If you think there might be mold in your home, it’s easy to get a mold test kit. There are two things you should know. A home test kit can tell if there is mold in your home, but most of them can’t tell you what kind it is. You have to send a sample to a lab for that. It would be unusual if the test kit didn’t find some kind of mold because there are about 100,000 kinds of mold in the world. So, don’t freak out if the mold test kit shows that there is mold in your home. The type of mold that it is is important, and while some species can be harmful, many aren’t.
People can see and smell mold, but there’s also mold that you can’t. Neither the EPA nor CDC recommends testing to find out what kind of mold it is if you can see or smell it in the bathroom. They say to treat all mold and mildew growth the same and clean it up with soap, water, and sometimes bleach. Testing, on the other hand, can help you find hidden mold that could harm your home’s indoor air quality. If lab results show that there are harmful species in your home, you may need a mold inspection to find the source and help you get rid of the mold.
How a Mold Test Kit Works
It’s possible to buy a DIY mold testing kit that can find mold on the surface and one that can find mold in the air at any hardware store or online. Some kits can do both. Often, kits that test for surface mold come with tools for collecting samples. Most require you to put the tools and the sample in a sealed bag and mail them to the lab that makes the product. If you want lab testing, the bag comes with an envelope that’s already been addressed, and it can cost anywhere from $15 to $40. Lab fees aren’t always included in the price of the item. In fact, there are usually extra fees for lab analysis. One exception is the Healthful Home test kit, which comes with supplies for testing for Stachybotrys (black toxic mold), as well as Aspergillus and Penicillus, which could be dangerous.
Kits that say they can test for mold in the air come with a way to get air samples. A petri dish with growing medium in it that you leave out in the air for a certain amount of time could be what you use. To make sure you follow the instructions that come with the kit you choose, read the instructions that come with it. In order to get your results, you send your sample to the lab in a bag and mail it. You can get them either through the manufacturer’s site or by mail. You may have to wait a few days or even a few weeks to get lab results from some kits.
You can see mold growing in petri dishes when you use test kits. You still need lab analysis to find out what kind of mold it is. Something as harmless as Rhizopus stolonifer could be the cause. It could also be Cladosporium, which is a different kind of bread mold that can be more dangerous. Most of the time, a positive petri dish test isn’t the end of the story because mold spores are all over the place. A mold inspection is usually the next step.
Where to Test for Mold
Mold spores are everywhere, both inside and outside, and people breathe them in all the time without getting sick. When mold spores land on a surface and grow into colonies, they need water to do that. Mold and mildew can be found in places that are always wet, like the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room, so these are good places to look for them. There are a few other places where you might find them:
- Behind the toilet tank and behind sofas, chairs, and bookcases that aren’t moved very often, there are pipes and wires that need to be cleaned.
- Where there is little ventilation and no light, like in basements and dens.
- As well as on the outside and inside of ventilation ducts
- Drain pans and drainage tubes are found inside air conditioners.
- Around windows that get frosty in the winter and where condensation can be seen, you should be careful.
- Near the baseboards in front of walls with plumbing pipes.
- In the basement, under piles of cardboard or clothes, and inside rolls of carpet that have been stored there.
Mold and mildew can grow in almost any place where there is a steady source of moisture. This could be from a leaking pipe, water damage, high humidity, or steady vapor or condensation from the air. Because mold is often smelly, it’s likely to be there. If you can’t see it, a surface or air test will show it’s there.
Testing for Peace of Mind
When you think about mold in your home, you’re right to be concerned. There are many types of mold that can be dangerous. People with weak immune systems can get sick from some species; others are pathogenic and toxigenic, which can cause very bad health problems for healthy people who don’t have them. Stachybotrys is the most dangerous kind of mold, and it likes to grow on wood and drywall. When you see black mold on the wall or under your sink, don’t think that it is only Stachybotrys. It could be Aspergillus or Aureobasidium pullulans, both of which are dangerous.
If you see mold inside the air conditioner, you should get it checked out because it could be Acremonium, a group of toxigenic strains that can make you sick. It can be white, pink, or gray, and only testing can be done to be sure that it is this type of mold. The air conditioner’s blower could spread mold through the air. You should have a mold removal inspector check out your air conditioner and clean it to make sure it is safe. Some kits, like Mold Armor’s home mold test kit, are made for people who want to do their own testing of air conditioning and heating systems. Cleaning an air conditioner is a job for a professional, so if you see mold in your air conditioner, you might as well have the professional inspect and clean it instead of doing the testing yourself.
You should clean anything that has mold if you can see it. You can use a home mold test kit to look for mold that you can’t see, whether it’s on a surface or in the air. Keep in mind that you usually need a lab test to figure out the type of mold. Mold and mildew are ugly, which is enough reason to start a home improvement project to get rid of them. Even if a lab analysis shows that there is only a harmless strain, the conditions are still right for a more dangerous strain to grow in the future. The best way to keep mold from growing is to keep the air moving by using a dehumidifier or by physically wiping the surface dry with a rag.