Mold Testing: How It Works

Air Sample Mold Testing

A “sporetrap” device is the best way to test air samples. The “spore trap” vacuums air through itself and across sticky surfaces. Any mold spores and particles in the air will be trapped on the sticky surface of the sporetrap. The sporetrap is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

When air sample testing takes place, there should be at minimum two tests. One inside the home and one outside. To determine the concentrations of molds and other contaminants in the air, an outside test will be done. These results will indicate whether the air in your home contains different types of molds. Mold can be found anywhere and everywhere. However, it is rarely a problem as long as its types and concentrations match those in your outdoor air.

Surface Sample Mold Testing

There are three main methods for surface mold testing

  1. Bulk samples A piece of the sampled area will be physically removed and sent off to a laboratory.
  2. Swab Sample – This item is very similar to a cotton cloth. It is applied to the area to be sampled. It is common to measure the area. These swabs will then be sent to a laboratory where they can be tested.
  3. Tape samples– In this case, a special transparent tape is used to press against the surface. Then it’s removed. The tape should be removed if mold spores are present.

Once the surface samples have arrived at a laboratory, they are transferred to a glass microscope slides. To absorb mold spores, a staining agent is used to the slide. The spores can be then analyzed.

DIY Home Mold Test Kit Warning

If you believe you may have a mold problem, don’t waste your money and run to the nearest big-box store to purchase a DIY kit. There are many reasons you shouldn’t buy a DIY kit for mold testing.

Mold inspections are not mold samples. DIY kits can give false positive and false negative results. Once you’re done with your kit, place it somewhere that you think may be a problem. Wait for the recommended collection time. Next, package it and send it off to a lab. What about any other contaminants? Is the sample infected by any contaminants during shipping? Did it get contaminated while in transit? It is impossible to be certain so don’t rely on the results.

Consumer Reports states that home test kits should not be used. They have reported that some kits leak and that the expiration dates are not listed on the kits. They can lose their reliability and accuracy over time due to the media in which they are packaged.

There are no measures of airflow. The mold testing industry uses mold spores per cubic meters of air. DIY kits cannot measure or control how much air crosses the sample.

There are no control samples. How can you compare your results to the sample? What is more mold than a little?

No laboratory certifications. Most DIY labs do not have an accredited agency. There is usually no chain to custody concerning the transfer of the kits, acceptance by labs of them, or crucial data such as date, time, lab location, or analysis.

What happens to dead mold spores in DIY kits? These mold spores are not considered viable. Non-viable or dead mold spores can still cause health problems. You might not see molds such Stachybotys or Chaetomium in the results.

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