How to Test For Toxic Mold

Do You Have a Mold Problem?

Norhtwoods subcontractor Doug Jollenbeck repairs mold damage in Sacramento, Calif.
Norhtwoods subcontractor Doug Jollenbeck repairs mold damage in Sacramento, Calif.
Max Whittaker/Stringer/Getty Images

If you can smell mold in your home, you probably have a mold problem. If you can see mold on walls, in corners or on objects, you should get rid of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a major operating component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has yet to establish guidelines for evaluating the health risks of specific mold concentrations or strains in buildings, but they have stated that the most prudent practice when discovering mold in your home is to remove it. All mold varieties should be considered the same when evaluating their potential risk to your family's health [source: CDC].

Health problems can sometimes be an indicator that there's mold present in your home. Sensitive individuals sometimes exhibit symptoms like sore throat, stuffy nose, eye irritation, wheezing and rashes. In more extreme cases, they might endure fever, shortness of breath, and mold-related lung infections when exposed to a mold-laden environment. But even if no one is sick at your house doesn't mean you don't have mold.

Checking for mold can be a little like playing hide-and-seek, but it's no game. Your efforts may even disturb mold colonies and release spores that can go on to contaminate other areas of your home. A good practice after checking easily examined areas like walls, ceilings, bathrooms, basements and inside cabinets is to consult a professional before pulling up carpeting or looking behind walls. This is especially true when you suspect there's a problem because of a moisture situation in the past, like a roof leak or flooding.

When conducting a hunt for mold, turn off your HVAC system and any fans that are running to reduce the chance of spreading spores to other locations. These are some popular hiding places where mold may be lurking:

  • Under carpets and carpet pads
  • Behind wall paper or draperies
  • Behind drywall, wallboard and wood
  • On pipes
  • Inside ductwork
  • Above ceiling tiles

The nose knows, and if you can't find any mold but the smell persists, there's probably mold hiding somewhere nearby.

In the next section, we'll discuss ways to get help dealing with mold in your home.