How to Test for Contaminated Soil

Updated November 21, 2016

According to Tom McCutcheon, a Monongalia County (West Virginia) Extension agent, all soil problems can be answered with soil testing. Various areas of the yard may be more contaminated than other areas. For instance, the drip line of houses are areas that are commonly contaminated with lead. A gardener growing leafy greens in these area can unwittingly produce contaminated lettuce or cabbage. It is essential to get your soil tested before growing vegetables, ornamental plants or trees in the yard.

Purchase a soil testing kit from your county extension office. According to Bob Lippert of the Clemson University Extension Service, soil testing kits that can be purchased at gardening supplies stores are not as thorough as a testing kit from one of your county's preferred testing laboratory.

Dig 12 holes 3 to 4 inches deep in areas of concern such as where your children play or in your flower beds or vegetable gardens. Collect soil samples from the bottom of the holes into one bucket. Mix the soil samples.

Pour one cup of soil into the container provided by the laboratory. If your kit does not come with a container, use a sterile plastic container.

Indicate on the testing kit what you want to be tested, such as lead or pH range, and the type of grass you currently grow.

Wait a few weeks for the results to be mailed to you.


Remove soil that has lead in it from your yard. Avoid sending the laboratory wet samples or dirt that contains vegetative debris.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
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