How to Test For Toxic Mold

Mold Cleanup

The safest way to deal with any type of mold, not just toxic or black mold (Stachybotrys Chartarum), is to get rid of it and eliminate the conditions that caused a mold colony to thrive in the first place. Determining the type of mold you may have -- toxic mold or another variety -- is a secondary consideration. This is doubly important if you think someone in your family may be particularly susceptible.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that a professional handle mold remediation for any area that covers 10 square feet (0.929 square meters) or more. If you're eyeballing a moldy spot smaller than three feet by three feet (91.44 centimeters by 91.44 centimeters), you can tackle it on your own. One exception is in areas where there may be contaminated water present. For more information about how to treat mold where there may be other health risks involved, contact your public health department.

Get prepared for the cleanup by making sure you have a respirator and goggles. N-95 respirators are available at most hardware and home improvement stores and will trap mold spores if worn properly. Goggles are easy to find, too; just make sure they don't have ventilation holes. Keep mold from coming in contact with your bare skin by wearing long sleeves and gloves. If you're using a biocide like bleach, make sure your gloves are natural rubber, PVC or neoprene.

There are things that are difficult or impossible to treat for mold. In the case of carpeting, upholstery, ceiling tiles and other porous materials, the best way to get rid of the smell and eliminate the risk of reintroducing mold into your environment is to pitch them.

Mold can also make you sick after it's dead, so be sure to do more than just treat moldy areas with a biocide. Clean everything completely and discard moldy materials.

The following do-it-yourself steps will help you deal with small mold problems in your home:

  1. Turn off the air conditioning or heating system in your home and stop all fans before you begin work.
  2. Lay plastic sheeting around the area where you will be removing mold.
  3. Discard porous materials like carpet, drywall and insulation by placing it in bags or wrapping it in plastic.
  4. Scrub all remaining surfaces with a solution of chlorine bleach and water (one cup bleach to one gallon of water), detergent and water, or commercial cleaning products.
  5. Vacuum the area with a wet-dry vacuum cleaner after removing mold, and scrub it thoroughly when you're done.
  6. Dry everything completely.
  7. Wash clothing in hot water.
  8. Discard plastic sheeting, masks and any other materials you used that cannot be thoroughly cleaned.

On the next page, we'll explore your options for mold testing.