Best Way to Kill Mold in a Wine Cooler

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Mold is everywhere. You probably don’t notice because most of it is free-floating, microscopic spores. They’re released into the air and float around until they find a surface they can latch onto and start to grow. When they get into your wine cooler, they can cause all sorts of problems. It can rot your wine labels and wine cork and cause some major damage to your collection. If you’ve found it, you want to get rid of it. Here are some of the best ways to kill mold in a wine cooler.

Before You Kill the Mold in a Wine Cooler

Before you kill the mold in your wine cooler, there are a few things you need to do first. Remove the wine from your cooler and store it safely someplace cool and dark. Avoid kitchens. Between the stove, oven, and dishwasher, they’re often the warmest room in your house. Garages are generally a bad choice as well, since they’re normally uninsulated and temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit. Basements are good, or a closet. Lay your wine horizontally on the ground, so the wine is in contact with the cork, and make sure it’s out of direct sunlight.

Since you’ll have to leave your wine cooler open in order to work on it, turn it off before you start cleaning so you don’t end up paying for a lot of wasted electricity. Compressor units in particular can run up a hefty bill if they’re left open for too long.

Bleach

Best Way to Kill Mold in a Wine Cooler
Bleach is a harsh chemical that works best on hard, non-porous surfaces such as metal, glass, and plastic, but you’ll want to avoid it if your cooler has wooden racks, like the ones you’d find in the NewAir AWR-460 Wine Cooler. Bleach’s ionic structure prevents it from penetrating the surface of porous structures like wood. On wooden structures, mold sends roots down below the surface and it you don’t kill the roots, the mold will resurface.

Before you start cleaning with bleach, there are a few precautions you should take. Bleach is corrosive, even to your lungs, eyes, and skin, so always use it an area that’s well-ventilated. Gloves are also recommended, to protect your hands. Never use concentrated bleach. Dilute it. The ratio should be one part bleach for every 10 parts water, or about one cup of bleach per gallon of water.

How to Kill Mold with Bleach

Pour the bleach solution into a spray bottle and spray it on the mold, or apply it directly with a sponge or rag. Once the mold’s been saturated, it should be easy to wipe away. Make sure you sanitize all the surfaces in your wine cooler, not just the infected areas. You want to make sure you eliminate any stray mold spores clinging to the sides, roof, door, or shelves. Once you’re done, take some clean water and wash away any bleach residue left inside. Do it twice if you have to, until the bleach smell is gone entirely. Lingering odors are bad for your wine. They can seep in through the cork and ruin your wine. Once you’ve finished, turn your wine cooler back on and let it return to an appropriate storage temperature (45°-55°F) before you put the wine back inside.

Ammonia

The Best Way to Kill Mold in a Wine CoolerAmmonia is another harsh cleanser that can’t penetrate hard, porous substances, so it works best on wine coolers with components made from glass, steel, plastic, and chrome. Ammonia is a common, household cleaner that can be purchased at any supermarket or hardware store. Ammonia kills mold very well, but it also produces toxic fumes and is a skin and eye irritant. Most of the ammonia available for household purchase has been diluted to 5-10 percent concentrations, so it’s safe to use for most people but may still cause illness and discomfort in sensitive individuals. Only use it in a well-ventilated area, always use rubber gloves, and never touch your eyes until you’ve finished working with it. If it still bothers you, consider wearing goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself even further.

How to Kill Mold with Ammonia

Mix the ammonia with water. The ratio should be 50/50. Pour the solution into a spray bottle or apply it directly with a rag or sponge. Coat all of the infected surfaces in your wine cooler: walls, roof, door, shelves, and bottom. Wait 5-10 minutes for the solution to kill the mold, then wipe it away with a clean rag or towel. You may also want to have a scrub brush on hand to loosen up and eliminate any tough spots. Once the mold has been cleaned away, wash your cooler down with fresh water until there is no residual smell. Some baking soda or borax will help eliminate stubborn odors. Once the odor has been cleared away, turn your cooler back on and let it reach 45°-55°F before you put your wine bottles back inside.

Borax

Best Way to Kill Mold in a Wine CoolerBorax is a white, crystalline powder commonly found in toilet, drain, and tile cleaners. It doesn’t emit any harsh chemicals or fumes, so it’s a great choice for closed rooms with poor ventilation. When it’s applied to mold, Borax destroys the pH balance it needs in order to grow. Borax will also penetrate wood, so it’s a good choice for all types of wine coolers.

How to Kill Mold with Borax

Borax is toxic if swallowed and is also a mild skin irritant, so wear gloves and don’t wipe your eyes while you’re working with it. Mix it in water before you use it. The ratio is the same as bleach, one part borax for ten parts water, or about one cup per gallon. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it over the mold or apply it directly with a sponge or brush. Scrub the infected area thoroughly and wipe away any mold residue. You don’t want to leave anything behind that might come back and reinfect your cooler. If you have wooden shelves, apply a light coating over them. You want to make sure all the mold is removed, but you don’t want to use too much water or you might encourage more mold growth later on.

Once the mold has been removed, wipe down the interior of the cooler with some fresh water. Break up any major concentrations of borax, but don’t worry about getting all of it. Leaving a slight residue on the surface of your cooler will prevent the mold from growing back, and since borax absorbs odor molecules, it won’t have any effect on your wine.

Vinegar

Best Way to Kill Mold in a Wine CoolerVinegar is a mild acid that kills approximately 82 percent of mold spores. It’s not as effective as bleach or Borax, but a good choice in a pinch and it doesn’t give off any toxic fumes. Like bleach, vinegar is best in wine coolers without any wooden shelves because it can get absorbed by the wood and leave lingering odors behind that can affect the taste and aroma of your wine.

How to Kill Mold with Vinegar

White distilled vinegar kills mold best. Pour some into a spray bottle and spray it over the mold or apply it onto the mold directly with a rag. Make sure you get all the surfaces inside the cooler, including the shelves. Then let it sit for a least an hour to give the vinegar time to kill the mold, then take some clean water and wipe down the interior of the wine cooler. Even if you don’t have any wood shelves, you’ll probably find a lingering vinegar smell on the plastic and metal. Don’t worry. The smell will dissipate over a few hours. When it does, reactivate your cooler and put your wine back inside when it reaches 45°-55°F.

How to Kill Mold with Vinegar and Borax

Mixing cleaning chemicals is normally a bad idea. When bleach and ammonia are mixed together, for instance, they create a dangerous toxic gas. Vinegar and borax are an exception. When they’re combined, it actually increases their cleaning power. You get the benefits of both cleaners without compromising the power of either. Mix a half cup of vinegar and a quarter of borax together in a quart of water. Then spray the mixture over your cooler or apply it directly to the mold. Let it sit for an hours, then wipe it way and clean the interior of your wine cooler with clean water. Once the vinegar smell dissipates, reactivate your wine cooler and replace your wine once temperatures get back down to 45°-55°F.

Baking Soda

The Best Way to Kill Mold in a Wine CoolerBaking soda is a great alternative to bleach or ammonia. It’s safe to use and easy to procure, but takes a little more work to kill mold than the other chemicals on this list.

How to Kill Mold with Baking Soda

Create a solution of 50 percent baking soda and 50 percent water. It will form a paste that you will spread over the interior of your wine cooler. Wait for it to dry and then scrub it away with a stiff brush. Then mix 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda with a cup of water and clean the infected areas again. You can add the solution to a spray bottle, but it has a tendency to clog the nozzle. Wait for it to dry and then clean it away again. Baking soda absorbs odors, so leaving a thin layer behind won’t harm your wine.

Why Does Mold Grow In Wine Coolers?

Once a mold spore latches onto a surface, it requires four things in order to grow: water, food, darkness, and a stable temperature. Most of these are already present in your wine cooler, helping to keep your wine safe.

Wine Conditions Mold
45°-55° Keeps Wine From Spoiling Temperature Grows Best at 40°-100°F
UV Light Breaks Down Chemical Bonds in Wine Darkness UV Light Breaks Down Cellular Bonds in Mold
Humidity Keeps Wine Corks Tightly Sealed Humidity Humidity Allows Mold Spores to Spread and Multiply
Corks Are Made of Wood. Labels Are Made From Cellulose Food Mold Decomposes Organic Material Such as Wood and Cellulose

Mold spores enter your wine cooler when you open the door to put in a new bottle or pull out an old one. They’re most often found on wine corks – the fumes seeping through it and the cellulose are a potent food source – but if the humidity is right, they can latch onto the plastic sides and metal shelves as well and start growing. If you regularly find mold in your wine cooler, the most likely reason is high humidity. To soak up excess moisture, put some silica beads, baking soda, or a mesh bag of white chalk in your wine cooler. If you’ve killed all the mold in your wine cooler and it is still coming back, try switching cleaners. The one you’re using is probably not doing a good job at attacking the roots.

Air & Water Resource Center

 

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