Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil extracted from the Melaleuca tree that grows in Australia. It has demonstrated anti-microbial properties that make it a great weapon in the naturophile’s cleaning and home health care arsenal. It has a very strong, medicinal odor, and can be used sparingly for a desired effect. Some have recommended using a solution of tea tree oil and water to kill mold and mildew. But does this work? Can tea tree oil be an effective natural tool against mold and mildew?
- Better for you – all natural essential oils are safer to use around you, your family and your pets
- Better for the Earth – because all cleaners eventually end up in the waste stream, better for it to be a natural substance washing out to sea
- Saves Money – tea tree oil is pretty cheap on the essential oil spectrum, and a mixture of oil and water for treating mold costs much less than commercial mildew busters
- Must leave solution on mold to treat
- Either it doesn’t work, or there is no indication mold or mildew has been killed
- Does not remove the mildew staining – in facts makes remaining mold more difficult to remove
The bathroom in our rental is old and has poor circulation. We try to keep the window open as much as we can, but still mildew tends to crop up in the corners now and then. So I was annoyed, but not terribly surprised recently when I moved my shampoo bottle away from the wall and saw this:
Lucky for me, I had just pinned a post from one of my favorite blogs about Tips for Treating Household Mold and Mildew Naturally. Besides offering some tips for preventing mold, the author offered a handful of natural solutions to handling mold once it shows up. The number one, most effective, natural solution offered was tea tree oil: 1 teaspoon of this essential oil plus 1 cup of water was recommended. You combine, shake well, and apply to the affected spot. The post included specific instructions to not rinse once applied.
I quickly mixed up a bottle of tea tree oil mold killer
I gave the mildewy spot a good soaking before bed, and let it sit, with no rinsing. The next morning, when I took my shower, I checked on the spot and it looked exactly the same. No change at all. I’m not sure what I expected with the no-rinsing bit, but I couldn’t tell that any damage had been done to the moldy spot at all. Thinking maybe it worked better if the mold was damp, I gave it another good spritzing after my shower and let it sit all day long. At the end of the day again there was no visible change in the spot.
Not to be outdone by a stubborn spot of mold, I carefully q-tipped a few drops of 100% pure tea tree oil onto the spot. I noticed a little bit of the blackness started to run with the drips of oil. I did not rinse off, but again checked on it later that day. Again: No visible change.
Now, maybe the tea tree oil did indeed kill the mold. Unfortunately, as it looked exactly the same, I have no way of knowing if it did or not. Also, it did not remove the mold in any way. So even if it’s dead I still needed to clean it off the wall. Knowing that vinegar is a great tool against mold and mildew, I got out my handy spray bottle of vinegar and did a quick wipe down of the wall and also of another mildewy corner in the tub. Here’s the really disappointing thing: the mildew treated with tea tree oil was harder to remove than the spot that had not been treated. Significantly harder. Like a scrub vs. a quick wipe harder.
So, to sum up: It is impossible to tell if the tea tree oil actually kills the mold. The tea tree oil application does not remove the mold. And removing the mold after tea tree oil application is harder than if you didn’t treat it at all. This, my friends, was a Green Idea Fail.
Have you tried out this method with different results? Do you have other favorite uses for tea tree oil?