Does Vinegar Kill Mold? Your Guide to Effective, Natural Ways to Tackle Mold

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated September 30, 2022
white kitchen with black countertop
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Highlights

  • Mold grows from spores that are naturally present in indoor and outdoor air.

  • Porous surfaces such as furniture and carpeting aren’t salvageable after mold.

  • Vinegar, tea tree oil, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide can all kill mold, depending on the surface.

  • Call in professional mold remediation services if mold covers a large area.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

From your carpet to your coffee maker, there are tons of places you can clean with vinegar around the house—but does vinegar kill mold, too? The answer is yes, although this depends on the type of surface the mold is growing on. It’s also not your only option if you’re trying to avoid using harsh chemicals to take care of your mold problem. Here are our top picks for homemade and natural mold killers. 

What Is Mold and Why Is It a Problem?

Mold is a fungus that grows from spores that are naturally present in both indoor and outdoor air. Once they find a damp or wet surface, they land on it and begin to grow, colonizing into a visible substance in a matter of weeks. The spores digest whatever they’re growing on, so it’s important to get rid of the mold before it causes lasting damage.

Aside from its damaging properties and grotesque appearance, mold can also make you sick and aggravate allergy symptoms. According to the EPA, indoor mold growth can pose these health risks:

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Asthma attacks

  • Skin rashes

  • Runny nose

  • Red eyes 

What Kills Mold?

woman with spray bottle containing vinegar
Photo: PeopleImages / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Killing mold involves more than just scrubbing the spores away. To truly eradicate it, you need a substance like vinegar to kill mold spores. These types of products have natural acidity, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties that can kill mold before you wash it away.

When going the DIY route for mold removal, be sure to take the proper safety precautions. The CDC recommends wearing rubber boots, rubber gloves, and safety goggles, as well as keeping the affected areas well-ventilated during cleanup. If mold contamination exceeds 10 square feet, always call in a professional rather than attempting to remove it yourself. 

Even if you’re dealing with a small area of mold and you want to DIY, it may be worth calling in a pro to check your work and make sure the mold—and its moisture source—are really gone. 

Vinegar

Vinegar does kill mold, mainly due to its natural antifungal and antibacterial properties. Its acidity also can inhibit the growth of a wide assortment of fungi and other microorganisms. With this, and all other methods, be sure to perform a patch test first to test its effectiveness and make sure the vinegar doesn’t damage the item you’re trying to salvage. 

Here’s how to use vinegar to kill mold:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar.

  2. Spray the moldy surface until it’s fully saturated.

  3. Let it sit for one hour.

  4. Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth and allow it to dry.

Tea Tree Oil and Mold

Tea tree oil is an extremely effective mold killer. In fact, a 2015 study found it was even more effective than vinegar at killing mold. Here’s what to do:

  1. Combine 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle.

  2. Shake the mixture vigorously to blend.

  3. Spray the moldy area until it’s fully saturated.

  4. Let it sit for one hour, keeping children and pets away from the area.

  5. Wipe the surface down with a clean, damp cloth and allow it to dry.

Hydrogen Peroxide

The antimicrobial properties of hydrogen peroxide help it combat mold. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with 3% hydrogen peroxide.

  2. Spray the mold until it’s fully saturated.

  3. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

  4. Scrub the area with a stiff-bristled brush until all the mold spots are removed.

  5. Rinse the area with a clean, damp cloth.

  6. Wipe dry.

Baking Soda

Baking soda also has natural antimicrobial properties that can naturally kill off mold and mildew spores. Here’s what to do:

  1. Mix small amounts of water with baking soda until it forms a paste.

  2. Don rubber gloves and use your hands to apply the paste to the entire moldy surface.

  3. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.

  4. Scrub it off with soap and water.

Does Vinegar Kill Mold On All Surfaces?

Unfortunately, not everything is salvageable after mold removal. Natural solutions like vinegar kill mold, but it’s not possible to penetrate porous materials deeply enough to fully eliminate the spores. Porous or absorbent surfaces such as carpeting, upholstery, mattresses, insulation, and stuffed animals will need to be tossed, as well as books, documents, and other paper products. 

Along with that, vinegar may also damage certain surfaces due to its natural acidity. Here are the surfaces to avoid and what to do instead:

  • Stone countertops: Spray the surface with a 1:2 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, let it sit for five to 10 minutes, then scrub the mold away with a soft-bristled brush.

  • Hardwood flooring: Spray the floor down with a solution of water and dish soap, then use a soft-bristled brush to scrub away the mold (follow up with a towel or sponge to soak up any excess moisture).

  • Metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, and copper: Wash in a solution of water and dish soap, using a soft-bristled brush to scrub away the mold; rinse clean. 

When to Call in a Pro

A small outbreak of mold under 10 square feet that’s localized to one area of your home is DIY-able, but anything more widespread should get the help of a professional. You’ll also want to bring a pro in if you smell a persistent musty or mildewy odor, but you can’t locate the source of the mold. A local mold remediation service can help eradicate your mold issue and pinpoint the source of the moisture that caused it.

How to Prevent Mold Around the House

The presence of mold is a telltale sign of a moisture problem, so the first step in preventing mold is to address whatever moisture problem caused it in the first place. You may need to add or replace insulation, call a local plumber to fix a leak, or address structural concerns that are allowing water to get into your home.

Aside from that, here are the best ways to prevent mold: 

  • Learn how to check for mold on a weekly basis, especially near problem areas such as your shower and window sills.

  • Invest in the cost of a whole-house dehumidifier to control the moisture content in the air.

  • Use ventilation fans in your kitchen and bathroom

  • Repair windows and/or damaged seals to stop leaks.

  • Consider adding mold inhibitors to your paint before painting your home’s interior.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.