This study evaluated individual contributions of dissolving acids (acetic acid, lactic acid, and hydrochloric acid) or acid solubilized chitosan to the antibacterial activity against Listeria innocua and Escherichia coli as solutions and dried films. Solutions containing chitosan showed significantly (P < 0.05) different inhibitory activity (measured as percentage of inhibition (PI), in percent) against L. innocua and E. coli, compared to equivalent acid solutions. This increase was calculated as additional inhibition (AI, in percent), which could be as high as 65% in solutions containing 300-320 kDa chitosan depending on the acid type, bacterial species, and the chitosan form (α or β). Solutions containing 4-5 kDa chitosan had lower AI and showed much greater variability among the different chitosan forms, acid types, and bacterial species. Higher molecular weight (Mw) chitosan also showed significantly higher levels of adsorption to bacterial cells than that of lower Mw samples, suggesting that the observed increase in inhibition was the result of surface phenomena. The contribution of acids to the antibacterial activity of chitosan films was assessed by comparing non-rinsed and rinsed films (rinsed in the appropriate broth to remove residual acids and active fragments formed on the dried film). Rinsing β-chitosan films has reduced PI by as much as 28% compared with non-rinsed films, indicating that part of the antibacterial activity of chitosan films is due to the presence of soluble acid compounds and/or other active fragments. Overall, both acidulant and chitosan were found to contribute to the antibacterial activity of acid solubilized α- and β-chitosan, with the exact antibacterial activity of chitosan varying based on the solution and film properties, suggesting a complex interaction.