The best mold test kit

The best mold test kit

From the Best for do-it-yourselfers series
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The most common cause of mold growth in the home is water leaks, such as from a plumbing leak or water damage after a storm.

The most common cause of mold growth in the home is water leaks, such as from a plumbing leak or water damage after a storm. Our test

Mold is part of nature, but in the home it can present a health hazard. Certain molds can trigger allergies, aggravate asthma symptoms, and, according to some health experts, cause chronic health conditions. What complicates matters is that mold can't always be seen or smelled, so a mold test is imperative if you suspect there's harmful mold growing in your home.

There are a few different types of mold test kits available, and we've created this shopping guide to help you understand the pros and cons of each. We've also included our top recommendations, like the Mold Inspection Network's DIY Mold Test, which includes a lab analysis.

Considerations when choosing mold test kits

Testing methods

The mold test kits available to consumers are an affordable alternative to hiring an expensive professional mold inspector to come into your home. These tests should be performed in multiple areas of the home, not just where mold is suspected. Positive results should be followed up with professionals. Also be aware that some tests are more accurate than others.

Air check

This testing method is similar to the tests used by professionals. Samples are taken in specific areas, fixed to "test cassettes," and sent to a lab for analysis for the specific type of mold present. While these tests are the most expensive, they're also the most accurate.

Instant

This testing method uses chemical strips to test whether mold is present from a collected sample. The sample is mixed with a neutral liquid, and then the strip, which contains a reagent, is dipped into the mixture. The test strip will change color depending on whether mold is present. If so, more advanced testing is required at a laboratory (at extra cost) to determine what type of mold is present.

Settling plates

This testing method uses petri dishes or films that are placed near suspected areas of mold growth to collect air particles. The collector is left out for a few hours, so air particles can settle onto the sticky surface of the film or petri dish, after which the user covers and incubates it for a week. If mold grows, the sample can be sent to a lab for further analysis.

Types

Some mold test kits include different types of tests, like swabs or tape strips, and it's best to use a couple different test types to compile a more comprehensive range of results.

Tape strips

These work best on dry surfaces. The sticky side of the tape is placed on the surface you want to test, and then it's removed and placed in the provided bag or container to be sent off to a lab for analysis.

Swabs

Swabs are used in a method called "visual sampling" and are rubbed over a damp spot where visible mold is growing. They are then also placed in a bag or container and sent off for analysis.

Chemical strips

Strips determine the presence of proteins in molds in just a couple minutes. These aren't precise, and they should be followed up with more advanced tests or lab analysis.

Collection films or petri dishes

Films and dishes are used in the fairly accurate settling plate testing method. By collecting air samples and allowing mold to incubate on the gummy surface of these collectors, users can visually identify what's in the air of their homes. 

Price

Mold test kits range in price from $9 to $95. Ones that include a lab analysis start at $30 to $60.

FAQ

Q. If mold grew on my settling plate collector, should I start treating my house for mold?

A. Mold test kits are just the first step in detecting mold in the home or workplace. Because all buildings contain mold, pollen, mold spores, and mildew, it's best to follow up with a specialist who can determine if the problem is severe enough to take action. 

Q. How do I test for mold in my HVAC system?

A. Run your HVAC system for about 10 minutes to clear out any accumulated particles before placing the sample collector. This will give you a more accurate reading.

Mold test kits we recommend

Best of the best: Mold Inspection Network's DIY Mold Test

Our take: A comprehensive DIY mold testing kit that includes multiple tape strips and lab analysis.

What we like: Lab testing included in price, and company calls to follow up on results. Comes with three tape-lift strips that test for all mold types. Results comes back quickly.

What we dislike: Does not include free shipping of your samples to the lab.

Best bang for your buck: Healthful Home Five-Minute Mold Test

Our take: Near-instant results for 32 different mold types at a good price.

What we like: Swabs detect the presence of mold within five minutes. Can be sent to a lab for confirmation. Easy to use.

What we dislike: Lab testing costs an extra $25.

Choice 3: Seeml Labs' DIY Mold Test Kit

Our take: A comprehensive kit that includes a variety of collectors plus lab analysis.

What we like: Includes both swabs and tape for both damp and dry surface collection. Lab report included in price. Free to call company for questions about results.

What we dislike: Doesn't test for airborne mold.

Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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