DIY Mold Testing Kits
HAVE YOU or a family member been battling cold or allergy symptoms that never seem to go away or get better? Have you had past water damage in your home that may not have been taken care of properly? Perhaps your doctor has suggested that a reaction to mold in your home may be causing your symptoms. You’re worried that hiring a professional will be expensive. So, you decide to Google “do-it-yourself mold testing kits” to see if you can take your own mold samples and… YES! You can buy a DIY Mold Testing Kit online. Or just run down to your local department store and pick one up! You even have choices: Tape Samples, or Air Samples – or even a Petri-dish to see if mold grows in it. Following the directions, you carefully take the samples, then mail them for testing. Finally, weeks later, the lab report arrives and you anxiously scan the report. There’s a list of several mold species that may have been identified in your samples. “I knew it! I have mold in my home!” But… now what? What’s the next step?
Let’s rewind this scenario. Before you decide to buy that DIY Mold Testing Kit, we strongly advise that you READ the rest of this article – Before you waste your money. Consider these facts:
1. The most important way to determine if there is a mold problem is with a VISUAL INSPECTION. However, an effective visual Inspection requires a good understanding of building construction, water sources, and other factors, such as condensation, exterior drainage issues, cracks in the foundation, etc. If you’re not an expert in these areas, you should hire an experienced professional.
If mold is already visible, mold testing is not necessary – You’ve already established that there’s mold! After mold has been removed from an area in your home, Air Sampling can confirm that the mold spore count in that area is now at safe levels. However, if you cannot find the source of mold and are worried that it may be hidden, Air Samples can be an effective first step in determining whether the mold count in your home is above normal levels, and specifically, which molds are present in your breathing space.
2. Consumer Reports has consistently warned: “Avoid mold test kits. We’ve found them to be unreliable.” In some DIY mold testing kits, the vials with media leaked over the entire kit. In one, the unopened kit was already moldy. Many have no expiration dates – Old media could affect the accuracy and reliability of the results. The label claims that the kit can identify “toxic mold.” But the report the lab sends back only verifies that there is mold, but not necessarily which one(s). One unused plate came back positive for mold growth, showing it was already contaminated at some point. Not very reassuring… (SEE: Consumer Reports-June 2012 Issue)
3. DIY Mold testing kits do not provide meaningful answers. What you may not realize is that all homes have mold in them. Mold spores naturally occur outdoors and are in the air. Every time you go in and out of your home or open your windows, these spores are tracked inside. They settle in the dust on flat surfaces, on your furniture, the carpet, your windowsills… all over the place. So it’s not surprising to discover “mold” in a test sample. Usually, more than one species will show up. The companies who make these testing kits feed off the fear of the average consumer who is trying to resolve their health issues. Their kits will answer the question: “Are there mold spores in my air?” But unless your home is as clean as a hospital operating room, we already know the answer is: YES.
What you really want to know is: “Which species of mold spores are in my air, and how does my indoor air compare to what is normal outside? Am I personally affected by the type of mold spores found in my home?” Not everyone is allergic to mold, but those who are can be severely affected. Your doctor can perform certain blood tests to determine if there is evidence of mold toxins in your body that could be affecting your health. An accurate Air Sampling can confirm whether that type of mold is actually in your home in elevated levels.
The Bottom Line:
If you truly want to determine if your home has a mold problem, skip the DIY Mold Testing Kit, and start with a Visual Inspection by someone who is experienced in this area. If you already see visible mold in your home, you need to:
- LOCATE the source of moisture that is causing the mold growth, and FIX IT. Leaking pipes or appliances, condensation issues, drainage problems, poor ventilation, are some areas to consider.
- REMOVE all affected moldy materials. If the affected area is less than 3 feet by 3 feet, you may decide to remove the mold yourself. Any porous materials affected by mold must be removed and discarded. This includes affected drywall, carpet, carpet pad, tack strip, baseboard trim, as well as, paper products, cardboard boxes, etc.
- WARNING: Before attempting to remove mold, be sure to protect yourself and the rest of your home. Whenever you disturb mold, spores will be released into the air. Contain the area you are working in with a plastic barrier to avoid contaminating the rest of your home. Wear gloves. Wear a respirator. Bag and seal up any moldy materials in heavy-duty plastic bags before you remove them from your home. Do not use bleach. READ: Bleach to Kill Mold? Exposing the MYTH! for more information. Do not simply “paint over” existing mold, even if it contains a “mold inhibitor.” For additional related info, you may find this article from the EPA helpful: A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home.
- NOTE: If the area affected is larger than 3 feet by 3 feet, consider calling Disaster Recovery. Our technicians have the proper training and equipment necessary to remove mold safely. We always install Containment Barriers, use Negative Air Scrubbers during the removal, and use Personal Protective Equipment. We safely remove moldy materials from the home. We HEPA vacuum and clean the contaminated areas. We always follow up with a post-clearance Air Sampling to confirm that mold spore counts are now at a safe level. We even document the entire process with photos and detailed notes. This is important in the event you decide to sell your home in the future and need to prove that you had the mold professionally removed.
If you have questions about Mold and would like to schedule a MOLD INSPECTION or MOLD AIR SAMPLING, please call Disaster Recovery: (307) 686-0078.
Need more info? READ our next article: Professional Mold Testing: What can it tell me?