Mold Test Kits: More Problems Than Solutions

If you go into a home improvement store, you may come across a kit that shows a picture of a house or family on it and advertises itself as a “Mold Test Kit” or similar.

These kits advertise themselves as a method that is quick, safe, and easy to use to determine if mold is present in your home or business.

First let’s state the truth about these test kits:

  • Yes/No on Mold – Kits where samples you take are analyzed by a lab can provide a kind of yes/no determination about whether mold is present and what type of mold is present. The exception is petri dish testing kits that aren’t analyzed by a lab – these are very inaccurate and do not really represent whether or not you have a mold problem.

Now, let’s go down the list of what these kits don’t do and what they do wrong:

  • Risk of Inaccuracy – When you perform the test yourself, there is a risk that you aren’t performing it correctly. This could lead to skewed results from the lab that show more or less of a problem than you actually have.
  • Petri Dish Test – The test kit where you leave a petri out in an open environment and watch to see if mold grows is not an accurate tool for analysis. Mold can commonly be in the air, but in such small amounts that its affect isn’t harmful. A petri dish simply allows spores that settle on it to grow over time, which does not truly represent a mold problem as this would happen if you left it anywhere (inside or outside).
  • No Air Testing - At-home tests do not provide any measurement of what is in your air. Knowing this is important in determining if the suspect mold warranty a quicker response to potentially dangerous indoor air.
  • Very Limited Testing Scope – Taking 1-2 surface samples using these test kits does not properly assess the complete mold issue that could be present at your property.
  • No Inspection – An inspection that is completed by an experienced, knowledgeable and certified mold inspection professional is a critical step in evaluating the condition of a property. There is a reason why we hire inspectors to perform assessments on properties. It provides for a much more in-depth assessment.
  • Not Legally Binding – Doing the test yourself versus a third-party company and using an at-home test, which is considered inferior and incomplete, will not have any power in a legal situation with your landlord, lender, homeowner’s association, builder or other party involved.
  • No Explanation of Results – Results of an at-home mold test are not explained. Whether you perform the test yourself or you receive results from the lab, those results will not tell you whether or not you actually have a mold problem that warrants action. Also, no recommendations on the course of action are provided.

Mold test kits have proven to be a very ineffective and inaccurate means of determining whether or not a mold problem is present. Even as an initial assessment tool, they can do more harm than good by scaring the person testing into believing they have a mold problem that may or may not be present.

In addition, both Consumer Reports and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend against using mold test kits or other at-home solutions.

The solid means of determining whether or not a mold problem is present is through a mold inspection. A mold inspection with testing will determine the full extent of the suspect problem, the type of mold present, the amount of mold present, if an airborne contamination exists, the food and moisture source of the mold, if there is water damage present, and other important information. Along with that, an explanation of the report and the state of the property can be explained by the mold professional who has the intimate experience with your property.

About author

This article was written by Dr. Phillip Blanchett, MD

Dr. Phillip Blanchett is a licensed physician who specializes in Pulmonology and Otolaryngology. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Blanchett graduated from Cornell University and attended Weill Cornell Medical College. His graduate and post-graduate studies were completed at University of California, Davis. He completed his residency at the St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. Currently, he lives in the San Francisco where he researches respiratory and pulmonary illnesses at UCSF.


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