Can You Use Vinegar to Kill Mold?

Mold in bathtub and tiled wall crevice next to scrub brushes

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 4 hrs, 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Mold growth is very common in homes, particularly in areas like bathrooms, basements, and laundry rooms where humidity is high or plumbing can leak. Depending on the type of mold and the extent it has spread, clean-up can be simple or very involved.

For extensive mold growth, it is best to hire a professional mold removal company to test and identify the type of mold present. Your local public health department can offer advice on mold testing and refer you to a mold remediation company. The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection recommends the professional removal of mold colonies that cover more than 10 square feet (roughly a three-foot by three-foot patch).

Smaller areas of mold growth that are caught early, can be removed with some basic cleaning supplies by following some safety guidelines. There are several biocides that will kill mold more quickly than vinegar, but distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar are less toxic to the environment and humans. It is important for the vinegar you use to have an acetic acid level of 4.0%−4.2% or higher. The distilled white vinegar in the condiment aisle contains around five percent acetic acid and 95 percent water. Cleaning vinegar contains around six percent acetic acid. While vinegar will kill the mold, it is slow acting and the discoloration and stains from the mold may remain and require additional scrubbing with a household cleaner.

How Often to Clean Away Mold With Vinegar 

When even a small colony of mold is discovered, the area should be cleaned immediately. Small colonies can explode into large colonies in just a few days. Any area with high humidity or with the possibility of leaks should be cleaned and checked at least weekly for signs of mold. Keeping surfaces clean helps eliminate the food (body soil, crumbs, moisture) that mold needs to thrive.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Rubber gloves
  • N-95 mask
  • Eye protection
  • Bucket
  • Nylon-bristled scrub brush
  • Sponge
  • Spray bottle

Materials

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cleaning vinegar
  • Powdered oxygen bleach

Instructions

Distilled white or cleaning vinegar can be used safely on most porous and non-porous surfaces. It is a particularly effective non-toxic product for cleaning mold from refrigerator interiors and gaskets and other kitchen appliances.

Materials and tools to remove mold with vinegar

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  1. Wear Protective Gear

    Since many molds can cause allergic or toxic reactions, protective eye gear, an N-95 mask, and rubber gloves should be worn while cleaning moldy surfaces. It's a good idea to wear old clothing that can be tossed in the washer so that mold spores will not be transported to other areas of the home.

    Yellow latex gloves put on before cleaning mold with vinegar

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  2. Ventilate the Area

    Open doors and windows and turn on bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans to help ventilate the area before you begin cleaning.

    Window handle pulled open by hand with gloves to ventilate air

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  3. Apply the Vinegar

    Pour undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle and label it. Spray the moldy surface. Allow the vinegar to remain on the surface for at least one hour before moving to the next steps.

    Brown spray bottle applying vinegar to mold corner with gloves

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  4. Rinse the Surface

    Dip a sponge in clean water and wipe down the surface. Rinse the sponge frequently. For vertical surfaces, start at the top and work downward to catch drips.

    For porous surfaces, wring the sponge so it is just damp to prevent oversaturating the finish.

    Orange dampened sponge rinsing vinegar from mold corner in bathtub

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  5. Inspect for Discoloration

    If the mold has left grout or other finishes discolored, you will need to use a solution of oxygen-based bleach to remove the stains. Oxygen bleach will not kill mold spores but is very effective for removing stains.

    Finger with gloves pointing to color discoloration after cleaning mold

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  6. Remove Discoloration With Oxygen Bleach

    Mix one-half cup of powdered oxygen bleach in a bucket containing two quarts of warm water. Stir well to dissolve the powder. Apply the solution to the discolored areas with a sponge or nylon-bristled scrub brush (a brush is best for grout). Allow it to work for at least 30 minutes and then rinse with clean water.

    Gray scrub brush removing discoloration with oxygen bleach after cleaning

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  7. Dry the Surface

    Allow the freshly cleaned surfaces to air-dry.

    Tip

    Vinegar is also useful for treating mold and mildew on clothes and accessories. Take the items outside to brush away as much surface mold as possible, This prevents the mold spores from spreading inside your home. If the item is washable, use the hottest water recommended on the care label and add one cup of vinegar to the washer load. If stains remain, create a solution of oxygen bleach and water and allow the clothes to soak for at least eight hours.

    Wipe down the surface of leather clothes, shoes, and purses with distilled white vinegar outside, if possible. After the mold is removed use a good leather soap and dry with a soft cloth. Allow the items to air dry completely then treat with a leather conditioner.

    Cleaned corner in bathroom air drying

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

Tips to Keep Mold From Forming in a Home

  • Repair plumbing leaks promptly.
  • Use a dehumidifier and HVAC systems to help reduce inside humidity levels.
  • Install moisture barriers in crawl spaces and basements.
  • Clean mold-prone areas frequently to keep mold growth in check.
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mold Cleanup in Your HomeU.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. Rogawansamy, Senthaamarai et al. An Evaluation Of Antifungal Agents For The Treatment Of Fungal Contamination In Indoor Air Environments. 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4483703/.
  3. Mold AllergyAsthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

  4. Kuhn DM, Ghannoum MA. Indoor mold, toxigenic fungi, and stachybotrys chartarum : infectious disease perspectiveClin Microbiol Rev. 2003;16(1):144-172. doi:10.1128/CMR.16.1.144-172.2003