Choosing for a test kit for mold in the air can be tricky and confusing due to all manner of test kits advertised online. A good test kit for mold in the air should be easy to use and accurate. One of the most commonly advertised test kits for mold in the air is what we call a “settle plate”. This is a dish containing media (food for mold) and to test for mold, the dish is uncovered for a while (say for 30 minutes) and then covered. Usually this kit cost about $10-$15.
The buyer of the settle plate kit is advised to keep the kit in a warm place for 48 hours and observe the kit for mold colonies. What the sellers of this test kit for mold in the air are not telling you is that since mold is everywhere, their kit will show mold colonies all the time. To a person without microbiology background these results can be very misleading and cause panic for nothing. Having mold colonies growing on exposed media does not mean there is a mold problem, it’s just telling you the obvious, that is, mold spores are found everywhere.
Recommended test kit for mold in the air
As microbiologists we recommended mold test kits used by mold inspection professionals. These kits have 2 components. An air sampling pump and a unit into which the air is forced through by the pump. There are 2 commonly used types of pumps for air sampling and it’s important to know the differences between them. One type will force the air into a dish (the same dish we discussed earlier) and the other type forces the air into a cartridge in which there is a sticky surface that traps the mold spores. When air is forced into a dish, the samples have to be incubated for 7-15 days for for mold colonies to grow. However when the air is forced into a cartridge the results can be obtained within a few hours from the time the samples reach the lab. Each of these 2 kits have advantages and disadvantages. For the kit that impacts air onto the dish, the detection of molds depends on the ability of the mold spores to grow on the media. There are 2 problems with this. One, if the media used (there are different types) is not suitable for the type of mold in the house or office, then you get false negatives. Two, if the mold is dead, it will not be detected with this kit yet we know even dead mold is a health hazard. The advantage with this method is that if the molds grow, the lab is able to identify them to species (i.e., identification to individual level) which sometimes is important especially if we’re interested in detecting toxin producing molds.
For the kit that impacts the air into a cartridge, the detection of mold does not depend on the ability of the mold to grow. Therefore, the lab is able to identify mold spores whether dead or alive. This mold testing kit is the best to use if you’re interested in determining accurately how much airborne spores people have been inhaling in your home. It is very easy to use and it is the one we recommend to the homeowners or property managers. The decision to buy a test kit for mold in the air should not be based on price but on the ease to use and the accuracy.