Mold growth is very common in homes, particularly in areas like bathrooms, basements, and laundry rooms where humidity is high or plumbing can leak. Depending on the type of mold and the extent it has spread, clean-up can be simple or very involved.
For extensive mold growth, it is best to 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. The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection recommends the professional removal of mold colonies that cover more than 10 square feet (roughly a three-foot by three-foot patch).
Smaller areas of mold growth that are caught early, can be removed with some basic cleaning supplies by following some safety guidelines. There are several biocides that will kill mold more quickly than vinegar, but distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar are less toxic to the environment and humans. It is important for the vinegar you use to have an acetic acid level of 4.0%−4.2% or higher. The distilled white vinegar in the condiment aisle contains around five percent acetic acid and 95 percent water. Cleaning vinegar contains around six percent 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 a household cleaner.
How Often to Clean Away Mold With Vinegar
When even a small colony of mold is discovered, the area should be cleaned immediately. Small colonies can explode into large colonies in just a few days. Any area with high humidity or with the possibility of leaks should be cleaned and checked at least weekly for signs of mold. Keeping surfaces clean helps eliminate the food (body soil, crumbs, moisture) that mold needs to thrive.
Equipment / Tools
- Rubber gloves
- N-95 mask
- Eye protection
- Nylon-bristled scrub brush
- Spray bottle
- Distilled white vinegar
- Cleaning vinegar
- Powdered oxygen bleach
Distilled white or cleaning vinegar can be used safely on most porous and non-porous surfaces. It is a particularly effective non-toxic product for cleaning mold from refrigerator interiors and gaskets and other kitchen appliances.
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 areas of the home.
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, you will need to use a solution of 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 and then rinse with clean water.
Dry the Surface
Allow the freshly cleaned surfaces to air-dry.
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 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