Several solutions, such as bleach, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide, can kill mold. However, bleach and ammonia can cause skin irritation and release fumes that are too strong for some people. Neither hydrogen peroxide nor vinegar give off strong fumes or toxic residue, but does vinegar work?
Vinegar has been shown to kill certain types of household mold. Its effectiveness depends on the type of mold, the size of the growth area and the type of surface on which it grows.
Read on to find out what types of mildew vinegar can kill, what types of surfaces you can use it on, steps to remove mildew, and how you can stay safe while doing it. This article also explains when it’s time to consider professional help and some mold prevention tips.
Household vinegar usually contains about 5-8% acetic acid. It is a moderately strong acid with a pH of around 2.5, which means it can stop the growth of many fungi and bacteria. However, it has its limits.
In a 2015 study, researchers took five agents — including vinegar — that claimed to kill mold and put them to the test. They were looking to see if these agents could kill two common types of household mold: Aspergillus fumigatus and Penicillium chrysogenum.
They discovered that vinegar could inhibit the growth of P.chrysogenumbut it did not affect the other fungus.
If you try vinegar on a mold problem and you don’t get the results you want, try using hydrogen peroxide instead. However, never mix vinegar with hydrogen peroxide or bleach with another cleaning agent, as the combinations can create toxic fumes.
Learn more about destroying mold and mildew with hydrogen peroxide.
The type of surface matters
The type of surface the mold grows on makes a difference when it comes to cleaning and killing it. Both types of surfaces are porous and hard, and there are different approaches to cleaning them.
The porous material has small holes in which mold can grow, making it difficult to kill it completely. For this reason, porous household materials that mold will usually need to be removed and replaced.
Here are some examples of porous household materials:
- ceiling tiles
- grout or caulking, such as around bathtubs or showers
- certain types of plastic
- untreated wood
If you have a sentimental or expensive item made of a porous material that has been molded, it is worth calling an expert to see if they can clean and restore it.
Hard surfaces are impermeable materials that are generally easier to clean than porous surfaces. Vinegar is safe to use on most hard surfaces.
Here are some examples of hard surfaces:
- stainless steel
- hard plastic
- varnished wood
Since vinegar is an acid, it can corrode certain metals, including aluminum and copper.
Also, be careful when using vinegar to clean mold from hardwood floors. You will need to leave the vinegar on the moldy area for an hour. This can dissolve the finish. For added safety, consult the flooring manufacturer for instructions.
Steps to remove mold with vinegar
The first step in mold remediation is to correct the cause of the mold growth. This is usually a water problem or a leak. If you don’t fix the cause, the mold will likely return.
Before cleaning, make sure you have the proper safety equipment to avoid exposure to spores. See more details in the “Safety First” section below.
You will need:
- undiluted white vinegar containing 5% acetic acid
- a vaporizer
- a cleaning cloth
- a soft brush
- appropriate safety equipment
Follow these steps:
- Open a window for ventilation.
- Pour the vinegar into a spray bottle.
- Generously spray the vinegar on the moldy area and let it sit for an hour.
- Put on your protective mask, gloves and goggles.
- Using your soft brush, scrub the surface until the mildew comes off.
- Dry the area completely with the cloth. Throw away the rag and the brush.
- Repeat this process in a few days to ensure a mold-free environment.
Mold releases spores into the air that have the potential to cause health problems. When cleaning a moldy area, you should wear proper protection to protect your skin, eyes and lungs.
Be sure to wear:
- rubber gloves that extend to your forearm
- an N95 mask
- glasses without ventilation holes on the sides
Learn more about how mold can affect your respiratory system.
When to Seek Professional Help
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that if the mold area is larger than 10 square feet, you should call a professional for help. Make sure the contractor or professional has experience in mold cleanup and ask if they follow EPA guidelines.
If you think your HVAC system is moldy, don’t run it. Call a professional for help.
If the water damage is from sewer leaks or other contaminated water, you should also seek professional help.
If you have any health issues that you believe are related to mold, contact your doctor before beginning the cleanup process.
The best way to prevent mold growth is to control the level of humidity in your home. Always fix plumbing problems as soon as you discover them.
Make sure areas with high humidity, such as bathrooms, have good ventilation. Turn on the exhaust fan or open a window.
Dehumidifiers and air conditioners can help reduce indoor humidity. Try to keep the humidity in your home between 30% and 50%.
Also, clean potential mold areas frequently to avoid a breeding ground for mold.
Also check your basement. This area may be damp and mildew may grow on stored papers and fabrics. Try running a dehumidifier in the basement to control humidity.
Mold in your home poses certain health risks. If you find a mold problem in your home, chances are there is too much water in one area. First, correct the water or moisture problem. Next, address the problem of mold.
Vinegar is a safe household cleaner that can kill some types of household mold. Put on your safety gear, spray the vinegar directly on the mold, let it sit for an hour, scrub it off, and wipe the area.
Continuing to clean areas of the house that are prone to mold, such as showers and window sills, can help prevent mold growth.
In cases where the area of mold growth is significant, you may need to hire a professional to help you.