Does Vinegar Kill Mold? (DIY Spray Instructions)
Let vinegar with 6% acetic acid sit on mold for an hour
Mold, mildew, or fungal spores colonize quickly when high humidity or plumbing leaks. Vinegar will kill mold, but vinegar takes about an hour to do its thing. The advantages of vinegar are it's inexpensive and less toxic to the environment and humans. Some people may not be affected by mold or mildew, but others with asthma or allergies may experience sensitivity.
Mold vs. Mildew
Mildew refers to specific types of fungus, including some types of mold. The term "mildew" is often used generically to refer to mold that usually has flat growth. Both are fungi that need to be removed and can be used interchangeably in this case.
According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, if the mold patch is smaller than 10 square feet, you can attempt to remove it. Vinegar must have an acetic acid level of 4.0%−4.2% or higher to kill mold or mildew. Distilled white vinegar in the condiment aisle contains around 5% acetic acid and 95% water. Cleaning vinegar contains about 6% acetic acid. While vinegar will kill the mold, it is slow acting, and the discoloration and stains from the mold may remain and require additional scrubbing with another household cleaner.
Never mix bleach and vinegar when cleaning. Combined, they can create a potentially lethal chlorine gas with a pungent smell. Immediately leave the area, go outside, and breathe fresh air.
What to Consider Before Cleaning
Vinegar is effective on most mold and surfaces, but not all surfaces. Do not use vinegar to clean the following surfaces:
- Stone. Marble, granite, and limestone countertops and floors have sealants that get worn away with the acid in vinegar; the acid in vinegar can dissolve calcium carbonate in some stone surfaces leaving marks on the surface.
- Wood. Wooden flooring manufacturers warn that vinegar can harm the protective polyurethane finish.
- Electronic screens. Never use vinegar on touch screens; it can mess with a screen's anti-glare filter and touch responsiveness.
- Some metals. Refrain from using vinegar to clean aluminum, copper, and stainless steel.
- Porous surfaces. Vinegar is not the most effective mold remover for porous or absorbent surfaces, for example, ceiling tiles or carpets. It can be used for clothing but usually requires several washings as well as the sanitizing power of the sun to get the mold or mildew out of the fabric.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Rubber gloves
- N-95 mask
- Eye protection
- Nylon-bristled scrub brush
- Spray bottle
- Distilled white vinegar
- Cleaning vinegar
- Powdered oxygen bleach
How to Clean Using Vinegar
Distilled white or cleaning vinegar is a particularly effective, non-toxic product for cleaning mold from refrigerator interiors and gaskets, other kitchen appliances, and bathrooms.
Wear Protective Gear
Since many molds can cause allergic or toxic reactions, protective eye gear, an N-95 mask, and rubber gloves should be worn while cleaning moldy surfaces. It's a good idea to wear old clothing that can be tossed in the washer so that mold spores will not be transported to other home areas.
Ventilate the Area
Open doors and windows and turn on bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans to help ventilate the area before you begin cleaning.
Apply the Vinegar
Pour undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle and label it. Spray the moldy surface. Allow the vinegar to remain on the surface for at least one hour before moving to the next steps.
Rinse the Surface
Dip a sponge in clean water and wipe down the surface. Rinse the sponge frequently. For vertical surfaces, start at the top and work downward to catch drips.
For porous surfaces, wring the sponge, so it is just damp to prevent oversaturating the finish.
Inspect for Discoloration
If the mold has left grout or other finishes discolored, use oxygen-based bleach to remove the stains. Oxygen bleach will not kill mold spores but is very effective for removing stains.
Remove Discoloration With Oxygen Bleach
Mix one-half cup of powdered oxygen bleach in a bucket containing two quarts of warm water. Stir well to dissolve the powder. Apply the solution to the discolored areas with a sponge or nylon-bristled scrub brush (a brush is best for grout). Allow it to work for at least 30 minutes, then rinse with clean water.
Dry the Surface
Allow the freshly cleaned surfaces to air-dry.
How Often to Clean Away Mold With Vinegar
When you discover a small mold colony, immediately clean the area. Small colonies can explode into large colonies in just a few days. Any area with high humidity or possibly leaks should be cleaned and checked at least weekly for signs of mold. Keeping surfaces clean helps eliminate the fuel (body soil, crumbs, moisture) that mold needs to thrive.
When to Hire a Professional for Mold Removal
Smaller mold growth areas caught early can be removed with basic cleaning supplies and by following safety guidelines. Get mold removed professionally if the mold colony covers over 10 square feet (roughly a three-foot by three-foot patch). Hire a professional mold removal company to test and identify the type of mold present. Your local public health department can offer advice on mold testing and refer you to a mold remediation company.
Tips to Keep Mold From Forming in a Home
- Repair plumbing leaks promptly.
- Use a dehumidifier and HVAC systems to help reduce inside humidity levels.
- Install moisture barriers in crawl spaces and basements.
- Clean mold-prone areas frequently to keep mold growth in check.
Mold Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Mold Cleanup in Your Home. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Rogawansamy, Senthaamarai et al. An Evaluation Of Antifungal Agents For The Treatment Of Fungal Contamination In Indoor Air Environments. 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4483703/.
Mold Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Kuhn DM, Ghannoum MA. Indoor mold, toxigenic fungi, and stachybotrys chartarum : infectious disease perspective. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003;16(1):144-172. doi:10.1128/CMR.16.1.144-172.2003