Vinegar is useful for cooking, promoting good health, cleaning household stains and even killing stubborn weeds, but it also can kill toxic mold spores. If your home has become subject to strains of Stachybotrys chartarum--better known as black mold--you may consider vinegar as a means of neutralization.
Effects of Vinegar
Vinegar has the ability to kill up to 90 percent of mold with which it comes into contact, according to Good Housekeeping microbiologist Gina Marino. You can apply vinegar full strength to moldy surfaces, but avoid high-concentration vinegars, as these may damage certain household surfaces and even potentially harm your skin. Household distilled vinegar contains only 5 to 8 percent acetic acid concentration, which is safe for normal use.
Why It Works
Vinegar is an acidic liquid, and molds are highly sensitive to most acids, including citric acid, phosphoric acid, and of course the acetic acid found in vinegar. Vinegar also works as a powerful disinfectant, and has the ability to neutralize mold spores, which prevents the spores from breeding and emitting volatile compounds--the dangerous gases responsible for the musty odor and health effects.
Black Mold Colonies
Though vinegar can kill mold spores with great effectiveness, it may not be your best line of defense against large black mold colonies. Mold removal experts rely on very powerful disinfecting compounds, such as alcohols, peroxide, quaternary ammonium compounds, phenols and hypochlorites (bleach) for the removal of black mold. When dealing with black mold, you must ensure that you remove 100 percent of the spores in order to prevent new colonies from forming. If vinegar kills only 90 percent of spores, it is highly inefficient for defeating black mold colonies, since the remaining spores will just germinate again at a later time.
If you have a small area of black mold on a containable area, like a piece of furniture or a shower tile, you may attempt to remove it using vinegar as long as you take the proper precautions. Black mold is highly toxigenic, and therefore you must wear a protective mask before getting too close. Wear rubber gloves and contain the room in which the mold appears by sealing off entries and cracks with plastic sheeting, or place movable objects outdoors. Zap the mold as much as you can and use heat to dry the spores. Remove the spores using a strong vacuum cleaner. If you have a large black mold colony, call a mold specialist immediately. Without the proper training and equipment, you will not likely succeed in removing an entire colony.