Can you use vinegar to kill mold? 5 things experts want you to know

Need to kill mold? This simple ingredient could be the answer you've been searching for... These are the 5 things you should know

Can you use vinegar to kill mold?
(Image credit: Future / Getty Images / Studio LIFE/STYLE)

Finding mold in your home may be a common experience, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. Luckily, vinegar can be a highly successful mold eradicator under the right circumstances.

Having mold inside the home is more than just a nuisance. It can pose health risks as well. Breathing trouble, worsened asthma, and allergic reactions can all occur as a result of mold, which is why it’s so important get rid of mold promptly. 

If you find mold inside your home, it’s likely your first instinct will be to find a household cleaner to take care of the problem. Unlike knowing how to use bleach in the laundry or as a way to sanitize bathroom porcelain – mold is more complex. Our mold and cleaning experts have explained everything you need to know about cleaning with vinegar to remove mold and prevent further growth.

Can you use vinegar to kill mold?

When it comes to your home, you’re likely to find mold in or around in damp areas, and anywhere else that moisture may accumulate. Which is why it's essential to know how to clean mold in the shower, bath, sinks, laundry room, basement, kitchen, dishwashers and from windows, to prevent this issue becoming more serious. 

Even if you know how to clean a bathroom and cleaning a kitchen is top of your daily to-do list, mold may still be a challenge you need to deal with. That's because mold is often a symptom of a damp problem – which is also one of the causes of cracks in walls and is cited as one of the most undesirable home decor features that put home buyers off.

1. How vinegar works to kill mold

bathroom with freestanding black bath tub and windows and with white walls

(Image credit: Kat Alves)

'Vinegar is a versatile, eco-friendly, and effective solution for preventing and treating mold in the home,' says Michael Golubev, CEO of Mold Busters. 'Its natural properties make it a safer alternative to harsh chemicals, suitable for regular use in maintaining a mold-free environment.'

'Vinegar, especially white distilled vinegar or cleaning vinegar, serves as a natural and cost-effective solution for mold removal,' explains Michael Gottron, owner of Germicidal Maids.

This is because these kinds of vinegar contain roughly 5 to 8% acetic acid, which is known to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, according to the National Library of Medicine

'Its acetic acid content creates an inhospitable environment for mold growth, disrupting its structure,' says Michael Gottron. 'This also inhibits its return, making it a safe and eco-friendly option for maintaining a mold-free environment.'

2. What you will need

Modern farmhouse kitchen with glass fronted cabinets, farmhouse sink and creamy neutral colored paint

(Image credit: Future)
  • White distilled vinegar or cleaning vinegar
  • A spray bottle
  • A cleaning brush
  • A microfiber cloth
  •  N-95 or comparable face mask
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Tyvek Suit (or consider wearing old clothes that can be disposed of)
HARRIS Cleaning Vinegar | $23.50 from Amazon

HARRIS Cleaning Vinegar | $23.50 from Amazon

Vinegar has been used for centuries as a natural alternative to household cleaners. This best-seller has been created with Eucalyptus oil to help neutralize odors.

Hula Home Continuous Spray Bottle | Was $14.99, now $7.99 at Amazon 

Hula Home Continuous Spray Bottle | Was $14.99, now $7.99 at Amazon 

JSCARLIFE Deep Scrub Cleaning Brush | Was $10.99, now $9.99 at Amazon

JSCARLIFE Deep Scrub Cleaning Brush | Was $10.99, now $9.99 at Amazon

Haiou Chemical Resistant Nitrile Gloves | $9.99 at Amazon

Haiou Chemical Resistant Nitrile Gloves | $9.99 at Amazon
These industrial rubber gloves are designed for both men and women. They contain a latex rubber-free and odor-resistant flock lining to ensure a comfortable fit for big/small hands and sensitive skin.

3. How to use vinegar to kill mold

modern bathroom vanity and cabinetry by Studio LIFESTYLE

(Image credit: Studio LIFE/STYLE)

Killing mold with vinegar is a simple process with only a few key steps:

1. First, mix equal parts vinegar and water and transfer the vinegar into a spray bottle, then spray a generous amount of the solution directly onto the moldy area. 

2. 'Let the vinegar sit for at least 1 hour, allowing the vinegar to penetrate and kill the mold,' advises Hashi Mohamed, president of Ivy Cleans.

3. Afterward, scrub the area with a brush to remove any remaining mold residue. Then, rinse the surface with a clean damp cloth and let the area dry completely to prevent further mold growth. Immediately discard the cloth and brush you used to clean the area. 

If the mold and smell linger after this process, you may want to consider using cinnamon to prevent mold alongside your vinegar solution or bringing in the professionals. 

4. Pros of cleaning mold with vinegar

Laundry room

(Image credit: Kathleen Walsh Interiors)

Michael Golubev explains the benefits of using vinegar to banish mold:

Preventive use: Vinegar can be used as a preventive measure in areas prone to mold growth. Regularly spraying a vinegar solution in damp areas like bathroom ceilings and basements can help inhibit mold growth.

Air quality improvement: Regular use of vinegar in cleaning can improve indoor air quality by reducing mold spores. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with allergies or respiratory issues.

It's eco-friendly and safe: Vinegar is a safe, non-toxic alternative to chemical mold removers, making it an excellent choice for households with pets and children.

Combining with other natural ingredients: For enhanced mold-fighting power, vinegar can be combined with other natural ingredients like tea tree oil or hydrogen peroxide. However, always test on a small area first to ensure no damage to surfaces.

5. What not to do with vinegar

modern bathroom design with zellige tiles and marble

(Image credit: Emily Lauren Interiors / Photography Madeline Harper)

Avoid using it on certain surfaces: Vinegar is safe to use on most surfaces, but there are a few you may want to avoid. Soft surfaces like carpets, rugs, and window coverings aren’t effectively cleaned with vinegar. Similarly, stone surfaces and wood flooring can be negatively affected by vinegar as it can dull stones and break down the finish on the wood. 

Do not mix with bleach: Bleach and vinegar are two cleaning products you should never mix, as they can produce harmful chlorine gas when combined. 


When should you call a professional to deal with mold?

Some mold breakouts do require professional help. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states that if the moldy area is larger than 10 square feet, you should leave the cleaning to the experts. Additionally, the EPA suggests making sure the professionals you hire are well-versed in dealing with mold eradication and water damage to make sure the problem is completely taken care of.

'Remember that while vinegar can be effective for small, surface-level mold problems, it may not be suitable for more extensive mold infestations or mold infiltrating porous materials like drywall or insulation,' explains Hashi Mohamed, president at Ivy Cleans. 'In such cases, seeking professional mold remediation services is advisable to ensure thorough removal and prevent potential health risks.'

If the affected area is smaller than 10 square feet, it is highly likely you’ll be able to deal with the issue on your own.

Is vinegar or bleach better at killing mold? 

While it is possible to use bleach to kill mold, experts agree that vinegar is a much better option. Unlike bleach, vinegar can effectively kill the mold at the root, making it less likely to return. Vinegar is also less toxic than bleach, making it a better choice for household use.  

It should be noted that vinegar cannot kill every type of mold, according to a study from 2015. It is highly effective at getting rid of Penicillium chrysogenum, which is most commonly found in damp areas, but not Aspergillus fumigatus, which is typically found in plant matter and soil. While the former is most commonly found in homes, contact an expert if you have any doubts about the specific type of mold you’re dealing with.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past five years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including recipe articles, reviewing products, writing ‘how to’ and ‘when to’ articles. Lola now writes about everything from organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate student, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.

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