There is a range of mold that we see on all kinds of video tapes and film reels. Typically we see mold on VHS tapes, but all tapes and reels are susceptible. The biggest tell for mold is any white that might appear on the magnetic tape. The spools of magnetic tape should always be black. If there is any foreign material, that should be cause for question.
Moldy tapes are cleaned in a supersonic cleaner that runs the magnetic tape through a set of squeegees with cleaning chemicals. This process only cleans the tape, it does not repair or restore the damage that has already been done by the mold.
95% of the time, a tape with mold is going to have video and audio quality issues associated with it. Audio is typically the first thing to go because it is stored on the outer edges of the magnetic tape, where mold typically starts. Client’s should be aware that cleaning a tape does not ensure a perfect capture.