Does Alcohol Kill Mold? Isopropyl Alcohol or Vodka?

Most households have access to either isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or vodka. IPA is widely used as a disinfectant in hospitals, clean rooms, pharmaceutics, and electronics manufacturing. Its disinfection properties make it a worthwhile consideration for mold removal.

While alcohol can be used to kill surface mold, it’s not effective against fungal spores. Any type of alcohol can work too, including IPA, denatured alcohol, and vodka. Essentially, a higher level of purity results in rapid antimicrobial responses against fungi (mold) and bacteria.

However, surface mold or mycelium growth is an indication of an underlying problem. In order for mold to grow it needs oxygen, a carbon-based nutrient source, and moisture. While isopropyl alcohol may disinfect and kill surface mold, it is not sporicidal.

What is Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)?

Isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol or IPA is one of the most widely used disinfectants. It’s available in different concentrations, purity grades, and alcohol types. It is colorless, flammable, and emits a strong odor.

IPA is also multipurpose and is used in a variety of industries.

cleaning agents sink

Since isopropyl alcohol is very antimicrobial against bacteria, it’s commonly used as an antiseptic. It’s used as a household solvent to disinfect surfaces and dissolve oils and residue. IPA also doesn’t leave streaks when used on a surface making it useful in the cleaning of sensitive electronic equipment.

However, in terms of fungi and mold, it’s also widely used as a surface disinfectant. It’s antimicrobial and is highly volatile in that it evaporates from a surface quickly. Meaning it can disinfect surface mold without penetrating the material or remaining suspended.

Purity Levels of IPA

There are a number of purity levels available for isopropyl alcohol. They range in their ratios, however, 60 to 90% alcohol to 10 – 40% purified water are the most common.

Purity level is important to discuss because most people believe that the higher the concentration of something, the better it is. In the case of isopropyl alcohol, higher concentrations of alcohol don’t result in improved fungicidal properties. However, lower alcohol concentrations (below 50%) result in a sharp decrease in efficacy.

Another reason why higher alcohol concentrations aren’t recommended is because water plays an important role in inhibiting microbial growth. The water works to denature the cell membranes and the alcohol works to penetrate the cell wall and in turn, the entire cell. This process results in the death of the microorganism.

As we noted above, IPA has a high volatility and can evaporate quickly. The added water content also helps to suspend the solution and slow evaporation down.

For mold removal, a purity level of 70% isopropyl alcohol is recommended. Higher concentrations can evaporate too quickly to be effective, especially if you need to scrub the surface.

disinfectant spray hand

Does Isopropyl Alcohol Have Sporicidal Attributes?

Mold reproduces asexually through spores. Mold spores are around you at all times and require oxygen, moisture, and a nutrient source to grow. Once a mold spore reaches a surface with those characteristics, it will germinate and reproduce and form a visible mycelium.

It’s important to understand that alcohols like IPA and vodka do not have sporicidal attributes. Meaning, they can kill the visible surface mold, but they cannot kill the fungal spores. These spores can also remain dormant for years.

Simply put, IPA is a disinfectant, and does not possess the necessary sterilization qualities to kill mold spores.

What Surfaces Can You Use IPA on?

Isopropyl alcohol can be used safely on both porous and non-porous surfaces because it evaporates quickly. As detailed above, the higher the purity, the faster it evaporates.

While this makes it a multi-surface disinfectant, it also lacks the ability to penetrate porous surfaces and stop mold at the source of the problem. While you’ll be able to remove the surface mold, you won’t be able to remove mold that’s embedded in a material.

Remember, mold requires a carbon containing food source, moisture, and oxygen. After cleaning the affected surface, your goal should be to eliminate humidity and moisture as you can’t remove oxygen or the structural surface it’s feeding on.

How to Use IPA to Kill Mold

In terms of materials, you will need:

  • Gloves
  • Spray bottle
  • Hard bristled brush/Sponge
  • Dish Towel
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol
    • Reference the purity section above to understand why.
  1. The first step is to remove the surface mold. Use your hard-bristled brush or sponge to wipe it away.
  2. Pour the 70% IPA into the spray bottle. Since the solution is already diluted, you do not have to further dilute it with water. As we noted above, concentrations lower than 50% alcohol negatively impact its effectiveness.
  3. Spray the affected area and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Using a damp dish towel, wipe away the remaining mold spores.
  5. Do a final pass of spraying the surface and wiping away with a new dish towel.

How to Use Vodka to Kill Mold

When using vodka to kill mold, you should use a “bottom shelf” variety. This is because they’re distilled fewer times and will contain more congeners like acetaldehyde which is toxic to fungi.

vodka bottle sand

In terms of materials you will need:

  • Gloves
  • Vodka
  • Hard-bristled brush/Sponge
  • Dish Towel
  • Spray bottle
  1. Pour the vodka into the spray bottle.
  2. Spray the affected area and allow it to stand for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Spray the affected area again and use your hard-bristled brush or sponge to agitate the surface mold.
  4. Use a damp dish towel to wipe away the surface mold and mold spores.
  5. Do a final pass of spraying the surface and wiping away with a new dish towel.

Final Thoughts

Almost every household has some form of alcohol making it a popular option when it comes to killing mold. However, as we’ve outlined above, while alcohol works well as a surface level disinfectant, it lacks sporicidal attributes that render mold spores sterile.

Moreover, ammonia may also be used to effectively remove mold that can potentially cause health problems. But like any other disinfectant solution, it must be used with caution. See these interesting and crucial details about using ammonia to remove mold.

If you find yourself cleaning a mold-barren surface often, it’s indicative of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

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