improve air quality and reduce the concentration of mold spores or mildew particles. However, they are not a standalone solution, as purifiers will not remove humidity from your camper.

Air purifiers with HEPA filters can capture airborne particles, including mold spores and mildew fragments. To maximize their effectiveness, choose a purifier that suits the size of the room and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Pro Tip: Check out these 8 Best Portable Air Purifiers to keep your home free of mold spores or mildew particles.

How to Get Rid of Mold | The Home Depot

Do Moisture Absorbers Prevent Mold and Mildew?

Moisture absorbers, like desiccants or dehumidifiers, are highly effective in preventing mold and mildew growth by reducing the humidity levels in the environment. These devices work by removing excess moisture from the air, creating a less favorable environment for mold and mildew to thrive. We recommend placing moisture absorbers in areas prone to moisture buildup, like your RV basement, the back corners of your RV closet, and bathrooms.

Know the Difference Between Mold vs. Mildew

While in the end you don’t want either, understanding the differences between mold vs. mildew is a good idea for proper identification, prevention, and effective removal. Mildew is generally less harmful and much easier to manage. Mold, especially black mold, can be a serious health concern. Routine cleaning, maintenance, and controlling moisture levels are key to keeping these fungi at bay. With these tips, you can ensure a healthy living environment where you can breathe easily. 

Have you ever had to remove mold or mildew from your home? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Paris Welch

Friday 27th of October 2023

White Mulberry tree is a huge mold production risk. Are you camping near a White Mulberry tree? Identify this weed tree with leaf identification app. Mold spores drop from the bottom of the 🍃 leaves, your dog brings the mold spores into your space. Polyps will grow in your nose, and cause severe allergic reactions. Worse, they propagate and huge mold storms travel into your town. White Mulberry tree are prohibited 🚫 throughout the South, now this evasive has traveled North.