There is quite a bit of contradictory advice when it comes to testing for mold in the home; namely, whether it’s a DIY-type job or one that calls for the experts. But as with most things, it’s not a black and white answer, with different circumstances requiring different approaches. Before we explain further, however, let’s outline the factors that may lead you to check your home for mold in the first place:
- Smell. Often, the dank, musty aroma accompanying mold is the only real tell-tale sign that you have a problem. Never had the misfortune of smelling mold? Lucky you! Here’s some further reading on the subject.
- Allergies. Sneezing, runny nose or sore eyes? Chances are there are some mold spores lingering in your home.
- Serious health problems, such as damage to internal organs or mental impairment, can be indicative of toxic mold, which is a serious problem.
- Visible growth. Obviously, seeing mold is iron-clad proof that it exists, but often it’s the mold you can’t see that is most problematic.
- Water problems. If your home has recently been flooded or you’ve suffered leaky pipes, chances are you’re going to have a mold problem.
So, when are home testing kits acceptable?
Mold test kits
Allowing you to collect mold samples by yourself – before sending them off to a laboratory – these are available to buy online and are a much cheaper option than calling out a professional mold tester. Some things to bear in mind when choosing to do it this way, however, is that any mold test will only give a snapshot of any mold spores present at any given time as they constantly fluctuate. It is advisable, therefore, to buy a number of these kits to test at different times and in different locations, to build up a more complete and accurate picture of the mold in your home. There are three main types of mold testing, as our friends over at Moldpedia so eloquently put it.
- Air testing. Testing the concentration of mold spores in the air, samples are taken and later examined under a microscope. A good option for when you suspect you have a mold problem even though you can’t find a growth. Sometimes mold spores may be blowing into the home from outdoor mold, or they could be leftover from mold that used to be present.
- Surface testing. Takes samples from surfaces, most commonly using swabbing or tape lifting.
- Bulk testing. Tests various materials taken from the home to identify any mold spores.
These kits may also come in handy after you’ve had mold removed, to make sure it was a success. If you do decide to test for mold yourself, always wear a mask and gloves.
Call in the experts
Although mold is an everyday problem that may seem to be more irritating than anything else, when toxic mold enters the equation it’s a whole new ball game. If you have the slightest suspicion that the mold you’re seeing is either Stachybotrys (toxic black mold) or Aspergillus – the most common types of toxic mold – you will need to exercise extra caution, thus calling in a qualified professional. It is also always prudent to call in the experts if the mold problem is anything more than mild. You can read more about black mold here.