Why Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Mold Test Kits Are Not Advised
While it might be tempting to use DIY Mold Test Kits—which are usually petri dishes set out over a period of time to determine the presence of mold, these over-the-counter methods can be deceiving and inaccurate. The results lack enough credibility that lawyers, doctors, insurance companies, and remediation companies do not accept the results. Consumer Reports, in fact, rated four different brands of DIY mold tests “Not Recommended,”
I explain to my customers that if they leave a piece of bread on the kitchen counter it will get moldy too. So just because something grows doesn’t mean that there is a problem.
Let’s take a closer look at the problems associated with DIY mold test kits:
- No Expiration Dates – DIY mold test kits sit on hardware shelves or storage areas for undisclosed amounts of time, subjecting the agar (gooey stuff) to contaminants. Because there is no readily identifiable expiration date for these kits, despite the requirement that they be sterile, consumers cannot determine how much potential handling or exposure these kits have had.
- Demonstrated Lab Inaccuracies – There have been numerous cases where I’ve been told of “high mold” counts with a DIY kit when the actual levels are low and vice versa with “low mold” counts with DIY kit when the actual levels very high.
- No Air Flow to Measure Mold in Cubic Units- Most standards and guidelines refer to mold spores per cubic meter or coliform forming unit, but obtaining a level of mold per volume of air is impossible without a controlled airflow through the use of a mechanical pump.
- No Control Sample – A control sample is necessary to validate the elevation of spores and provide a meaningful reference point, but many DIY kits do not offer a dish to take such a comparison sample from another room or outside.
- Misleading Marketing – Consumers often think that the DIY kit they purchase will quantify and qualify the types of mold they have, but this is not the case. For additional costs, the petri dishes must be sent out to the lab for analysis (see point 1, 2, 3 for why this is meaningless).
- Kits Do Not Account For Dead Spores: Settling plates and other DIY kits are focused on growing mold, but dead spores can also impact your health. Water damage-makers such as Stachybotys, Chaetomium and Ulocladium may not show up on the DIY kit.
- No Inspection – DIY kits do no provide an overall understanding of your mold contamination. A critical part of a comprehensive mold investigation is the inspection process, which requires specialized instrumentation such as digital moisture meters, hygrometers, infrared cameras and other tools.
All homes will contain mold when air samples are collected because mold is a common part of the environment. DIY kits, then, are essentially useless for diagnosing the complexity of your airborne mold contamination and testing should be handled by professionals. The EPA agrees: “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…professional organizations.”