By: Licensed Mold Assessor Brad Fishbein
February 3, 2023
If you notice a white-colored mold in your house and are concerned for your families health, read on.
As a professional mold inspector, I've seen my fair share of white mold.
The truth is that not all white mold will produce mycotoxins, which is what makes mold toxic, but it's essential to confirm it's not harmful to your family.
White mold, is a common fungal growth that prefers moist or humid conditions for proliferation. Its light coloration makes it challenging to distinguish from its surroundings, leading to a potential under-detection of infestations. It is capable of colonizing various organic materials, such as plants, textiles, food, and building materials such as drywall, wood, and carpet.
White mold has an appearance like a powdery substance which shows on darker hard surfaces. White mold is often confused with efflorescence which occurs when the water leaves salt deposits on specific masonry material. White mold often forms in unperfect circles. (See below)
White mold is different in many ways besides just the color than black mold.
When somebody is referring the black mold they merely referring to black mold is as being toxic mold (If you think you have black mold read this). Scientifically speaking there is no such thing as the black mold. The scientific term for what is called "black mold" is a species called Stachybotrys.
Just like there is nothing scientifically known as white mold. It is just mold that is white in appearance, but many different species of mold can be white.
White mold is referred to as mildew quite often; however, this is not always accurate.
Mildew is white and powdery, yes, but individual mold spores can be white that is not just mildew.
Mildew is described as:
_It appears as a thin, superficial growth consisting of minute hyphae (fungal filaments) produced especially on living plants or organic matter such as wood, paper or leather. Both mold and mildew produce distinct offensive odors, and causes certain human ailments. Source
If white mold turns out to be toxic, then it must be removed during a process called mold remediation (Click here for my guide on mold remediation).
Sometimes, black, white, and other colors of mold will grow together on building materials.
White mold is typically harmless on non-porous hard surfaces, but can cause adverse health effects if it grows on porous items after water damage. Symptoms of white mold exposure include allergic reactions, respiratory infections, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and depression. People allergic to mold are more likely to experience symptoms.
To determine if white mold is dangerous, lets first define dangerous.
Will you die from being exposed to white mold?
For most people, probably not.
Can it cause some allergy type symptoms?
White mold is generally going to be one of three types of species of mold. Those are Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium.
Those three types of mold are considered fast-growing species of mold. Usually, when you see the white mold forming it is at the beginning stages of mold growth.
There are different strands of Penicillium and Aspergillus spores. Most of these strands don't produce mycotoxins, which can make people ill.
Certain strands do. They can produce what is called neurotoxins but usually is black in appearance at this point.
So if you just see white mold, it's usually at the early stages.
But here's the issue:
Just because the mold may not be producing mycotoxins doesn't mean it can't harm you. If you have an allergy to particular species or an autoimmune disease of mold, it may cause unwanted health effects.
White mold can affect people differently. One person make become very ill, while another may not even get a runny nose!
If white mold is in combination with another color mold and is using your walls, floors, or ceilings as a moisture source, it needs to be removed, not cleaned.
Cleaning white mold is reserved for surface mold on building materials such as wood, concrete, or often found in bathrooms.
While the mold may not be toxic, you should take proper precaution.
While you may not think this is even necessary, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Quite honestly, simple cleaning detergent works just fine, but we recommend using either Vital Oxide or Concrobrium.
And when I say damp, I mean DAMP! You don't want to introduce too much liquid to building material. It can be counterproductive!
Just give it a little dab. Get it damp and let the solution sit on the surface for a minute or two.
Get yourself some kind of brush or brillo pad and brush the area until it's clean.
Dry the area out
White mold isn’t always necessarily living but still needs to be removed. Anti-microbial solution can clean white mold on hard surfaces such as furniture. White distilled vinegar or borax can also be used to remove white mold. White mold on porous building materials such as drywall may need to be further investigated by a mold professional.
Preventing white mold is no different than avoiding any other color of mold.
Controlling moisture within a building whether due to leak or high humidity from the HVAC system will prevent white mold growth on building materials and personal contents(Click here for awesome ways to prevent mold growth).
There are two main ways you can prevent white mold:
As stated earlier, if you do not control the humidity, moisture can become an issue.
Most modern air conditioning systems can properly pull moisture from the air if with a proper sized HVAC system.
In older buildings, you will see humidistats that control the humidity. If you have one of these, keep it set to the On position.
Don't run the air conditioning system with the windows open. Which can cause high relative humidity while mixing it with cold air.
I'm not saying you can't open the windows on a beautiful day. I am just saying, don't do both at the same time!
Mold can start to colonize very quickly under the right conditions.
Drying up any water damage is kind of like taking the gas out of a car, it can't run without it. Well, most indoor molds can't grow without water!
If it is a major flood, a water damage restoration company may need to be called in with dehumidifiers and industrial air movers.
Have you ever walked into your closet and noticed little white spots on your clothes?
It can be worrisome and a complete nuisance.
Your clothes likely are not entirely ruined and can be cleaned.
There are options for how you can clean your clothes.
But you first need to determine whether the clothes are even salvageable. The two questions you need to answer to decide whether to save your outfits or discard is:
Meaning did the mold that is growing on your clothes be caused by some sort of flood. If your clothes got wet and mold is using it as a food source, the water damage restoration would refer to this as Condition 3, and discard the clothes.
If your clothes did not get wet, it might be an easy fix.
White mold on clothes is usually either Penicillium/Aspergillus or Cladosporium mold spores. It was caused by either the clothes being wet or high humidity in the home that caused condensation to build allowing mold to grow.
White mold loves leather because leather remains cooler than other materials in a humid environment. The mixture of a humid climate and a cold substance will create condensation. Condensation will lead to mold growth.
Assuming that your clothes were not affected but a flood, how did they get all moldy?
It may be caused by you...
I don't mean to point fingers, but sometimes your building activity may cause white mold growing on clothes!
Do you run your air conditioning system with the windows open? Do you run your air conditioning at all? Do you have any kind of ventilation in your closet?
These some reasons you may see white mold on clothing. Why is that though?
It's because of the high relative humidity. Once relative humidity gets past 60%, moisture can become a problem.
Think about having a closed closet that has an HVAC vent present in it, and the door stays closed, cold air is just continually being sent into a small closed space. No moisture is being pulled out is causing moisture to build upon your clothing. This is leading to a white mold growing on your clothes.
For the most part, you can send your clothes through a laundry cycle. There are other methods such as shipping your clothes to a CO2 Cleaning at specialized dry cleaners or washing your stuff with vinegar. You can check out my full guide on how to remove mold from clothes by clicking here
White mold is caused by high relative humidity, which allows condensation to build. Once the furniture has high water content, mold spores attach itself to the damp surface of the furniture and start to grow.
White mold on wood was caused because wood got wet. It may or may not be able to be cleaned at the surface. The white mold that presents mixed with other colors such as black, green, yellow should be taken more seriously.
White mold on plants is also called mildew. This is caused by the plant being damp and is usually not harmful.
White mold on concrete may not be mold at all. White mold on concrete is often confused with efflorescence, which is a white powdery substance caused by water leaving behind salt deposits.
People will often confuse white mold for efflorescence.
I know you are thinking,
" What is efflorescence?"
The International Association Of Certified Home Inspectors describes it as:
Efflorescence (which means "to flower out" in French) is the dissolved salts deposited on the surface of a porous material (such as concrete or brick). These are visible after the evaporation of the water in which it was transported. Moisture that creates efflorescence often comes from groundwater, but rainwater can also be the source. Efflorescence alone does not pose a significant problem, but it can be an indication of moisture intrusion, which may compromise the structural material.
Here's a little tip to tell the difference between the two:
Just talk a spray bottle with water and give a light spray. If the water runs off the building material, it's efflorescence.
Meet the author: Brad Fishbein is an ACAC council-certified Microbial Investigator. In the fall of 2012, he became a Licensed Mold Assessor in the State of Florida through the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Brad has helped homeowners with over 5,000 successfully completed Mold Inspections since 2009.