What to Know About Cleaning Mold With Vinegar

Learn why white vinegar removes mold better than bleach.

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mold on tile Lee Rogers/Getty Images

Vinegar is a bold mold killer. According to ServiceMaster Restoration and Cleaning, the mild acid in vinegar kills about 82% of known molds and can help prevent future outbreaks.

You can clean small amounts of mold with vinegar yourself, but know when to call professionals. Besides a crisis, such as a flooded home, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises hiring professionals when the moldy patch covers about 10 square feet or larger.

In this video, learn more about mold remediation from out senior editor, Brad Holden.

Is Vinegar More Effective Than Bleach?

Vinegar truly is better than bleach at killing mold. The EPA does not recommend using bleach to kill or remove mold, except in special circumstances. In most cases, “a background level of mold spores will remain” after the application of bleach.

“Bleach only kills surface mold, not the membrane underneath,” according to ServiceMaster. “That means the mold will grow back. In fact, recognizing the bleach as a ‘threat,’ the mold will grow back even stronger.” When bleach is used on porous surfaces like drywall or wood, mold membranes will move deeper into the surface to avoid the chemical.

What Kind of Vinegar Should You Use?

First, save the apple cider vinegar for salad dressing. To clean mold, use regular white distilled vinegar, typically sold with five percent acidity. You can also use “cleaning vinegar” with its six percent acidity. Both are effective at killing mold. Generic brands are as effective as name brands. Cleaning vinegar is sold online and at many home improvement, discount and grocery stores.

How Long Does it Take for Vinegar to Kill Mold?

Depending on the amount of mold, let the vinegar sit on the mold at least 60 minutes before wiping or scrubbing.

How Do You Use Vinegar to Clean Mold?

To safely and effectively clean a small area of mold, ServiceMaster advises the following:

  1. Add full-strength white distilled vinegar to a spray bottle and spray it on the mold.
  2. Let it sit for at least an hour before wiping away mold.
  3. If you need follow-up scrubbing, combine one teaspoon baking soda with two cups of water. Pour it into a spray bottle, shake and spray it onto the mold. Scrub with a brush or scouring pad.
  4. Rinse with warm water, then spray again with the vinegar and let it dry.

To protect yourself from mold and its spores, wear gloves, a mask and goggles. Gloves also prevent any skin irritation from the vinegar.

Where Not to Use Vinegar to Kill Mold

Because of vinegar’s acidity, it can damage some surfaces. We don’t recommended using vinegar on natural stone, waxed wood, cast iron or aluminum.