Posted on: March 17, 2020 at 8:49 pm
Last updated: September 5, 2020 at 11:16 am

Look at any homemade home cleaner recipe and you’ll likely see vinegar on the list of ingredients. It’s touted for its non-toxic, disinfecting effects, but many wonder if it really does the trick on touch surface areas in your bathroom and kitchen. Does vinegar kill mold and germs, or is using this home cleanser really a waste of time?

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There’s a reason Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used vinegar to fight infections and other health conditions. Vinegar was used for cleaning ulcerations, treating sores and soothing coughs.

Today, it serves as a safer alternative for home disinfecting and research indicates that it has some powerful antifungal and antibacterial effects.

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Does Vinegar Kill Mold?

To answer the question does vinegar kill mold, you have to look at what’s inside vinegar first. The volatile organic acid in vinegar is called acetic acid. This chemical compound has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties.

In addition to the acetic acid, other constituents in vinegar include mineral salts, vitamins, amino acids, polyphenolic compounds and nonvolatile organic acids.

Research published in American Society for Horticultural Science indicates that vinegar has antimicrobial effects on fungi in various applications. Vinegar vapor, for example, has been demonstrated to prevent the germination of fruit decay fungi, including Penicillium expansumMonilinia fructicolaBotrytis cinerea and Colletotrichum coccodes.

And a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that vinegar, with 4 percent acetic acid, had an inhibitory effect on the growth of P. chrysogenum, a fungus that’s commonly found in damp or water-damaged buildings.

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So does vinegar kill mold? These studies and anecdotal reports suggest that it does indeed fight fungal growth and mold.

Does Vinegar Kill Germs (and the Flu)?

Again, the vinegar compound acetic acid comes into play when discussing if white vinegar kills germs.

Scientific studies show that vinegar is effective in fighting microbes in foods, sometimes used to kill bacteria on meat, fruits and vegetables. When researchers in Japan tested the efficacy of vinegar on food-borne pathogenic bacteria, the growth of all strains were inhibited.

And a 2014 study published in American Society for Microbiology shows that acetic acid in vinegar is an effective, non-toxic mycobactericidal disinfectant that should also be active against most other bacteria. These findings indicate that acetic acid can kill stains of bacteria that are drug and commonly disinfectant resistant, and potentially very harmful.

Does vinegar kill flu germs? A 2010 study published in PLoS One found that diluted vinegar (with 4–8 percent acetic acid) provided a suitable means of disinfecting surfaces of influenza A virus.

Based on these report, vinegar for cleaning is an effective way to combat germs in your home and at work.

Editors Note: Please be aware that vinegar and other natural substances have not been shown to adequately disinfect surfaces against COVID-19 specifically.

Best Uses

Vinegar is a versatile, inexpensive, toxic-free and environmentally friendly home cleaner. Simply combining distilled vinegar with clean water is all you need to create a multi-surface home cleaner. Try the following ways to use vinegar for cleaning:

1. Clean laundry

Have you been wondering “does vinegar kill germs in laundry?” Well, distilled vinegar can actually remove residue on your clothes, stains and germs. It also helps to soften clothes.

2. Kill germs in kitchen

From the microwave and sink, to kitchen counters and floors — distilled vinegar and warm water can be used to cut through grime and bacteria in the kitchen.

Try this Homemade Oven Cleaner on your kitchen appliances. You can even add vinegar to your dishwasher to make them sparkling clean, or run your coffee machine filled with distilled vinegar to dissolve buildup and minerals.

3. Fight bathroom bacteria and buildup

Try this Homemade Bathroom Cleaner that’s made with apple cider vinegar, baking soda, liquid castile soap and antibacterial essential oils, including tea tree, lemon and orange.

This combination of germ-fighting ingredients makes for an excellent, all-natural cleaner, without the toxic effects of conventional bathroom products.

4. Natural floor cleaner

Mixing ½ cup of white distilled vinegar and half gallon of warm water makes for a toxic-free floor cleaner. Use it to mop tile floors throughout your home, especially where there’s buildup, like the kitchen, bathroom and entryway.

But do be careful with real-wood floors, as vinegar is acidic and may damage the wood.

5. Carpet deodorizer and stain removal

If you have a smelly or stained area on your carpet, perhaps from pet urine, wine, foods or water damage, combine equal parts distilled vinegar and water and saturate the area of concern. Then boost absorption by pressing down on the area with paper towels or a rag. Once it dries, vacuum the area.

Keep it mind, if it’s a colored carpet, blot a small section first to ensure that the colors won’t run.

6. Mineral build-up remover

You can use distilled vinegar on many machines or cleaning tools to remove calcium or mineral buildup, including steamers, sleep apnea machines, humidifiers, coffee machines, dishwashers, washing machines and mops.

7. Antibacterial spray

Try this Homemade Melaleuca Lemon Household Cleaner that’s made with antibacterial essential oils. It can be used on yoga mats, countertops, toilet bowls, shower walls and gym bags.

You can even use vinegar to clean computer and tablet screens. To make it even tougher on grease, grim and germs, add baking soda to the solution.

How Not to Use

There are many natural ingredients that are safe to mix with vinegar, but there are some that should be avoided.

Bleach and Vinegar

Vinegar should never ever be mixed with bleach. When bleach comes into contact like acidic products, like vinegar, some glass cleaners, dishwashing detergents and even toilet bowl cleaners, it can cause the release of chlorine gas.

Exposure to even small amounts of chlorine gas can cause adverse reactions like:

  • Burning, watery eyes
  • Ear, nose and throat irritation
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain and blistering (after contact with skin)

If you’re exposed to chlorine gas for a longer period of time, you may experience chest pain, severe breathing problems, vomiting, pneumonia and even death.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar

Although separately vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are safe, mixed together they can cause adverse effects. The combination of compounds may eye, nose, throat and skin irritations. Exposure to this combo may also lead to respiratory issues, so keep them separate.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

It’s safe to combine baking soda and vinegar in a cleaning solution that you’ll be using right away. But don’t store a solution containing both ingredients because it can actually become explosive.

Once you’re done using a tile cleaner with vinegar, water and baking soda, for example, dump what’s left over.

Risks and Side Effects

Vinegar is acidic, so it can be irritating when applied directly to the skin or some surface areas, like real wood. This is why it’s commonly recommended to dilute distilled vinegar with clean water.

As discussed, do not mix vinegar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide. If you mix it with baking soda, use the combination right away and discard the leftovers. You do not want to store a homemade spray containing both ingredients.

Final Thoughts

  • Vinegar is a staple household cleanser and has been used as a disinfectant for thousand of years. Still, many wonder does vinegar kill germs and mold?
  • Studies show that vinegar does indeed have antifungal and antibacterial properties. This is due to the presence of acetic acid.
  • When it comes to using vinegar for its disinfecting properties, it can be used on almost every surface of your home, from the kitchen counters and appliances, to the shower walls, sink, toilet and tile floors.
  • Keep in mind, though, that vinegar should never be mixed with bleach or hydrogen peroxide. And it may be too harsh for wood floors because of its acidic properties.
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Josh Axe
Doctor of Natural Medicine
Doctor of Natural Medicine at Exodus Health Center Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Dr. Axe is the author of Eat Dirt and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine , and he's also the founder of www.DrAxe.com , one of the world's top natural health sites that draws more than 11 million visitors each month.

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