By: Licensed Mold Assessor Brad Fishbein
February 8, 2023
Vinegar is a common household ingredient that is likely in your kitchen cupboard right now. Vinegar is also popular as a household DIY cleaning solution to clean hard surfaces and remove odors. However, the efficiency of vinegar varies widely according to studies and according to anecdotal reports. So the real question is, does vinegar kill mold?
Read on to know effective vinegar is for killing molds and whether it works for every type of fungus that you'll encounter at home.
Vinegar and It's Anti-bacterial Properties
According to a 2014 study on the anti-bacterial properties of vinegar published in the journal for the American Society for Microbiology, Vinegar's active component called acetic acid can kill the M. tuberculosis bacteria within 30 minutes after contact. This study concluded that since the M. tuberculosis bacteria is hard to kill, vinegar or acetic acid should also be useful as a disinfectant against other types of bacteria.
The standard type of vinegar present in most homes is likely 5-6% acetic acid. It's the active component that chemically changes the protein structures of most bacteria and viruses, which inactivates or destroys them. It's that first action through which vinegar can play a role in removing bacteria from most surfaces.
While vinegar has anti-bacterial qualities, it also has some anti-microbial attributes. A study completed in 2015 by the International Journal Of Environmental Research and Public Health outlines that while vinegar has shown to kill mold. However, the study also suggests that vinegar does not kill all mold spores. Vinegar may also lack the tenacity to kill mold penetrate surfaces. Source
White distilled vinegar is the most common type of mold people use to remove mold, but it's not the only type of vinegar that can be useful against mold. Bamboo vinegar is also a lesser-known type of vinegar that has shown to be effective in the removal of mold.
While you may choose to use other anti-microbial solutions, if you decide to go the vinegar route, you will need to know how to use it effectively. You can pour vinegar into a spray bottle and apply directly onto surfaces. To make sure that you are getting vinegar to work at it's best, do not dilute with water. However, if you are cleaning sensitive surfaces, you can dilute the vinegar to avoid damage.
Let the solution sit for about a half-hour on the surface before wiping it off. After scrubbing, rinse the non-porous area with warm water to remove any residue. You can do this two or three times or until you eliminate any visible traces of mold from the surface.
However, be careful about applying vinegar to different surfaces. Vinegar is acidic, so it may cause a chemical reaction and destroy coatings and paints on tables, chairs, and even walls. Experts warn against using vinegar sprays on marble since the acid content can eat at the surface.
It is imperative to wear protective equipment before you start cleaning any area. Mold spores can float in the air, which means you need to protect your nose and eyes using a mask and clear. Protective goggles. Wear gloves to protect your hands from direct exposure to mold and disinfect these items right after use to prevent the spread of active mold spores to other parts of your home. If the area is more significant than 10 square feet, a licensed mold professional should be contacted, and you should not remove yourself.
Why Removal At Source is the Key to Keeping Your Home Mold-Free
While vinegar and other anti-microbial solutions are useful for keeping surfaces free from bacteria and to keep mold growth at bay, killing mold may not be sufficient. Dead mold can affect your health just as much as living. If you have a mold problem in your house, especially if you are dealing with black mold who's scientific name is Stachybotrys, cleaning up mold growth from surfaces is not enough.
The most important step in mold elimination is to remove the mold from the source and to remove all the factors that encourage its growth. This means making sure that you eliminate wet, dark, damp areas that are hotbeds for mold growth. This also means killing mold from its source. Mold usually grows on wet and porous surfaces, which may be trying to completely clean with just vinegar alone.
For cases like these, it is essential to work with professional mold remediators who know how to safely eliminate mold growth and ensure that areas that encourage growth are removed as well. If the mold is growing in an area where bacterial growth is rampant, like damp floorboards or moist areas near drains or sewers, it is best to use professional cleaning agents or hire a professional cleaning crew to remove the source of the moisture before they begin the mold removal process.
The great thing about vinegar is that it's cheap, non-toxic and can be sprayed on most surfaces because it is not a highly corrosive agent for most types of materials. Vinegar is readily available from any local store, and you can use it straight out of the bottle.
Its affordability and efficacy make it a desirable option for cleaning surfaces. If you want an eco-friendly, non-toxic way to clean the surfaces of your home, vinegar is probably among the best options out there. Just keep in mind, depending on what type of mold you are dealing with, it may not be entirely valid.
So if you have spaces that are damp or dark, a regular cleaning with vinegar can help prevent mold from ever growing there. As for widespread mold growth, it is always best to work with the pros. This is particularly true if you don't know what kind of mold you are looking at or if the problem is so widespread.
Deep-seated black mold is extremely toxic and requires professional mold abatement methods to remove. If you don't know how to remove mold the right way or you don't have the proper equipment, it is best to call a professional.
Meet the author: Brad Fishbein is an ACAC council-certified Microbial Investigator. In the fall of 2012, he became a Licensed Mold Assessor in the State of Florida through the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Brad has helped homeowners with over 5,000 successfully completed Mold Inspections since 2009.