How To Test For Mold In House (Do It Yourself Guide)

If you don’t know how to test for mold in your house, then this guide is exactly what you need to be able to test, detect and hopefully get rid of mold in your house.

Even though you may not see it, mold can be in nearly any part of your home, and it is a very dangerous thing to have there. If you’re curious to know whether you have mold in your home or not, the best thing to do is conduct regular maintenance checks. This is the best way to catch mold before it becomes too widespread and gets out of hand. This task is not as difficult as it may sound, and it becomes even easier once you learn a few simple tricks.

How To Test For Mold In House

Mold or Dirt?

If you see small black spots on your wall or flooring that get bigger over time, it may very well be mold. Of course, mold and mildew can also look just like dirt, and sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. To make things easier, make up a solution of one part bleach to 16 parts water, and dip a cotton swab into the mixture. Next, dab the cotton swab on the dark spot and notice what happens. If the spot gets lighter or keeps coming back after you clean, it is likely mold. Dirt will not lighten up and will remain the same dark color, regardless of what you do to it.

There are also mold-testing kits that you can use to check for mold, and these are usually found at some well known home-improvement stores. They are efficient and very inexpensive, and they can be used in place of the bleach-water mixture.

There is also a difference between mold and mildew. Mildew is found only on the surface and, therefore, won’t do any damage to your home like mold will. If you believe the mold in your home may have caused rotting to occur, there is an easy way to know for sure. Take a screwdriver or other sharp instrument and poke the area where you think rotting has occurred. If rot is there, the wood will crumble because the fungi have gotten worse and caused the wood to become soft.

Leaks in Your Plumbing Tell a Story

If you find mold near any type of water line – for example, plumbing fixtures or even icemaker lines – the mold is likely feeding off of a nearby water leak. Run the water while you go and check the water source, which includes checking all of your pipes and the surrounding areas for any damp spots. Check to see if these damp spots have mold near them, and if they do, this is what is causing the mold. To take care of the problem, simply fix the leak, and those particular mold problems should dissipate quickly.

When you’re checking for these types of leaks, make sure you check outside, as well as inside, your home. Leaks can happen in a roof or wall, and if you notice a mold spot on one side of a door, check the other side to see if it is there as well. Also check your vents, decks, and window wells, as well as downspouts that empty next to a wall. Mold can initiate on the outside of your home just as quickly as it can the inside of it.

If you find no roof leak, but notice mold under a register or duct, the cause of your mold might be inadequate insulation in the duct work. If you notice condensation on your ducts, it could be because the ducts aren’t insulated, so properly insulating the duct work throughout your home can solve this type of mold problem.

What Does Mold Look Like?

Before you go checking for mold in your home, it is smart to first know what it looks like. Mold can:

  • Come in colors such as black, white, brown, or green
  • Feel like sandpaper, cotton, leather, or even velvet
  • Emit an earthy or musty odor
  • Cause physical changes such as bubbling paint or various types of stains

Regardless of what you find, if you notice any of the above aspects, it is very likely you have mold growing beneath the wall cavity.

One of the most common places to find mold is in the basement. When you check for mold in the basement, make sure you check the walls, especially the area where the wall meets the ceiling; all of your baseboards; and under and behind your appliances, particularly your washer and dryer. The utility room is another common place to find mold, because it can form in and around the clothes dryer duct. Proper ventilation prevents this problem from happening, so if you do find mold there, simply ventilate the dryer duct and your mold problem should disappear.

Other Areas Can Have Mold, Too

Other areas you should check for mold include any small, enclosed area. This includes closets and under your sinks. The smaller and more enclosed the area is, the more important it is to check it for mold. Still other areas include:

  • Windows: check each pane and along the frames
  • All areas that experienced recent water damage
  • Shower curtains: make sure you spread out the curtain so that you can see every inch of it
  • The corners of your ceilings: check all corners, and underneath wallpaper if it is peeling

Essentially, mold can occur in any part of your home, especially areas that have at one time been exposed to water, dampness, or moisture. Regular inspections are simple and not very time consuming, but they can go a long way in helping get rid of the mold you do notice quickly, enabling you to have a mold-free home sooner rather than later.

More Than Just Simple Inspections

Of course, there are other ways on how to test for mold in your house that go far beyond just a physical inspection of the premises. These include:

  • In-home mold-testing kits: simply follow the instructions in the kit, which usually include taking the results to a lab afterwards to get it tested
  • Borescopes: these are made mostly for inspecting areas between walls; you drill a hole into the wall then insert a fiber optic cable, checking the attached monitor as you go
  • Professional mold inspectors: these are specialized companies that come out and check for mold in your home

If you clearly notice mold spots in your home and recognize that they are mold, further testing isn’t necessary; you simply need to move onto the next step and get rid of the mold. In-home testing kits can be difficult to read and even unreliable, and many experts recommend using them only as a last resort. Borescopes can distort the color and size of the mold, as well as only allowing you to see so far inside of a duct. If you use borescopes, you should always consult a professional for a second opinion.

All of this being said, it is usually recommended that you hire a professional mold-inspection company, because they have the tools and equipment, not to mention the trained experts, to get the job done right. If you decide to go this route, make sure you interview more than one company, and make sure you check online reviews for any complaints they may have gotten. They also need to work only with accredited labs, such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Professional mold-inspection companies usually offer free testing for mold, so once you confirm that you do indeed have mold, you can get started on interviewing several companies so that you can make the best decision in the end.

Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Mold From Forming

You can do several things to prevent mold from forming in your home, including cleaning the area thoroughly so that mold doesn’t have a chance of occurring. Other tasks that are recommended include:

  • Repair all of your leaks: this includes leaking and sweating pipes, and you may need the help of a professional plumber to get this job done right
  • Seal up all of your small openings: this can include cracks around windows and doors, as well as where the walls meet the floors and ceiling, and make sure you caulk your windows, especially the area between the panes and the frame
  • Have your air ducts professionally cleaned on a regular basis
  • Remove and discard areas that absorb moisture: this includes ceiling tiles, carpet, and other porous surfaces that already contain mold

You can also pay close attention to a few other tasks, including:

  • Making sure the humidity level in your home stays between 30 and 50 percent and no higher
  • Running a dehumidifier if you live in a very humid area
  • Making sure your basement and bathrooms do not have carpet in them
  • Installing a sump pump
  • Running exhaust fans regularly
  • Wiping down your shower curtain thoroughly and regularly
  • Preventing water from pooling on the outside of your home
  • Making sure you have the appropriate amount of insulation

Regular inspections of your home are the best ways on how to test for mold in your house, and you can do it yourself or hire a professional. Either way, it will be good to know immediately if you do have mold so that you can do something about it.