How to Test for Mold

Here I show you how to test for mold. This is important information, because you may need to be the more knowledgeable person if you hire a mold inspector or mold remediator.

I have helped many individuals across the country – and as far away as Indonesia – with budget testing for mold. I can help you, too. All you need is a roll of Scotch-brand MultiTask tape (available at any office store) and one sturdy plastic bag (like a zip-lock-type bag).

You touch several areas of a similar surface with a piece of tape, put it on (not in) the bag, identify where the sample is from, and mail it to me, along with your check. I’ll remove the tape from the bag, put the tape on a microscope slide, and view it under the microscope. Voila! You’ll get feedback and usually a photo of your mold soon after.

An important part in how to test for mold involves surface sampling. Here are more detailed Instructions for Taking Sticky Tape Samples of Surfaces:

Disclaimer: EnviroHealth Consulting, Inc., is not a microbiology lab, nor do I have a professional microbiologist on staff. Therefore, your report would not be useful for legal purposes. I also do not charge the fees that you could expect at a professional laboratory. This service is for the homeowner and renter who seek budget testing for mold.

I have taken courses in microbiology and have worked for close to 20 years, at almost every inspection, with a microscope. My background includes a master’s degree in science education, plus numerous environmental courses, including for mold inspecting and mold remediation. I currently hold the CMC, Council-certified Microbial Consultant, with the testing service allied with the Indoor Air Quality Association. I have conducted over 3000 residential environmental assessments.

This screening includes identification of the following molds: Aspergillus, Penicillium (sometimes listed as Aspergillus/Penicillium-like, because the spores look alike; usually green or white), Stachybotrys (the black mold featured in many media pieces), Cladosporium (the most common outdoor mold, also black), Alternaria (gray/black), Chaetomium (black), Ulocladium (black), and Trichoderma (green). These are fungi commonly associated with health symptoms and water damage. Other genera might also be identified, such as Mucor, Rhizopus, and Fusarium.

Laboratory confirmation of my findings is available for an additional fee, if desired. However, if this is a legal situation, you are advised to have a local mold inspector take the samples for lab submission. Seek advice from your attorney about the certifications of the mold inspector. 

Supplies:

  • Scotch-brand MultiTask tape or Scotch-brand transparent tape – ¾” preferably.
  • One sturdy plastic bag, like a zip-lock-type bag or vegetable bag
  • Tips:
    • DO NOT USE Magic Tape, invisible tape, packing tape, or baggies. 
    • USE only ONE bag – line up tapes on the OUTSIDE of the bag.
    • Make tabs on one end of the tapes so I can get them off the bag.
    • Avoid placing tape over a white area (for labeling) on a plastic bag. The white could come off on the tape, voiding your sample.

How to Sample

1. Purchase a roll of Scotch-brand MultiTask tape from an office supply store. Don’t use Magic tape, because light from the microscope won’t go through cloudy tape, and your samples might be useless. Do not use packing tape, because it may be too strong to separate from the plastic bag.

2. Take about a 3” piece of tape and hold the ends with the thumb and finger of one hand. The sticky side of the tape faces away from you.

3. Firmly touch only the middle ½” of the tape to the surface you want to check. Do not touch the whole tape to the surface. The tape has to be transferred to a microscope slide at my office. If the whole tape is exposed, the ends won’t stick to the slide and the sample will be difficult to view.

4. If there isn’t much material on the tape, you can touch it a few times to similar surfaces at different spots. Don’t overload the tape with material, though, or all I’ll see is a dark mass.

Tip: Hold the tape up to the light. If you can’t see much material on the tape, I won’t be able to either. Touch it to a few more places on the surface.

5. Fold back about ¼” of one end of the tape to make a tab (to facilitate pulling the tape off the plastic).

6. Next, lay the piece of tape FLAT against the OUTSIDE of your plastic bag. Don’t fold the tape over and stick it to itself. Lay it out as you would a band-aid. Don’t place the sample inside the plastic bag. Don’t stick it onto wax paper or tinfoil.

7. Line up all your samples onto the same bag. Number the samples and then enclose a piece of paper showing which locations the numbers refer to.

8. When you finish all the samples, mail them, plus a check made out to EnviroHealth, to EnviroHealth, 7104 Red Top Road, Hummelstown, PA 17036-9533. Visa and Mastercard are also accepted. Regular mail is fine. If over-nighting the sample, please DO NOT REQUIRE A SIGNATURE!

The fees are:

  • $15 for 1 tape sample
  • $25 for 3 tape samples
  • $50 for 8 tape samples
  • $100 for 20 samples

9. Since I travel a lot doing environmental inspections, you could get your results fast (if I’m here) or within about week if I’m on an inspection trip when the samples arrive. If time is of the essence, call ahead to make special arrangements… 888-735-9649.

10. Don’t forget to include your name and address, phone number, and e-mail address. I will email results to you.

After completing this part of How to Test for Mold, you may know more than the mold inspector who comes to your home. Remember, his or her training most likely didn’t involve checking for invisible mold or working with a microscope. You can gently guide the inspector to surfaces that need to be check – or query him or her about reasons for mold at those surfaces, if you have any question.

Now that we have completed surface testing information for how to test for mold, we need to talk about where to test. Meet me at the next tab, “Where to Sample.”

 

Improve your indoor air and water quality and reduce exposure to mold and electromagnetic fields