The white-rot shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes, was used to degrade an environmentally hazardous compound, 2,4-dichlorophenol (DCP), using vanillin as an activator. Vanillin increased the mycelial growth from 74 to 118 mg/150 ml culture and accelerated laccase and Mn-peroxidase production from the maximum on days 24–28 without vanillin to days 10–14. It eliminated 92 % of 100 mM DCP with 50 mg vanillin/l compared with only 15 % without vanillin. GC–MS revealed that a diaryl ether dimer of DCP was formed in the culture without vanillin, whereas dimer formation was diminished with vanillin addition. This indicates that vanillin enhances the degradation of DCP and disrupts the formation of the toxic dimer. Therefore, lignin-derived phenol such as vanillin can be used as natural and eco-friendly activators to control white-rot mushrooms, thereby facilitating the effective degradation of environmentally hazardous compounds.