Using bleach to kill mold – expert advice you need to know before cleaning

The powerful liquid comes with caution – here's what you need to remember before tackling mold in your home

Bottle of bleach on a neutral toned background
(Image credit: GettyImages)

You would be forgiven for using bleach to kill mold – the unwanted fungus that inevitably requires a mighty solution. However, before you reach for this powerful liquid, it's vital to know that the process comes with a warning. 

Unlike knowing how to use bleach in laundry or as a way to sanitize bathroom porcelain – mold is more complex. Both bleach and mold can be extremely dangerous – posing a threat to you and your pets when mishandled. So, if you're thinking about using bleach to kill mold, you may consider safer cleaning tips first. 

Do the experts recommend using bleach to kill mold?

While bleach is undeniably powerful, the experts urge you to avoid turning to the substance to solve your mold problem.

'Bleach is a chlorine-based corrosive substance that is poisonous if it is inhaled, swallowed, or comes into contact with your skin in certain amounts,' warns  Marilee Nelson, the Chemical Expert and Environment Consultant and Co-Founder of Branch Basics

Marilee explains that leach fumes have been shown to immediately irritate the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, which could cause problems over time.' Not only is bleach harmful to you, but it doesn't do the trick! According to OSHA and the EPA, bleach only kills surface mold leaving the root problem behind,' she says. 

Bottle of bleach on a neutral toned background

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Justin Carpenter, the founder of Modern Maids, similarly urges caution when using bleach, especially when tackling fungus. 'When it comes to mold, we always err on the side of caution. It can be extremely dangerous and cause one to get severely sick,' he says. 

Justin explains that cleaners do use bleach on showers, bathtubs, and tile surfaces (which is useful to know if you're looking for how to get rid of shower curtain mold and mildew). However, the process is regulated and well-timed to ensure it is done safely. 

'We instruct our cleaners to soak the molded areas with bleach, and per the instructions, let it sit for at least 15 minutes before coming back and wiping or scrubbing it away,' he says.

'The soaking swell time is the most important aspect of cleaning the bleach because it lets the chemicals activate and kill the mold so that it does not continue to spread.' However, the cleaners will not tackle other moldy areas with bleach because of liability concerns.   

Is bleach or vinegar better to kill mold?

Yes, cleaning with vinegar is a much better solution when faced with mold. This liquid tackles the root of the mold (the membrane), meaning it is not likely to regrow after cleaning. It is also notably less toxic than bleach, so it is safer to use around your home. 

'Vinegar does a better job. I recommend using white vinegar [such as this one on Amazon] to kill mold, so you get to the root cause, the membrane, and not only eliminate it by the surface,' says cleaning expert Steve Elliott, the Franchise Owner of Restoration 1 Minnetonka. He recommends letting the vinegar sit for at least an hour before wiping it clean.

Bottle of bleach on a neutral toned background

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Why you shouldn't use bleach on mold?

As the experts explain, using bleach to kill mold will not eliminate the problem beyond the surface – so it's better to go to the root of the surface. However, the biggest problem with bleach is its threat to you and those in your household. 

'When it comes to cleaning with bleach, inhalation is of primary concern. Bleach fumes have been shown to immediately irritate the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and mouth and deteriorate your esophagus, lungs, and respiratory system over time,' Marilee cautions. 

Therefore, if you're looking for how to clean a bathroom, it is better to opt for the white vinegar solution or call in a professional (if the mold is particularly problematic). And if you do decide to use bleach, always tread with caution. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.