If you feel that your allergies are agitated or sense unhealthy air in your home, it’s very likely that you have a mold problem. Most homeowners are familiar with this type of fungus that tends to appear in areas with elevated moisture levels such as the bathroom or the basement. Although finding visible mold isn’t usually that hard, it may be necessary to test your home to find hidden or airborne mold.
There are lots of types of mold and not all of them can be easy to spot with the naked eye. Certain molds are more dangerous compared to others but it’s generally agreed that a mold infestation requires immediate attention as it poses a considerable health risk. People with respiratory conditions should take special care to avoid mold growth in their home but a serious mold issue can be dangerous for healthy persons as well.
This article will show you the most effective ways to test for mold in your home and figure out whether you need to take additional steps to remove it. Before testing for hidden or airborne mold, it’s also recommended to inspect your home more closely for visible types of mold.
1. Identifying Visible Mold
There are thousands of types of mold in nature but the ones you need to worry about are those commonly found indoors. Some great examples include Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Alternaria. There’s also the dreaded Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mold. Despite its scary reputation black mold isn’t actually more harmful than other mold growths.
When it comes to visual characteristics, the appearance of mold can differ from species to species. The fungus will typically show a fuzzy texture in various colors such as blackish green, white, and brown. Even if it’s not immediately noticeable with your eyes, it’s safe to say that your nose can detect the presence of mold. This is due to its characteristic musty smell with earthy tones.
Some of the best areas to look for mold are those susceptible to moisture and humidity buildup. The basement is a great example because of the risk of water seepage in the walls or baseboards. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended to waterproof your basement to prevent the growth of mold spores. Aside from humid places, make sure you check small enclosed spaces because the lack of light will also favor the development of mold.
Condensation is another risk factor for mold formation. That’s why it’s a good idea to inspect your windows. Poor insulation can encourage mold growth along the surface of the frames. Areas in your house that suffered from water damage could be perfect breeding grounds for mold. An example is a burst pipe or heavy rain that may have created moisture infiltration in the attic. Be thorough when searching for signs of mold in the bathroom because the fungus can easily grow under the sink, in the ceiling corners, and even directly on the shower curtains.
2. Using a Mold Test Kit
If you manage to discover the telltale signs of mold and get visual confirmation, it’s safe to say that you don’t need to bother with a special testing kit. In case you suspect the presence of airborne or invisible mold in your home, it could be worth considering this kind of testing procedure.
There’s no point in trying to figure out the exact type of mold you’re dealing with because the usual mold-removal guidelines will work on any mold species regardless of more distinctive characteristics. Whether it’s less or more toxic is quite irrelevant. The test won’t be able to tell that precisely anyway considering how federal guidelines regarding the safety of different amounts of mold spores don’t exist. After spotting clearly obvious mold growth in your home, simply focus your efforts on getting rid of it. Depending on the severity of the situation, it may be necessary to use the services of a professional mold inspection company.
Testing for mold is generally only recommended when you experience the characteristic musty odor of mold yet don’t find any visible growth. This is when a molding test kit can come in handy. Depending on the thoroughness of the procedure, you might be able to discover a fairly precise location of the hidden mold. If you’ve had some recent plumbing issues, you should test for mold in unreachable places like behind the walls.
Although sampling for mold needs to be handled by a professional to get any reasonably accurate results, you can try a DIY home testing kit for mold such as this 5-minute test from Healthful Home, available on Amazon. The proper method to test for mold can vary a little from one DIY kit to another but this is usually how the process goes:
- The first step is to prepare the tested area. It’s important to keep all the windows and doors closed in the room for at least a full day. That will help to ensure that mold spores aren’t dispersed by any draft.
- Next, it’s time to get the testing kit ready. You should find multiple treated disks designed to collect the invisible mold spores. Depending on the exact specifications of the microbial culture of each kit, it could be recommended to leave the disks in the tested area for a shorter or longer amount of time. Make sure you choose a properly flat surface to put the testing disks on. Also, a table works better than the floor because of the higher elevation.
- The dish needs to sit untouched in the testing area to collect any potential mold spores according to the manufacturer’s directions. Even if it may take more than 48 hours, it’s strongly recommended to prevent any outside contact with that room during that time to ensure a successful test.
- Finally, make sure you seal the lid onto the dish to keep the mold spores contained. Basic tape works fine, there’s no need to use your strongest duct tape. Most test kits will provide a sticky label for this purpose. Mark the date and duration of exposure on the collected sample.
- The last part of the process involves sending the mold sample to a specialized lab to be analyzed. Details regarding this can be found in the instructions of your mold test kit. The laboratory analysis transport fee will be usually included in the cost of the entire kit because it’s essential to get the sample tested.
- Results come after a long time, sometimes more than a month. If the DIY testing provides inconclusive results, it’s probably best to try running some additional tests or finding a professional to manage this job. If the musty odor persists, you shouldn’t give up so easily because the mold could be still hidden somewhere in the house.