Treating and Preventing Mold with Vinegar

Mold can be a pesky problem in any home. Those fuzzy spores grow anywhere moisture collects – on walls, basements, under sinks, and around windows. Mold isn’t just an eyesore. It can also aggravate allergies and even cause respiratory issues if inhaled in large quantities.

Preventing Mold with Vinegar

With mold so common, many homeowners seek natural cleaning solutions to eliminate it. Vinegar is a DIY mold treatment that has grown in popularity. But does vinegar kill mold effectively?

How Vinegar Kills Mold

Vinegar is an acidic liquid that can kill 82% of mold species. With an average pH of 2-3, vinegar’s acidic properties help break down the fungi’s cell walls and proteins. This stops mold from reproducing and spreading.

The acetic acid in vinegar gives it mold-fighting abilities. White vinegar typically contains 5-10% acetic acid, while apple cider vinegar has 4-7% acetic acid. Higher acidity increases vinegar’s effectiveness against mold.

Vinegar can kill mold on non-porous surfaces like tiles, glass, bathtubs, countertops, and other hard surfaces. Since vinegar does not penetrate porous materials, it is less effective at removing mold from drywall, wood, and grout.

Using vinegar to clean mold best prevents and removes small amounts of growth. Heavy mold infestations or mold on porous surfaces may require stronger cleaners. However, vinegar is an excellent initial treatment for household mold issues.

Types of Vinegar and Their Effectiveness Against Mold

Many types of vinegar can kill common household molds. Some have higher acetic acid content, making them more potent mold killers. Let’s compare the top options:

White Vinegar

White vinegar, or distilled white vinegar, is the most common type in households. White vinegar is made from fermented corn or wheat and contains 5-10% acetic acid.

With its high acidity and affordable price, white vinegar kills and prevents mold buildup. Use it diluted or undiluted on non-porous surfaces.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a milder 4-7% acetic acid content. ACV is made from fermented apples and contains vitamins, minerals, and probiotics from processing with yeast and bacteria.

While less acidic than white vinegar, apple cider vinegar kills mold effectively. Its natural amber color helps identify residues after cleaning.

Rice Vinegar

At 4-5% acetic acid, rice vinegar can eliminate mold from hard surfaces. Made from fermented rice, rice wine, or sake, rice vinegar adds a mild, sweet flavor when cleaning.

Balsamic Vinegar

Thick, concentrated balsamic vinegar contains only 5-6% acetic acid. Its syrupy texture helps it adhere to vertical surfaces when removing mold. However, balsamic’s sweet taste may encourage mold growth after cleaning.

Cleaning Vinegar

Specialized cleaning vinegars are diluted to 6-8% acetic acid for safe use on multiple surfaces. Labeled as “cleaning vinegar” or “mold killing vinegar,” these offer enhanced mold removing abilities.

White distilled vinegar is typically the cheapest and most effective for killing everyday household mold.

Vinegar Applications: A Surface-by-Surface Guide

Cleaning mold with vinegar only works on non-porous materials. It cannot penetrate and kill mold growing underneath porous surfaces like wood, drywall, and grout.

Here are tips for safely using vinegar to remove mold from various household items and surfaces:


Vinegar’s acidic nature can damage or discolor fabrics. Check for colorfastness by dabbing vinegar on a small, inconspicuous area first.

For mold on sturdy white linens or bleach-safe materials, soak items in 1 cup vinegar per gallon of water. Then launder as usual.


On finished wood with a varnish or lacquer seal, spray undiluted white vinegar to kill surface mold. Dry quickly with a cloth. Repeat applications may be needed for stubborn growth.

However, vinegar should NOT be used on unfinished, untreated, or porous woods. The acidity can damage the surface.


Since drywall is highly porous, vinegar cannot penetrate to clean underlying mold growth. A stronger fungicidal cleaner is required for moldy drywall removal.

Tile, Glass, Mirrors

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly mist tiles, glass, mirrors, windows, and other non-porous surfaces.

Wipe with a microfiber cloth or scrub with a brush. Rinse any soap residue with water.

Bathtubs, Sinks

For hard, non-porous surfaces, use undiluted vinegar to kill mold in bathtubs, sinks, countertops, and showers. Apply full-strength vinegar and let sit 15-30 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.

Coffee and Tea Kettles

Remove mold and mineral deposits by filling the kettle with equal vinegar and water. Boil, then rinse thoroughly. For tougher buildup, boil a full vinegar kettle and let soak overnight.


Fight mold and mildew growth in humidifiers by cleaning with vinegar weekly. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to the water tank and let sit 5-10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly before use.

Basements and Crawlspaces

Musty basements and crawlspaces are prone to mold growth. While vinegar can treat surface mold on concrete or joists, addressing moisture issues is vital to prevent recurrence.

A dehumidifier helps maintain humidity below 50%. Ensure proper ventilation in damp areas and eliminate any standing water.

Decks and Patios

Mix 1 gallon water, 1 quart vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda in a bucket. Use this solution to pressure wash wooden decks, patios, siding, and outdoor furniture. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes before rinsing.

Leather and Vinyl

Dilute white vinegar 1:1 with water in a spray bottle. Mist onto leather or vinyl surfaces in a ventilated area. Wipe thoroughly with a microfiber cloth. Avoid soaking the material.


Pour 2 cups vinegar in the bottom of your empty dishwasher. Run a full cycle to clean the interior and kill mold or mildew. For regular maintenance, add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle once a month.

Washing Machines

Wipe the rubber door seal of front-loading washers with undiluted vinegar to prevent mold and mildew growth. Monthly, run an empty rinse cycle with 2 cups vinegar to clean the drum and components.

Chrome and Stainless Steel

Remove water spots and mold growth from faucets, appliances, and other chrome or stainless steel using undiluted white vinegar and a soft cloth. For extra shine, follow with a damp microfiber cloth.


Treat only small areas of carpet mold with vinegar. First dry the carpet fully and remove as much mold as possible. Saturate the area with full-strength vinegar and allow it to dry again before vacuuming the dead spores.

Fruits and Vegetables

Create a mold-inhibiting wash for produce by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice per quart of cool water. Soak berries, grapes, and delicate produce for 2-5 minutes before rinsing.

Water Bottles and Pet Bowls

Keep kids’ sippy cups, water bottles, and pet bowls free of mold and bacteria by regularly cleaning with vinegar. Add 1-2 tablespoons vinegar and shake or scrub before rinsing thoroughly.

Special Cases: Vinegar for Mold Prevention and Removal

In addition to cleaning household surfaces, vinegar can target mold buildup in some unique scenarios:

Moldy Showers

Shower curtains, tile grout, and soap scum buildup provide the perfect warm, moist environment for mold. Attack shower mold by spraying walls, curtains, tracks, and doors with undiluted vinegar. Let sit 5-10 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.

Be sure to keep the shower door open or fan running when not in use. Improving bathroom ventilation deprives mold of the humid conditions it requires to thrive.

Musty Closets and Drawers

Place shallow dishes filled with vinegar in musty closets, drawers, and enclosed storage spaces to absorb odors and prevent mold. For stronger deodorizing, add lemon slices or essential oils to the vinegar.

Moldy Musical Instruments

Clean piano keys, guitar strings, woodwind joints, and other musical equipment with diluted white vinegar applied with a microfiber cloth. Pay special attention to mouthpieces and crevices where mold lingers.

Preserving Fruit with Vinegar

Prevent cut apples, pears, and bananas from browning by brushing with a vinegar and lemon juice mixture. The acidity slows oxidation while the lemon adds flavor. Store prepared fruit in the vinegar solution in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Moldy Leather Goods

Leather wallets, belts, bags, and shoes often get moldy after getting wet. Carefully wipe leather goods down with 2 cups water mixed with 1/4 cup white vinegar. Use a microfiber cloth and avoid over-saturating the material. Stuff the items with paper towels to dry and retain shape.

Musty Smells in Books

Books stored in damp basements or garages can develop a stubborn musty odor. Remove books to a dry location. Stand books upright and space them out to dry fully. Wipe covers down with a vinegar-dampened cloth.

To deodorize inside pages, place books in a sealed container with an inch of vinegar in the bottom for 2-3 days. The acetic acid in the vinegar vapor will penetrate pages and kill mildew.

Moldy Sports Gear

Prevent mold growth in sports gear by spraying equipment down after use. Treat items like football pads, gloves, bags, helmets, and cleats with a vinegar and water solution. Allow gear to fully dry before storing.

Dog Bowls and Pet Items

Plastic pet food, water bowls, toys, and bedding can get slimy with mold, bacteria, and yeast. Soak items in full-strength white vinegar for 15 minutes. For routine cleaning, wipe out bowls with vinegar daily.

Aquariums and Terrariums

Wipe down aquarium walls, decor items, and the outside glass weekly with vinegar to prevent water spots and fish tank mold. Use 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water to avoid harming fish or plants.

Combining Vinegar with Other Substances for Enhanced Mold Removal

While effective alone against mold, vinegar can also be combined with other household ingredients for added mold-fighting power:

Vinegar and Baking Soda

The classic combination of vinegar and baking soda is helpful against stubborn mold or mildew growth. Allow vinegar to soak into the area for 5 minutes. Sprinkle on baking soda and gently scrub. The reaction breaks down mold cell walls. Rinse thoroughly.

Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide

Mixing vinegar and hydrogen peroxide increases the effectiveness of both against mold. Use a 1:1 ratio and scrub onto affected areas. Wear gloves when handling hydrogen peroxide. Rinse cleaned areas after 10-15 minutes.

Vinegar and Salt

Add kosher or table salt to vinegar for a mild abrasive scrub until dissolved. Apply the mixture to mold with a stiff brush. The salt crystals provide light scouring to remove mold spores. Rinse cleaned surfaces afterwards.

Vinegar and Tea Tree Oil

Add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil to white vinegar in a spray bottle. Tea tree oil provides antiseptic, anti-fungal properties to boost vinegar’s mold-killing abilities. Use this enhanced vinegar cleaner similarly as regular vinegar.

Vinegar and Borax

Borax is a natural mineral salt with anti-fungal properties. Create a paste with equal parts borax powder and vinegar. Apply to damp areas prone to mold like tile grout or shower corners. Allow to dry before rinsing thoroughly.

Vinegar and Bleach

Never mix vinegar and bleach! This combination creates chlorine gas, which is highly toxic if inhaled. Rinse surfaces fully if using bleach first, followed by vinegar.

Alternatives to Vinegar: A Comparative Analysis

While vinegar works well for household mold removal, other options to consider are:

Hydrogen Peroxide: The bubbling reaction of hydrogen peroxide breaks down mold for non-porous surfaces. Higher concentrations (at least 3%) work best. Provides more aggressive cleaning than vinegar.

Borax: Available as a powder, borax creates an alkaline solution that kills mold. Often used in laundry. Abrasive texture scrubs away mold and stains. Safe for most surfaces.

Baking Soda: Baking soda scrubs away mold and can deodorize affected areas. It works well with vinegar but can also be used alone as a gentle abrasive cleaner. Non-toxic and safe for everyday use.

Grapefruit Seed Extract: Derived from grapefruit pulp, this extract has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It is sold as a liquid concentrate to mix with water or vinegar as a mold killer.

Bleach: Chlorine bleach disinfects and whitens moldy surfaces. Highly effective on non-porous materials but can damage fabrics, leather, and metals. Use in well-ventilated spaces.

Concrobium Mold Control: This commercial product contains sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate to kill existing mold and prevent regrowth. Low odor formula approved for multiple household uses.

No single solution is ideal for all surfaces and situations. The least toxic, most environmentally friendly option that effectively removes mold is recommended. Vinegar is a smart first choice.

Permanent Mold Solutions and Precautions When Using Vinegar

While vinegar removes visible mold, truly eliminating mold requires addressing the root causes:

Stop Moisture Sources

Since mold requires moisture to grow, prevent recurrence by fixing leaks, improving ventilation, and reducing humidity levels through dehumidifiers or fans.

Disinfect and Dry Affected Areas

After treating visible mold with vinegar, disinfect the area with hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil. Remove any porous materials with mold behind them. Allow surfaces to completely dry.

Be Cautious When Cleaning Mold

Wear gloves, goggles, and a mask to protect yourself from mold spores released into the air during cleaning. Open windows and use fans to ventilate areas.

Know When to Call a Professional

Call a mold remediation expert for permanent solutions for large areas of mold, or materials like drywall and carpeting that vinegar cannot penetrate.

Keep Vinegar Away From Eyes and Skin

Avoid direct skin and eye contact when cleaning with vinegar, which can cause stinging and irritation. Rinse any vinegar residues off surfaces and your skin after cleaning.

Is Vinegar an Effective Mold Killer?

Vinegar provides a natural, non-toxic way to clean and prevent household mold growth. Its high acidity kills up to 82% of common mold species by breaking down cells and proteins. White distilled vinegar has the highest acetic acid content for cleaning mold.

Used properly, vinegar removes surface mold from many hard, non-porous materials without harsh chemicals. Combine vinegar with baking soda, peroxide, or tea tree oil for added mold-killing power.

However, vinegar cannot penetrate porous surfaces to kill mold below the surface. Eliminating excess moisture and fixing the source of dampness provides the only permanent solution against stubborn mold growth.

By understanding vinegar’s strengths and limitations for mold removal, homeowners can use it safely and effectively to kill common household molds. Pairing vinegar treatment with moisture control provides the best defense against pesky mold problems.