Unpleasant and stubborn, mold and mildew are some of the most common household problems. If you’re a homeowner or renter, chances are you’ve dealt with these fungal issues at some point or another. There’s a lot of debate on what products work best against mold, whether natural or chemical cleaners are more effective and what methods work best.

Because mold and mildew are both forms of fungus, they need to be treated with a fungicide. There are plenty of chemical cleaners on the market that contain fungicides, but some natural remedies have fungicidal properties that can also get the job done. Thanks to its gentle yet effective nature, vinegar is one of the most commonly used natural cleaners on carpets and rugs. Paired with the fizzing power of baking soda, it can make quick work of smaller-scale mold colonies and mildew outbreaks alike. Along with this, other household mold removers include hydrogen peroxide, lemon, tea tree oil and other essential oils.

It’s also important to dehydrate mold when trying to kill it, as moisture is one of the key things it thrives on. Many fungicidal solutions involve water, so once a solution is applied, it is crucially important to thoroughly dry the carpet afterward, so the dampness doesn’t encourage more mold growth. Fans and air conditioners can help dry out an area.

Vinegar is mildly acidic — just acidic enough, in fact, to kill mold spores and smaller mold colonies. Distilled white vinegar is best for the task, as it’s able to kill over 80% of known mold types and may even help prevent future outbreaks. However, vinegar isn’t necessarily ideal for huge jobs or larger mold colonies, so it’s important to know when to get help from a professional. If your mold or mildew outbreak covers more than 20 square feet of surface area or has begun to rot away the surface it’s growing on, call your local mold remediation companies.

If not used correctly, vinegar can damage your carpets. Undiluted vinegar shouldn’t be used straight on carpets, as it may affect the fibers of the material. Furthermore, vinegar shouldn’t be used on especially delicate fabrics — silk, wool or other natural materials are very sensitive and may take heavy damage from vinegar.

For smaller mold patches, a solution of one part distilled white vinegar and one part cool water often can do the trick. If your mold outbreak is a little more severe, you can adjust this ratio by adding more vinegar and less water to make it stronger. Either way, try to dilute the vinegar with at least a little water to keep your carpets looking their best.

Using vinegar to clean mold out of carpets isn’t a difficult process, but it does take time. There are two ways to go about using a vinegar treatment: with or without baking soda. Vinegar alone is a milder solution with a slightly shorter process, so it’s more well suited to small mold and mildew outbreaks. The addition of baking soda is preferred for more severe cases, as the combination of the two products creates a much stronger cleaning solution. Both are safe to use on most types of carpet.

When treating mildew or mold, there are a few tools you should have on hand. You should also take care to wear some personal protection, both from the mold and the acidity of your cleaner. Once you’ve gathered the necessary equipment, it’s a good idea to start by testing a small part of the carpet to see how it reacts to a vinegar treatment. Simply choose a discreet section of the carpet and follow your chosen procedure according to the directions. Doing so gives you an idea of how vinegar will affect your carpet — whether it may damage the material, alter the color or texture, effectively remove odors, or make any other significant changes. If you’re comfortable with the results, you can proceed to treat the mold outbreak.