So, you suspect a mold problem.
Maybe it’s because of a musty smell, unexplained health problems that disappear when your away from home, or that suspect discoloration on your wall.
What do most people do in this situation?
They get on the internet and after a little searching around find the “DIY Mold Testing kits.”
How do you know which one will help and which ones offer little or no value?
As a homeowner, if you’re worried about mold in your home, you are more than capable of performing mold testing after doing a little research and understanding how to perform the test correctly.
Some of the common mold tests kits you will find are; indoor air quality tests, tape lift test (for surfaces such as carpets, walls, upholstered furniture, etc.) and swab tests.
While you or anyone can collect a mold sample, the specimen must be sent to an accredited lab for the species and levels to be determined.
Most of the DIY Mold Test kits on the market today can be misleading. They fail to let the customer know the full out of pocket cost and the limitations of the test itself.
Another important thing that is often overlooked when using a DIY Mold test is the physical and visual inspection process.
“Relying on the test results alone is never a good idea.”
You should always do a thorough inspection of your home to find any underlying issues.
There are some Do It Yourself mold test kits that fall short of adding any benefit and can be misleading to a homeowner when trying to find out if a mold problem exists in their home.
For example, mold test kits of the petri dish variety such as “Mold Armor Do-it Yourself Test Kits.”
This method of sample collection is of no benefit to a homeowner when trying to determine concentrations of molds present in their home.
Remember that mold is part of our natural environment, and they are always present in the air.
However, indoor molds are not a cause for concern unless there is a moisture issue that will promote the growth of mold.
Now, a petri dish Do It Yourself Test kit provides (1) a petri dish and (2) an agar or nutrient rich substrate for the mold to grow on.
The petri dish is placed on a level surface in the home for an hour or so.
When that time is up, you close the lid on the petri dish and wait for 48 hours to see if any growth occurs.
Molds are floating around in the air and generally cause no issues.
However, by providing the petri dish with agar that is designed to promote mold growth, Guess what?
You will see the growth after 48 hours.
For this reason, a petri dish type mold tests are of no use to the homeowner or individual trying to determine the levels of mold spores in the indoor environment.
When Is Testing For Mold Not Necessary?
In general, there are a couple of instances in which you shouldn’t waste money on the testing mold.
For example, if you can see the mold growing in an area of your home or on personal items, mold testing is not recommended, even the EPA stresses this fact.
The most important thing to do when you find it growing, is to take the right steps and find the moisture source, and safely remove the mold growth.
Testing at this point will be a waste of time and money, especially if you have to wait for the results.
Are There Benefits That Diy Mold Test Kits Offer?
There are some limited benefits to using a do-it-yourself mold test kit.
First, DIY tape lift tests, swab test, and some instant mold tests can help you identify if a particular growth in your home is actually mold.
Second, Indoor air quality test kits can help you identify the concentrations and types of molds found in your home.
There are some issues with this type of testing.
If the samples aren’t taken correctly or taken under the right conditions, the information from the results could be useless.
Not to mention the lab result fees and the confusion of interpreting the data.
You can save on the cost savings of not having a professional mold assessment and testing completed in your home.
Having a professional come out to assess and test your home can get costly depending on the number of samples that are taken.
The cost for a professional mold assessment can start at $500 and higher.
Although you may need to send the results into a lab, you save money by not having to pay for someone to come to your house and take mold samples for you.
Mold Test Kit Comparison with Professional Testing
To provide you with some solid information, I decided to put two DIY Mold test kits under the microscope to see how they compare to the testing performed by a professional.
The two kits tested the MyMoldDetective air quality test kit and the Smart Choice Instant Mold Test Kit.
The My Mold Detective Air Quality Test Kit
What is the My Mold Detective Mold Test Kit?
This DIY Mold Test kit is a low-cost solution for homeowners or individuals that want to test their indoor air quality and determine the mold spores concentrations inside their home.
The kit also allows you to take tape lift samples for direct sampling.
Tape lifts examples are an easy low-cost way to determine if you have mold growing on a surface as well as deciding if the discoloration on your wall is in face mold.
This DIY mold testing kit claims to determine the air quality in your home, and it uses the same sampling methods used by mold inspection professionals.
It differs from other kits in that it small portable and easy to use. The kit comes with a small air sample pump, three air sample cassettes, two surface samples, one mailing envelope, and instructions.
Taking An Air Sample
This kit allows you to sample the indoor air for mold spores in several steps.
First, locate the area in your home where you want to pull the air sample – the instructions state, place the pump on an elevated surface 3-foot minimum.
Second, label the cassette with the identification of the area where the sample will be collected.
Third, remove the outlet and inlet cover tape, then place the cassette on the top of the pump securely.
Fourth, turn the pump on and allow it to run until it automatically shuts off.
Finally, remove the cassette from the pump and place the tape back on the inlet and outlet areas. This process is repeated outside the home as well.
Tape lift sample process:
- Remove the tape from the glass slide.
- Hold the clear tape by the ends with the adhesive side positioned towards the area to be sampled.
- Place the tape on the suspect area and press firmly, avoid rubbing the back of the tape.
- Gently remove the tape from the surface and place it back on the glass slide.
After all the sample is collected, you then go online and register the cassettes and tape lift samples.
The final step is to package the samples and send them off to the lab.
The Sneaky Hidden Cost
What’s not so evident on the package is the fact that you must pay for the samples.
On average to test one cassette is 35.00 and you also have to pay the shipping fees. The more samples you have, the more expensive it becomes.
All together it costs amounts to ta little under 200 bucks to purchase the kit and pay the lab and shipping fees. Close to the average cost for a professional mold test.
- Purchase the MyMoldDetective Kit on Amazon 80.00
- Lab fees for one indoor and one outdoor sample 72.00
My Mold Detective Vs Professional Mold Sampling and Laboratory Analysis
How does the MyMoldDetective match up with a professional mold test?
To determine this, a home was selected that had no signs of mold growth, moisture problems or any other apparent signs of mold problems.
In this home, we first sampled the indoor environment than the outdoor air with the MyMoldDetective DIY kit.
One sample was collected inside, and one was collected from outside the home. The samples were sent off to MyMoldDetective for lab analysis.
The Lab Results
MyMoldDetective Test Results
The lab results indicated that the indoor environment had normal amounts of mold spores when compared to the outdoor setting. Click here to see the MyMoldDetective Lab report.
The MyMoldDetective test inside the home detected four species.
The molds detected in the air sample included Basidiospores, Cladosporium, Penicillium/Aspergillus, and plant pathogens such as Smuts, Periconia, Myxomycetes. The debris rating was low at 2 when measured on a scale of 1+ – 4+
In the outdoor sample seven (7) different mold species were detected. They include included: Ascospores, Basidiospores, Chaetomium, Spegazzinia Cladosporium, Penicillium/Aspergillus, and plant pathogens such as Smuts, Periconia, Myxomycetes.
Professional Mold Test Results
The results of the professional test also indicate that the counts inside the home are normal. Click here to see the complete report.
Four species were detected inside the home. Some of the spores detected in both sampling events are the same.
However, the professional test contained more detailed information as far as pollen counts, dust and debris in the air and things of that nature.
The spores detected inside the home with professional testing included Ascospores, Basidiospores, “Other Brown” Penicillium/Aspergillus, Pollen, Hyphal Fragments – mold particles, skin cells, and levels of dust in the air. The outdoor sample contained the same molds but at higher levels.
Smart Choice Instant Mold Test Kit
The Smart Choice Instant Mold Test Kit like the description states, indicates if you have mold growing on a surface in your home and to identify “black toxic mold in seconds”
What is this Instant Mold test Kit?
The Smart Choice Instant Mold Test Kit is a Pro-Clean Test Swab that is used to verify sanitization of food processing equipment. The swab was designed to identify if surfaces are clean by detecting protein residue left behind after cleaning and sanitization activities.
How to use this product?
To test if mold is located on a surface follow the steps below:
- Located the area that you want to test,
- Pull the swab from the tubing,
- Swab a 4 inch by 4 inch section,
- Insert the swab in the tube,
- Snap the top section as indicated,
- Squeeze the liquid in the bulb into the tube,
- Shake the solution for 10 seconds,
- Then read the color chart provided.
To put this DIY Mold kit to the test, I performed two separate tests to determine if the kit uncovered any mold growing on the surface.
In one the test was negative (at first) and in the other, the test was positive.
In addition to using the Smart Choice Instant Mold Test Kit, professional testing was also performed on both the areas to see if the swab really could detect the presence of mold on surfaces.
First Test (swab spots on surface of a piece of wood)
We swabbed a piece of wood that had some discoloration. I wanted to see if the swab would detect the presence of any molds on the surface of the material.
I outlined a 4X4 section in which to perform the swab test. I followed the instructions provided in the packet. Initially, the test showed that the surface of the material tested negative for mold.
However, the color of the liquid in the tube changed after a couple of hours to purple. This can cause some confusion as it can lead to a false reading. That is something to watch out for when using these DIY kits.
Below: Negative swab test indicating no mold on the surface of the wood.
After the DIY kit was used to test the surface of the material, professional swab and tape lift samples were taken from the same location in the 4 X 4 section of the material.
The sample was sent to a professional laboratory to determine if there were signs of mold on the area that was tested negative for mold.
In this instance, the lab results did confirm that there was no mold on the surface of the material when the test was taken. Click here to see Test 1 report.
The Second Test (Swab of mold on the surface of a ceiling)
In the second test, I decided to use the swab on actual mold that was growing in a building. This time the test turned purple but it took over 10 minutes for this to occur.
The product detected protein residue on the surface, causing the liquid in the tube to turn purple.
However, it doesn’t tell you the type of mold growing on the area, if it has any toxic characteristics, or the amount.
It only seems to detect the proteins.
This type of test may indicate if you have mold proteins on the surface, but it does nothing more than that.
The package states it will detect toxic black mold in less than a minute, but this also is not the case from what I can determine.
Professional Surface Sampling for Mold
On the same surface where the DIY Smart Choice Instant Mold test was used, two professional surface sampling was performed and sent to an accredited lab to be analyzed.
The area was first swabbed with a sterile swab kit; then a surface sample was collected using a tape lift.
Now let’s compare the two tests and see which is more beneficial.
The Smart Choice Instant Mold Test Kit indicates that there was mold growth, but we already know the growth on the ceiling was mold.
Now is it the notorious “Black Mold or Toxic Mold” that the test kit claims to identify instantly?
Using the DIY test kit, you won’t be able to uncover that information. Because it only tests for proteins on a surface of a material.
Now! The professional (or a tape lift that anyone can do at home) test indicates the presence of mold, but it also does more than that.
It identified the type of mold, the number of different species found on the surface, the growth rate and other useful information.
Click here to see the lab results.
So how do the DIY Mold Test Kits match up to Professional Mold Testing?
Well, the MyMoldDetective seems to be a close comparison, and the results were similar if not the same to the professional test.
However, the cost to have your home sampled by a professional vs. using the MyMoldDetective kit is a close call.
If you are looking to have the air in your home testes, I would suggest only getting 3 sample cassettes instead of the 3 or 5 room test kits that they offer.
To be honest most of the times depending on how big your home is, two indoor samples are more that enough to get a representative sample of the indoor air.
Just make sure you always pull one from outside the front door as this is the most often used.
It you have a situation where you think you have a mold problem in your home, I would recommend spending the extra 100 bucks to get a reputable professional to come in and do a full assessment and then test your home.
Doing so will ensure that, if there is, in fact, an issue, someone will the expertise will be able to point you in the right direction in getting your problem resolved.
As for the DIY Smart Choice Instant Mold Kit, you will be better off taking a surface sample and sending it off a lab to determine what type of mold in growing on a surface, and if it’s considered toxic.
Why waste 30-40 bucks on a swab that is designed to detect protein on a surface and provide little to no useful information.
When in fact you can use a piece of clear tape to get more relevant and useful information.
A certified Environmental Health & Safety professional who has performed successful mold investigations and remediation projects for years.