What are Mold Test Kits?
Mold test kits are easy to use Do-It-Yourself kits that you can use for mold testing in your home or office without hiring a mold specialist. By using mold testing kits, you can reduce your mold testing cost by thousands of dollars. However, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet regarding mold test kits. For example, some vendors of mold test kits will claim that their kits detects and identifies hundreds of different types of mold, including both allergenic and toxic molds. This is NOT true. Also any mold test kit that is said to give instant results at home is not reliable. A reliable mold test kit should only help you to collect samples to submit to a reputable laboratory for analysis. The type of samples you collect will depend on what you want to know about the mold in your house or office. There are generally 2 types of samples that you can collect. You can collect either air or surface samples or sometimes both types of samples. Below we’re going to discuss how to collect these types of samples and how to decided which type to collect.
Air sampling Mold test kits
The air sampling mold test kits will help you to collect air in your home or office for testing for airborne mold spores. These kits are suitable when you suspect you have mold in the house or office but you cannot see it. You may suspect you have mold if there is persistent musty smell in your house or if you or your family members are having symptoms of mold such as allergy symptoms when they are in the house and the symptoms disappear when they leave the house. There are 3 methods of collecting air samples.
- Settle plate method. Most of the mold test kits advertised online use this method. A petri dish containing nutrients is exposed for some time and then covered and kept in a warm place for mold to grow. Those who sell these type of kits tell buyers that if they see mold colonies growing on the dish after 3 to 5 days, then they should know that they have a mold problem. This advise is very misleading because the test does not tell you how much mold you have. It tells you the obvious thing, that every home has some amount of mold. This information is not helpful.
- The second method of collecting air is to use a pump to force air into the petri dishes containing the nutrients. By using a pump, you will know how much air was impacted into the dish. You can therefore easily determine the amount of mold present in the air in your house or office. Let us assume you found 20,000 mold colonies in one cubic meter of air. We know that the average person breathes 6 times per minute and inhales half a liter of air each time. Therefore in an hour they inhale 180 liters of air containing 3,600 mold colonies. In a day (24 hours) they would inhale 86,400 mold colonies. This type of mold test kit is better than the first one because it tells us exactly how much mold we are exposed to. This method also allows laboratories to identify molds to individual (species) level. The problem with this method is that it can only detect spores that are still alive. Dead mold spores, though still a health hazard cannot be detected by this method.
- The third method which is very popular with professionals is using an air pump to impact air on a sticky surface. Once you submit the sample to the lab they can immediately start the analysis because the molds are not required to grown (cultured) in the lab before analysis. This method can therefore give quick results that would enable you to quickly make decisions. The analysis can see all particles in the sample. These include pollen, mold spores, insect parts, fibre glass fragments and other miscellaneous particles. All these particles can cause allergic reactions. If your goal is to find out if you or your family is exposed to mold spores and other airborne particles, this is the method of choice. Similarly to the first air sampling method, we can determine the number of spores we are exposed to in a day.
The minor problem with this method is that the mold spores cannot be identified to individual (species) level.
Surface Mold Test Kit
Surface mold test kit is for sampling mold growth on surfaces. You can use this method to sample mold on walls, mold on ceiling tiles, mold on wood or on any surface. The method is suitable for visible mold growth. Surface mold sampling can be achieved in several ways. The purpose of this method is to tell you the types of mold present in your house.
How to select a mold test kit
If you are concerned about mold exposure we recommend you use the air sampling method. Sampling air using the nonculturable method enables the lab to count both spores that are both alive and dead. If you see visible mold growth and your interest is to know the types of mold present in your home, we recommend either taking tape samples and cutting pieces of material for submission to a lab for analysis. The benefit of using tape samples is that you don’t have to destroy anything. In wet surfaces you cannot use scotch tape to collect a sample. In that case we recommend using swabs.
After determining that you have a mold problem you can then look for a mold removal company.