Unpleasant and stubborn, mold and mildew are some of the most common household problems across the country. If you’re a homeowner or renter, chances are you’ve dealt with these fungal issues at some point or another. There’s a lot of debate on what products work best against mold, whether natural or chemical cleaners are more effective and what methods work best for removing these pesky infestations.
One of the most commonly debated mold solutions is vinegar. If you’re considering vinegar as your preferred cleaning method to deal with a mold infestation, this handy guide can teach you everything you need to know.
What Kills Mold and Mildew in Carpet?
Because mold and mildew are both forms of fungus, they need to be treated with a fungicide. There are plenty of chemical cleaners on the market that contain fungicides, but some natural remedies have fungicidal properties that can also get the job done. Thanks to its gentle yet effective nature, vinegar is one of the most commonly used natural cleaners on carpets and rugs. Paired with the fizzing power of baking soda, it can make quick work of smaller-scale mold colonies and mildew outbreaks alike. Along with this, other household mold removers include hydrogen peroxide, lemon, tea tree oil and other essential oils.
It’s also important to dehydrate mold when trying to kill it, as moisture is one of the key things it thrives on. Many fungicidal solutions involve water, so once a solution is applied, it is crucially important to thoroughly dry the carpet afterward so the dampness doesn’t encourage more mold growth. Fans and air conditioners can help dry out an area.
Does Vinegar Kill Mold?
Vinegar is mildly acidic — just acidic enough, in fact, to kill mold spores and smaller mold colonies. Distilled white vinegar is best for the task, as it’s able to kill over 80% of known mold types and may even help prevent future outbreaks. However, vinegar isn’t necessarily ideal for huge jobs or larger mold colonies, so it’s important to know when to get help from a professional. If your mold or mildew outbreak covers more than 20 square feet of surface area or has begun to rot away the surface it’s growing on, call your local mold remediation companies.
Both vinegar and bleach are capable of killing mold at the surface, but vinegar is often considered the better agent for the job. Bleach is a harsh chemical, and mold spores are living organisms; the mold can actually react to bleach by running from it, delving deeper into porous surfaces for cover. When this happens, the mold spores can continue growing once the bleach is gone. Vinegar, on the other hand, is the natural product of fermentation. Unlike bleach, it’s much more mild and doesn’t register to mold spores as a threat. Therefore, you can use vinegar to effectively kill mold on the surface before it retreats.
If not used correctly, vinegar can damage your carpets. Undiluted vinegar shouldn’t be used straight on carpets, as it may affect the fibers of the material. Furthermore, vinegar shouldn’t be used on especially delicate fabrics — silk, wool or other natural materials are very sensitive and may take heavy damage from vinegar.
For smaller mold patches, a solution of one part distilled white vinegar and one part cool water often can do the trick. If your mold outbreak is a little more severe, you can adjust this ratio by adding more vinegar and less water to make it stronger. Either way, try to dilute the vinegar with at least a little water to keep your carpets looking their best.
Using vinegar to clean mold out of carpets isn’t a difficult process, but it does take time. There are two ways to go about using a vinegar treatment: with or without baking soda. Vinegar alone is a milder solution with a slightly shorter process, so it’s more well suited to very small mold and mildew outbreaks. The addition of baking soda is preferred for more severe cases, as the combination of the two products creates a much stronger cleaning solution. Both are safe to use on most types of carpet.
When treating mildew or mold, there are a few tools you should have on hand. You should also take care to wear some personal protection, both from the mold and the acidity of your cleaner. For any vinegar treatment, be sure to use the following:
A shop vac and fan are optional but effective tools as well.
Once you’ve gathered the necessary equipment, it’s a good idea to start by testing a small part of the carpet to see how it reacts to a vinegar treatment. Simply choose a discreet section of the carpet and follow your chosen procedure according to the directions. Doing so gives you an idea of how vinegar will affect your carpet — whether it may damage the material, alter the color or texture, effectively remove odors or make any other significant changes. If you’re comfortable with the results, you can proceed to treat the mold outbreak.
Follow these steps if you are not using baking soda:
If you are using baking soda, go ahead with the first three steps above. Then, after you have allowed the vinegar to soak into the carpet, using cool water and baking soda to make a thick, spreadable paste. A good ratio is about 1/2 cup baking soda and 3 tablespoons of water.
With a spoon or wooden paint stirrer, generously apply this paste to your damp carpets. Allow it to soak for another hour. Then, when you are scrubbing the carpet clean, also blot with paper towels or use a shop vac to remove the paste.
The smell of vinegar should dissipate overnight. In fact, both of these cleaning methods should remove unwanted odors from your carpet. Once you’re finished with the cleaning process and are certain your mold outbreak has been taken care of, you can use your normal carpet cleaning methods to thoroughly clean and remove any excess solution from your carpets.
If you do find that your carpets are a little dry or not as soft as they were when you’re finished cleaning them, you can follow up with a homemade conditioning treatment. You have a variety of options to choose from, including:
Depending on how dry your carpets are after a vinegar treatment, you may want to consider using more than one conditioning treatment. Generally speaking, these methods are safe to combine as long as you’ve extracted as much vinegar (and mold) as possible from your carpets first. If you’re planning to go over your floors more than once, it’s a good idea to use wet methods together. For example, try doing a fabric softening treatment first, then using the steam cleaner while your carpets are still damp. If you’re going to blow dry and fluff, try to do this in one go. The more concentrated heat you use on the material back to back, the greater your risk of drying out the fabric.
It’s easy for fungus to spread, so you need to be vigilant in keeping the affected area sealed off and sanitizing or disposing of any cleaning equipment once you’re done. Depending on the intensity of your mold problem, you may need to repeat this procedure more than once to fully get rid of the mold. If you’ve performed a vinegar treatment multiple times and are still battling mold, it may be time to call in a professional.
When it comes to mold and mildew, the absolute best treatment is prevention. Take note of where and how the outbreak was growing before and throughout the cleaning process; check the surrounding area for insight as to what initially caused the outbreak, such as a leaky roof, holes in the wall or a damaged water line. If possible, consider having an inspector come out to help you assess the room and build a plan for making repairs as necessary.
In the future, try to keep problematic areas well ventilated and as dry as possible. Keep a fan circulating frequently throughout the day, seal up any exposed windows and patch up any areas of your home that may be leaking. Be sure to move furniture elsewhere in the room to check behind and underneath it, even if the mold outbreak isn’t connected to it — there may be smaller mold colonies growing in other places that you’ve missed, or you may find other signs of moisture or damage that could lead to another outbreak in the future. Establish a regular cleaning routine for rooms at risk of a mold outbreak to keep everything sanitary and aerated as well as possible.
Mold and mildew are stubborn, pesky household issues that can be difficult to get rid of, but vinegar can take care of more minor fungal problems if the right steps are taken. Whatever solution you choose, it’s important to understand that handling an outbreak requires time, patience and care.
Hiring a professional mold inspector will give you peace of mind. Being in a position where you are uncertain as to the toxicity of mold in your residence can be extremely stressful.
At moldremediation.io, we pride ourselves on being quick, thorough and effective in how we communicate the mold remediation tests that we perform for our homeowner clients.