white mold on pine paneling is hard to see unless illuminaged correctly

How to Use Lighting to Find Mold in Buildings
     


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This article describes how make effective use of light such as from a good flashlight to find hard to see mold in buildings. How we aim the light and how we actually look makes the difference between finding or completely missing light and hard-to spot indoor mold contamination on building surfaces and materials.

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USING LIGHT to FIND MOLD - Using proper lighting to see important mold contamination in buildings

Aiming light along the surface

Proper use of and aiming of light or a flashlight when looking for mold in buildings can make the difference between seeing and missing what might be the most important mold reservoirs in a given structure.

Like the Purloined letter problem mold may be in plain sight but may be hard to see, until you know how to look.

One result is that people who are testing mold often collect the "easy to see" mold but perhaps not the most important mold in a building. Here's how to do it right - in this brief article.

For a more extnsive article with more photos and advice on how to use lighting and how to aim a flashlight to spot hard to see mold, read USE A FLASHLIGHT. In most cases, proper use of a flashlight can help spot mold on paneling and other building surfaces.

How and where you shine light is of crucial importance when looking for mold in buildings.

Aiming light properly shows the light-colored mold next to the black moldLight-colored mold such as some members of the Aspergillus sp. and Penicillium sp. groups are often the dominant problem-mold in buildings but these offenders are often missed by a casual inspection because they can be hard to see on surfaces.

You need a bright flashlight and you need to know how to use it. Shine the light along the surface being examined, not straight at it.

As you'll see in the mold photographs shown here, using your light carefully can make a big difference in what mold you find and where you find it. Just looking for "black mold" risks missing the important mold in a building.


Light colored mold next to obvious black mold
- Aiming a bright flashlight along this wall surface where dark mold was obvious shows a light gray/green fungal colony which in fact was far more toxic and thus important to select as an additional source for surface sampling using adhesive tape.

Aiming light properly shows the light-colored mold on this paneling


Light colored toxic mold on paneling
can be hard to see in ordinary lighting and requires careful inspection. But notice how the lighting shows that this paneling is buckled.

I'd suspect that it has been exposed to high moisture if not water, and that there is risk of hidden mold on the cavity side of this material. Further inspection was needed.

 

 

 


direct lighting hides problematic light colored mold colony on this wainscot paneling

Light colored toxic mold on paneling is not visible
because light is being shone directly onto the wainscot wood paneling surface.

Aiming a light or flashlight at roughly right angles to a surface means most of the light rays bouncing back to your eye are coming off that surface at the same angle - the light will have trouble showing the profile or edges of light-colored or other small particles.

 

 


direct lighting hides problematic light colored mold colony on this wainscot paneling

Now try shining a light along the surface
- this easily shows the white mold colony that was practically invisible before.

Aiming a light or flashlight along the surface means that some of the light rays are bounced off of the profiles or sides of small particles on that surface, making them easier to see. I'm simplifying the physics of light a bit but you can see the point of these illustrations of finding hard-to-spot light colored mold on a building surface.

Even dust, or any other surface irregularities show up better with this method of inspection. we have used this method of oblique light direction to spot drywall nails as a quick way to find a wall stud when hanging a picture.)

For our longer article with more photos and advice on how to use lighting and how to aim a flashlight to spot hard to see mold, read Mold Detection - using a flashlight to find mold - proper use of a flashlight can help spot mold on paneling and other building surfaces.

Another example of use of oblique lighting to find building defects is illustrated at PLASTER BULGES & PILLOWS.

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