Mold spores in the indoor air are a concern for many people. They are microscopic, often invisible, and float around in the air.
If you have a problem in your home, it can be difficult to know if you are breathing in spores. The good news is that there are various ways to test the air for mold.
The most common method is using an electric air sampling pump with a spore trap, which collects spores as they float through the air.
This is one of the most important parts of an indoor air quality (IAQ) investigation.
It is important because it can help you identify exactly what kind of mold has invaded your home and how far it has spread.
The results of the test can tell you if there are dangerous levels in your home, but they can also give you an idea of where it’s coming from. It will also help you figure out what kind of remediation steps may be necessary to remove the mold from your home.
This process can be done professionally, by a certified inspector or you can do it yourself with a simple kit that you purchase online, like on Amazon or at your local home improvement store.
It is probably best to hire a professional who has been properly trained because they know what it looks like when they see it and they also know how to use the proper equipment.
A professional can also identify the types present, which will help you determine if it’s something that could be harmful to your health or not. They should also be able to tell whether there are any indications that other areas might be affected by mold growth as well.
If you decide to do this yourself, here are some tips to help you through the process.
How to test the air for mold
STEP 1: Leave the windows and doors closed for 12-24 hours and do not use air purifiers
Try and keep your windows and doors closed for 12 to 24 hours so your indoor air has time for mold spores if they are present to build up in the air. Also, do not use an air purifier that may clean spores from the air.
STEP 2: Perform a visual inspection.
The main tools you will be using are your eyes and nose. You will use these to check both the outside and inside of your property for excess moisture, water damage, and mold growth.
A visual inspection by someone familiar with the look of healthy building materials and growth patterns associated with mold can help determine if there is any visible evidence of water damage or harmful mold growth inside or outside your home or business.
If you see or smell musty or mildewy odors, you should assume that a mold problem exists. Smell areas where moisture is likely to collect — under sinks, around bathtubs and showers, near leaking pipes — and look for discolored patches on walls or ceiling tiles
For example, when you smell mold, you are actually breathing in its spores and its toxic essence. This most likely means that it is airborne and you may have a minor or potentially serious problem on your hands.
STEP 3: Test one area or multiple areas
The test can be done in a small area or throughout the entire structure. Most experts recommend taking samples from areas with visible or where you smell mold and from areas without visible mold and also an outside control sample.
The reason for this is that sometimes when it is visible, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what may be hiding behind drywall and insulation.
The control sample is done outside to compare to the inside samples to see if the inside is more elevated than the outside, which would indicate a problem.
STEP 4: Send the samples to a certified laboratory
After taking their samples, send them off for analysis at a lab where they’ll undergo testing for several different types of spores
Professional labs have trained microbiologists who use genetic sequencing to identify which types of molds are present and a special “particle counter” that measures the number of particles per cubic meter (m3) over time.
There are two main types of lab analysis: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative kits tell you whether or not there is any mold present, while quantitative tests determine how much mold is present.
This information can be used by a mold remediation expert to create a plan of action based on the results of your test.
It’s best to avoid taking samples on rainy or windy days or when there may be excess moisture in the air because that can skew results.
If you are concerned about toxic mold, the best thing you can do is hire a professional to get an air quality test done. A certified inspector will know exactly how to test for spores in the air and how to address remediation.
Please contact us if you need help with an inspection or to help analyze air samples for the presence of harmful molds.
Moe Bedard is the founder of Mold Safe Inspections and manager at Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation.
If you need help with a project, please call 760-818-6830.