What’s the Difference Between Mold & Water Damage?

What’s the Difference Between Mold & Water Damage?

As a homeowner, you should attune yourself to your home’s overall integrity and health. When something’s damaged or at risk of getting damaged, take steps to remediate the problem as soon as possible.

However, it’s not enough just to know that something is wrong. What kind of damage are you experiencing? Is it mold or water damage? What’s the difference between the two threats to your home? Let 1-800-Dry-Me-Out guide you through these two types of home damage, how they affect your living space, and what you can do about them.

Mold and Water Damage Defined

First, let’s look at basic definitions of water damage and mold. What are they, and where do they come from?


The term “mold” comprises various species from the fungi kingdom. There are more than 100,000 species of mold out there, from benign to highly toxic. Mold requires moisture to grow, and it flourishes in dark, damp areas that may not be easy to reach.

When mold takes hold in your home, whether on wooden floorboards or in the insulation in your walls, it eats away at that surface. Without proper remediation, mold can destroy critical structural elements of your home.

The conflation of mold and water damage originates from the fact that water damage can lead to mold growth if you don’t act quickly. If your home gets damaged by a flood or a leak, mold can start growing within 24 to 48 hours.

Water Damage

Water damage is another umbrella term that encompasses everything from a small stain to a thoroughly soaked carpet. When water spills in your home and is not mopped up promptly, it can soak the surface and cause irreversible damage.

Common victims of water damage in your home include floorboards, drywall, carpeting, electronics, and more. It’s essential to remain aware of your surroundings at home and inspect any surfaces or areas that don’t look as they should.

If your home has suffered water damage, mold may follow—especially if water has seeped into cracks or corners that are hard to reach. Call a water damage cleanup service as soon as you notice said damage.

Identifying Mold and Water Damage

If you notice some new damage in your home and wonder if it’s mold or water damage, use your senses to inspect the area.


Water damage on its own should not have any smell. However, if there’s a foul or musty odor, even after you’ve cleaned up the spill, you may have mold on your hands. Follow your nose if you’re unsure of the exact location of the mold, and use your other senses in the meantime.


First things first: if you’re going to touch an area that may be either water damage or mold, wear gloves and a mask if you have one. If it’s mold, touching it without protection can affect your health, especially if you’re prone to allergic reactions.

Materials damaged by spills or water stains often bubble and peel. The material will feel looser and spongier from the water.

Meanwhile, if the area is damp and slimy or smudges when you touch it, there’s a high chance that it’s mold. Mycelium growth has a slick feel to it.


Water damage can cause wood to warp, wallpaper to peel, and drywall to crumble. If the stain has been there for a while, the material may turn a rusty or yellowish color.

Meanwhile, mold can come in various colors, from black to orange to a blue-green hue. Mold actively eats away at building materials, so you may see actual degradation of the wood, plaster, or drywall.

Long-Term Effects of Mold and Water Damage

If you don’t notice the damage in your home for a significant time, it can wreak havoc on the house’s structural integrity. How can these two types of damage affect your home?

Water Damage

Water on its own can damage your home permanently. If you experience a flood or a leak and just wait for it to dry on its own (which it won’t), you may deal with the following:

  • Crumbling walls
  • Waterlogged carpet
  • Ruined electronics
  • Warped floorboards

Depending on the source of the water damage and the type of water that flooded your home, you may also tangle with biohazards. Black water, or water contaminated with sewage and other waste materials, can lead to severe illness and infection.

And, of course, untreated water damage can cause mold growth within one or two days of the flood or leak.


If you know you’re dealing with mold damage in your home, call for professional mold remediation as soon as possible. Mold is a living organism that eats away at the materials in your home.

In addition, many of the long-term effects of mold damage can permanently harm your health. Living in a home with mold can cause one or more of the following:

  • Allergy-like respiratory symptoms (sneezing, wheezing, coughing)
  • Mental health symptoms like mood swings and depression
  • Memory loss, fatigue, and trouble concentrating
  • Organ damage, especially to the lungs

Preventing Water Damage From Inviting Mold

Now that you know how water damage and mold differ, use these tips to stop one from inviting the other into your home! Time is of the essence when fixing water damage and keeping mold at bay.

Find the Source

Once you see that your home has water damage, find the source. This step can be easy—perhaps your home has flooded from a natural disaster, or there’s a noticeable leak in your roof.

However, the source of more minor water stains can take a little longer to find. Once you’ve located the source, whether it’s a plumbing leak or a faulty appliance, turn it off to stop the water flow. Call a water damage restoration company right away for backup.

Dry the Spill

While waiting for the water restoration pros to arrive at your home, mop up any spills you can. Get excess water out of the area to deter mold growth.

Prevent Future Damage

Once a water damage restoration company has dried out the water, do what’s in your power to ensure the same doesn’t happen again. This can mean:

  • Reducing the humidity in your home
  • Fixing pipes that are prone to leakage
  • Repairing or replacing faulty appliances

While there are many differences between mold and water damage, they often appear hand in hand after a flood or leak in your home. Enlist professional help to dry out your home and keep mold at bay! Call 1-800-Dry-Me-Out to get your home back to its pre-damage condition.

What’s the Difference Between Mold & Water Damage?