Mold is never a welcome visitor in your home. However, it shows up from time to time in showers, corners, and on bathroom ceilings. You can easily use vinegar to remove most types of mold that you see in your bathrooms.
Our step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know about removing mold with natural vinegar without any chemicals that will leach off dangerous fumes long after the job is done.
Gather Protective Gear
You do need minimum protective gear while working with areas of mold. The EPA recommends at least gloves, goggles, and a respirator. You may want to take other protective measures such as disposable overalls if you find a large area of mold.
Gloves are necessary when dealing with all varieties of mold. If possible, the gloves should be disposable. If that is not possible, plastic dishwashing gloves are a great option as they will not let the mold get on your skin, and you can sanitize them. Do not use gardening gloves.
Goggles are also necessary when you are cleaning mold—with or without vinegar. You do not want either the vinegar or the mold spores to get in your eyes while you work, as either could act as an irritant. Remember, you should choose goggles rated to keep out dust and other small particles.
An N-95 protects your lungs while you work near the mold. These masks stop most of the particulates provided you wear them correctly over your nose and mouth. You may also choose a respirator with a HEPA filter while you work.
In general, short exposure to mold does not present a danger to healthy people. However, you may not know the particular strain of mold present or how long you have been exposed if you have just noticed the mold problem. Therefore, it’s best for you to take precautions.
Choose the Right Vinegar
Plain white distilled vinegar does well against mold, and you likely already have it in your kitchen. This vinegar has about 5% acidity (amazon link), which is plenty to kill the mold and any live spores. However, it must come in contact with the mold directly.
You can also use cleaning vinegar, which has about 6% acidity. While you may not have this one in your home, it is commercially available online and from most grocery stores. The slight increase in acidity makes it a bit more effective against the mold strains that do respond to vinegar.
Generally, other varieties of vinegar are not effective at removing mold. Using apple cider vinegar or infused vinegar does not help you kill molds since they have different compositions from plain distilled vinegar.
Apply the Vinegar to the Bathroom Ceiling
If you are concerned about whether the vinegar will discolor your ceiling, ensure you do a spot test in a non-obvious area before applying. Some reactions do take a little time, so leave the vinegar on for at least half an hour as part of the test.
To apply the vinegar, you will need a good spray bottle and a way to reach the bathroom ceiling. Ideally, you should use an adjustable spray bottle so that you can better spray the area with vinegar.
Do not dilute the vinegar when you place it in the spray bottle. Adding water to the vinegar reduces its effectiveness against mold and does nothing to make it spray better. Adding water also does not change the effect on the ceiling finish that you may be worried about.
While spraying the vinegar, it’s best to be generous with the amounts. You do not want a patch of mold to escape, as it will simply continue to grow, and spread to areas that were successfully cleared. This process is vital on popcorn ceilings, as there are many small areas where mold can hide.
Wait for the Vinegar to Work
While you want the mold gone as soon as possible, you must wait after applying the vinegar. The minimum time is an hour, but two to three hours work better. During this time, you may want to leave the ventilation system on or open a window as the vinegar smell may be overpowering.
This waiting period allows the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties in the vinegar to work. The acid in vinegar also affects the mold on your bathroom ceiling. It creates a hostile local environment for the mold, including any mold that you cannot see.
An exhaust fan removes the excess moisture from the bathroom and makes it impossible for mold to come back.
Scrub the Bathroom Ceiling
You can either put warm water on a rag or in a spray bottle for this process. First, you want to get the entire area wet so that you can remove the dead mold from your bathroom ceiling more easily. Remember to wear protective equipment for this step.
After you wet the area down, you should be able to take a clean rag to remove the dead mold and moisture from the water. You will want to be careful if you have any variation in the surface of your ceiling, as it is easy to miss spots.
You may find some mold is not easily removable. You can scrub using a bristled brush that you can later sanitize as well. However, you must be careful with how much pressure you apply with a brush, as these can damage the surface of your bathroom ceiling.
Dry the Bathroom Ceiling Area
Drying the treated area is essential as removing the moisture denies any lingering mold the chance to grow again. While the cloth you used for cleaning is a good start, it will not remove all of the moisture that you needed to kill the mold on the bathroom ceiling.
Ventilating the room is an excellent choice for removing excess moisture. If the bathroom has a window, leaving it open for a few hours will dry everything out. If there is no window available, turning on the exhaust fan can help dry the bathroom ceiling.
Other options include fans and leaf blowers aimed at the area where the mold was. These devices increase the air circulation and help move the moisture away from the site so it can disperse without settling in the same spot.
Preventing Mold Regrowth at Home
Mold grows because moisture collects and creates a suitable environment for mold spores. Mold growth is specific to the area where the spores are, not your general climate. That’s why even people who live in deserts can find mold growing on their bathroom ceilings.
In this case the cause is excess moisture.
The best way to prevent mold growth on any surface is to remove the moisture that enables that growth.
The exhaust fan is the easiest and most effective way to remove moisture from the bathroom, and it should turned on while bathing facilities are in use. If your bathroom has an exhaust fan installed and mold still thrives, take a look at the following reasons why it could be happening:
- The bathroom fan is turned off too soon. The best way to combat this is to install a humidity-controlled bathroom fan.
- The bathroom fan is ductless (not really an exhaust fan)
- The exhaust fan is undersized
- Here is an exhaustive article about why a bathroom fan is not removing moisture
You can also preventatively spray vinegar on known trouble spots within your home and allow it to dry. These treatments kill the invisible mold spores before they become a significant problem for you.
Understanding Which Molds Vinegar Works On
Vinegar is only an effective treatment on about 82% of mold species, which means the mold on your bathroom ceiling may be resistant. You can still try a vinegar treatment first and then assess your options if it fails.
The specific mechanisms behind why most molds respond to vinegar and some don’t is not widely studied.
A 2015 study of different mold treatments showed how vinegar killed one mold but not another from a different family.
Your best course of action is learning about typical mold families in your area if you have a recurring mold problem. By learning this information, you can have a go-to solution when mold appears on your bathroom ceiling.
Alternatives to Vinegar for Combatting Mold
Sometimes, vinegar is not the ideal solution for mold on a specific surface. For example, vinegar will etch certain stones and ruin their look if it drips on them.
Therefore, you may wish to use an alternative to protect the surface of bathroom counters if the mold is above them.
Depending on the surface the mold is growing on, you may want to try bleach, baking soda, borax, salt, or hydrogen peroxide. These all have different uses, so make sure you do your research to find the best possibility for your situation.
Remember, never mix bleach and vinegar as the resulting vapor can kill you.
Mold is only one of the many causes of yellow/brown discoloration on bathroom ceilings, but most other causes can eventually lead to the growth of mold because most involve excess water.