Let’s say you’re chatting with a neighbor about home maintenance.
You admire each other’s leafless gutters. You exchange tips on winterizing lawn sprinkler systems.
Then, they casually mention that they found a minor mold problem in their basement – and that they took care of it themselves.
“We used a mold testing kit that we bought at the hardware store, that way we knew exactly what we were dealing with.”
They kindly offer to explain the mold kit process to you – just in case you might have a similar problem in the future.
But you already know they wasted their money.
You also know that they may have made their mold problem worse.
9 Reasons Home Mold Test Kits are Worthless Scams
Don’t waste your money on home mold testing kits. They’re worthless. Dave Bayne, owner and general manager of A1 Mold Testing & Remediation, sees hundreds of people every year throwing money away on these kits.
“Home test kits are not a controlled method of testing,” says Bayne. “They will grow mold almost 100% of the time in almost every environment. With mold testing, you must have a baseline to compare your results to. You also must have comparable sample volumes and media for all molds.”
There are a lot of other reasons to avoid these kits.
- The EPA Doesn’t Recommend Them: The Environmental Protection Agency steers people away from sampling if you already suspect mold. And if sampling is truly necessary? Let professionals handle it:
“Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.”
- No Meaningful Information: Most do-it-yourself mold kits are just small petri dishes that detect mold settling out of the air. You could place these dishes just about anywhere (other than a certified clean room) and you’d “find” mold after a few days or weeks. That’s not useful information. All you did was conduct a fifth-grade science experiment. Plus, home kits are notorious for both false negatives and false positives.
- Mold is in Every Home: You don’t need a kit to tell you that. What you do need is someone with the expertise to tell you if that mold is a real threat or just a minor annoyance.
- No Visual Inspection: The most critical aspect in evaluating a mold problem is a visual inspection – not mold sampling. Visual inspections pinpoint the water source that caused a mold problem. These inspections require expertise in construction, airflow science, and more.
- Misleading Claims: Sometimes the kits themselves are misleading, making you believe that you’ll get detailed lab analysis as part of your purchase. Instead, you may find that you must pay an extra fee for lab analysis – an analysis that’s not going to provide useful information.
- Dead Spores Don’t Count: Home testing kits don’t account for the presence of dead mold or non viable molds (mold that cannot reproduce), which can cause many of the same health impacts as live mold.
- Mishandled Samples: You can’t just plop mold samples in the mail and expect accurate lab results. Temperature swings and rough handling can affect the samples. Professional mold testing is painstaking work that includes a legal chain of custody and proper packaging.
- No Control Sample: In your middle school science classes you learned about the importance of control samples in any tests you perform. Your DIY mold kit won’t help you there.
- Consumer Reports Said So: Consumer Reports explicitly tells homeowners to avoid mold testing kits. Here’s an excerpt from one of the magazine’s 2006 issues, in which the testers review DIY mold kits:
“In some samples, the vials with media leaked over entire kit. In one, an unopened kit was moldy. No expiration dates on the kit; old media could affect the accuracy and reliability of the results. Label claims that kit can identify toxic mold, but the report the lab sends can’t tell you this. One unused plate came back positive for mold growth, indicating contamination at some point; not very reassuring for post remediation use.”
By the time it’s said and done, you might’ve spent
- $10 to $50 for a mold testing kit
- $50 or more for lab analysis
All for nothing.
Professional Mold Sampling Actually Works
Home mold testing kits are a waste of money.
Professional mold testing, on the other hand, is valuable in specific situations.
When sampling is truly necessary, A1 Mold Testing & Remediation uses certified procedures for the job.
Tape/Swab sampling (referred to as surface sampling) is the most basic sampling procedure. It can provide valuable information such as:
- Mold species
- May detect mold structures that other processes miss
- Results in quick identification
Professional surface sampling is fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive.
It’s important to note, though, that surface sampling doesn’t give you a full picture of a mold problem:
- Spores may remain airborne, meaning they don’t settle where tape will grab them
- Light-colored species of mold may be very hard to see. If you can’t see the mold, you can’t apply a tape kit to it.
- Dust and/or large spore concentrations can make it harder for labs to determines species from a tape sample
In addition to tape sampling A1 Mold Testing & Remediation also performs Air Sampling, which may help determine airborne mold concentrations.
We collect a background sample from the exterior as a baseline and then indoor samples as necessary. Each sampling regime is formulated for the particular project that we are working on. As with remediation, no two sampling regimes are the same. Each regime is specifically designed for the project. Air sampling can provide very useful data in identifying a potential mold problem that may not be visible.
Call for Guidance in Mold Testing
These are just a few of the many factors to consider in mold sampling. We haven’t even touched on the most important part – how sample results guide the cleanup and remediation process.
A1’s owner and general manager, Dave Bayne, can evaluate your mold challenges and determine whether mold testing is necessary. Call him now and ask about his sampling procedures. He’ll be happy to explain.
As for that mold kit you already bought from the hardware store? If you haven’t opened it, hold onto your receipt – return it and get your money back.