vinegar, sour liquid consisting mainly of acetic acid and water, produced by the action of bacteria on dilute solutions of ethyl alcohol derived from previous yeast fermentation. The coloring and flavoring are characteristic of the alcoholic liquor (as cider, beer, wine, fermented fruit juices, solutions of barley malt, hydrolyzed cereals, starches, or sugars) from which the vinegar is made. Vinegar is used as a salad dressing, a preservative, a household remedy to allay irritations, a mild disinfectant, and, in cooking, as a fiber softener. Vinegar has been known from antiquity as a natural byproduct of wine; the name is derived from the French vin aigre [sour wine]. The manufacture as a separate industry began in France in the 17th cent. The wasteful, slow, or natural, process, a spontaneous fermentation in casks half full of beechwood shavings exposed to the atmosphere by bung holes, was superseded in the early 19th cent. by the quick, or generator, method. The generator used in present-day commercial manufacture is usually a tall, truncated cone or vertical, wood tank with a false bottom perforated to admit air that is generally forced through by a blower. The alcoholic solution is allowed to drip through a filling of hard-wood shavings or other material presenting a large surface area. Vinegar made by this method must be aged to remove a natural harshness. It is generally clarified, then pasteurized. Some vinegars are subjected to distillation which removes most of the flavorings other than acetic acid. In another process, the solution is aerated directly by a spinning rotor. The wood shavings are not needed in this case, and the process runs continuously. Acetic fermentation may be impeded by an excessive growth of mother of vinegar, a slimy mass of bacteria, or of the parasitic vinegar eel, a minute, threadlike worm.
Vinegar is an acidic liquid processed from the fermentation of ethanol in a process that yields its key ingredient, acetic acid (also called ethanoic acid). It also may come in a diluted form. The acetic acid concentration typically ranges from 4 to 8 percent by volume for table vinegar (typically 5%) and higher concentrations for pickling (up to 18%). Natural vinegars also contain small amounts of tartaric acid, citric acid, and other acids. Vinegar has been used since ancient times and is an important element in Western, European, Asian, and other traditional cuisines of the world.

The word "vinegar" derives from the Old French vin aigre, meaning "sour wine.". It also is known as acidity regulator E260.

Chemical and physical properties

pH value

Vinegar has a pH value of between 2.4 and 3.4.


Vinegar has a density of approximately 0.96 g/mL. The density level depends on the acidity of the vinegar.


Vinegar has been made and used by people for thousands of years. Traces of it have been found in Egyptian urns dating from around 3000 BC.

In the Bible, it is mentioned as something not very pleasant (Ps. 69:21, Prov. 25:20), but Boaz allows Ruth to "dip her piece of bread in the vinegar" (Ruth 2:14). Jesus was offered vinegar or sour wine while on the cross (Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36). In Islamic traditions, vinegar is one of the four favored condiments of the Prophet Muhammad, who called it a "blessed seasoning".

Louis Pasteur showed in 1864, that vinegar results from a natural fermentation process.


Vinegar is made from the oxidation of ethanol in wine, cider, beer, fermented fruit juice, or nearly any other liquid containing alcohol.

Commercial vinegar is produced either by fast or slow fermentation processes. Slow methods generally are used with traditional vinegars and fermentation proceeds slowly over the course of weeks or months. The longer fermentation period allows for the accumulation of a nontoxic slime composed of acetic acid bacteria and soluble cellulose, known as the mother of vinegar.

Fast methods add mother of vinegar (i.e. bacterial culture) to the source liquid before adding air using a Venturi pump system or a turbine to promote oxygenation to obtain the fastest fermentation. In fast production processes, vinegar may be produced in a period ranging from 20 hours to three days.

Vinegar eels (Turbatrix aceti), a form of nematode that has cells that are air-borne, may occur in some forms of vinegar unless the vinegar is kept covered. These feed on the mother of vinegar and can occur in naturally fermenting vinegar. This is the reason vinegar condiment jars have tightly-fitting stoppers. Most manufacturers filter and pasteurize their product before bottling to eliminate any potential adulteration although there is no harm when they are ingested.

Types of vinegar


White vinegar can be made by oxidizing a distilled alcohol. Alternatively, it may be nothing more than a solution of acetic acid and salt in water. Most commercial white vinegars are 5% acetic acid solutions, although some U.S. states, such as Virginia, have laws prohibiting the sale as vinegar of any product not made from acetous fermentation of alcohol. They are made from grain (often maize) and water).

White vinegar is used for culinary as well as cleaning purposes because vinegar also can be used for sterilization. White vinegar also is used in some cases to kill Athlete's foot.


Malt vinegar is made by malting barley, causing the starch in the grain to turn to maltose. Then an ale is brewed from the maltose and allowed to turn into vinegar, which is then aged. It typically is light brown in color, however, most supermarket vinegar is extracted from beetroot.

A cheaper alternative, called "non-brewed condiment," is a solution of 4-8% acetic acid colored with caramel (usually E150). There also is around 1-3% citric acid present. Non-brewed condiment is more popular in the North of England, and gained popularity with the rise of the Temperance movement .


Wine vinegar is made from red or white wine and is the most commonly used vinegar in Mediterranean countries and Central Europe. As with wine, there is a considerable range in quality. Better quality wine vinegars are matured in wood for up to two years and exhibit a complex, mellow flavor. Wine vinegar tends to have a lower acidity than that of white or cider vinegars. There are more expensive wine vinegars that are made from individual varieties of wine, such as Champagne, Sherry, or pinot grigio.

Apple cider

Apple cider vinegar, otherwise known simply as cider vinegar, is made from cider or apple must and has a brownish-yellow color. It often is sold unfiltered and unpasteurized with the mother of vinegar present, as a natural product. It is very popular, partly due to alleged beneficial health and beauty properties. Due to its acidity, apple cider vinegar may be very harsh, even burning to the throat. If taken straight (as opposed to use in cooking), it can be diluted (e.g. with fruit juice, honey, or sugar) before drinking. Others dilute it with warm water and add some honey. There have been reports of acid chemical burns of the throat in using the pill form.


Fruit vinegars are made from fruit wines, usually without any additional flavoring. Common flavors of fruit vinegar include apple, black currant, raspberry, quince, and tomato. Typically, the flavors of the original fruits remain in the final product.

Most fruit vinegars are produced in Europe, where there is a growing market for high-priced vinegars made solely from specific fruits (as opposed to non-fruit vinegars which are infused with fruits or fruit flavors). Several varieties, however, also are produced in Asia. Persimmon vinegar, called gamsik cho (감식초), is popular in South Korea. Jujube vinegar photo (called or 红枣 in Chinese) and wolfberry vinegar photo (called 枸杞 in Chinese) are produced in China.

Umezu (; often translated as "umeboshi vinegar" or "ume vinegar"), a salty, sour liquid that is a by-product of umeboshi (pickled ume) production, is produced in Japan, but technically is not a true vinegar.


Balsamic vinegar is an aromatic, aged type of vinegar traditionally manufactured in Modena, Italy from the concentrated juice, or must, of white grapes (typically of the Trebbiano variety). It is very dark brown in color and its flavor is rich, sweet, and complex, with the finest grades being the product of years of aging in a successive number of casks made of various types of wood (including oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash, and acacia). Originally an artisanal product available only to the Italian upper classes, balsamic vinegar became widely known and available around the world in the late twentieth century. True balsamic vinegar is aged for between 3 and 12 years. One can sometimes find balsamic vinegars that have been aged for up to 100 years, though they usually are very expensive. The commercial balsamic sold in supermarkets typically is made with red wine vinegar or concentrated grape juice mixed with a strong vinegar, which is laced with caramel and sugar. However it is produced, balsamic must be made from a grape product.

Balsamic has a high acid level, but the sweetness covers the tart flavor, making it very mellow.


Rice vinegar is most popular in the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia. It is available in "white" (light yellow), red, and black varieties. The Japanese prefer a light and more delicate rice vinegar for the preparation of sushi rice and salad dressings. Red rice vinegar traditionally is colored with red yeast rice, although some Chinese brands use artificial food coloring instead. Black rice vinegar (made with black glutinous rice) is most popular in China, although it also is produced in Japan (see East Asian black, below). It may be used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar, although its dark color and the fact that it is aged may be the only similarity between the two products.

Some varieties of rice vinegar are sweetened or otherwise seasoned with spices or other added flavorings.


Coconut vinegar, made from fermented coconut water, is used extensively in Southeast Asian cuisine (particularly in the Philippines, a major producer, where it is called suka ng niyog), as well as in some cuisines of India. A cloudy white liquid, it has a particularly sharp, acidic taste with a slightly yeasty note.


Palm vinegar, made from the fermented sap from flower clusters of the nipa palm (also called attap palm), is used most often in the Philippines, where it is produced, and where it is called sukang paombong.


Cane vinegar, made from sugar cane juice, is most popular in the Philipines, in particular, the Ilocos Region of the northern Philippines (where it is called sukang iloko), although it also is produced in France and the United States. It ranges from dark yellow to golden brown in color and has a mellow flavor, similar in some respects, to rice vinegar, though with a somewhat "fresher" taste. Contrary to expectation, containing no residual sugar, it is not sweeter than other vinegars. In the Philippines, it often is labeled as sukang maasim, although this is simply a generic term meaning "sour vinegar."


Vinegar made from raisins, called khal 'anab (خل عنب) in Arabic (literally meaning "grape vinegar") is used in cuisines of the Middle East, and is produced therein. It is cloudy and medium brown in color, with a mild flavor. photo


Vinegar made from dates is a traditional product of the Middle East.


Vinegar made from beer is produced in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Although its flavor depends on the particular type of beer from which it is made, it often is described as having a malty taste. That produced in Bavaria, is a light golden color with a very sharp and not-overly-complex flavor.


Vinegar made from honey is rare, although commercially available honey vinegars are produced in Italy and France.

East Asian black

Chinese black vinegar is an aged product made from rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, or a combination thereof. It has an inky black color and a complex, malty flavor. There is no fixed recipe and thus some Chinese black vinegars may contain added sugar, spices, or caramel color. The most popular variety, Chinkiang vinegar (鎮江香醋), originated in the city of Zhenjiang, in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu, China and also is produced in Tianjin and Hong Kong.

A somewhat lighter form of black vinegar, made from rice, also is produced in Japan, where it is called kurozu. Since 2004 it has been marketed as a healthful drink; its manufacturers claim that it contains high concentrations of amino acids.

Flavored vinegars

Popular fruit-flavored vinegars include those infused with whole raspberries, blueberries, or figs (or else from flavorings derived from these fruits). Some of the more exotic fruit-flavored vinegars include blood orange and pear.

Herb vinegars are flavored with herbs, most commonly Mediterranean herbs such as thyme or oregano. Such vinegars can be prepared at home by adding sprigs of fresh or dried herbs to vinegar purchased at a grocery store; generally a light-colored, mild tasting vinegar, such as that made from white wine, is used for this purpose.

Sweetened vinegar is of Cantonese origin and is made from rice wine, sugar and herbs including ginger, cloves, and other spices.

Spiced vinegar, from the Philippines (labeled as spiced sukang maasim), is flavored with chili peppers, onions, and garlic.

Job's Tears

In Japan, an aged vinegar also is made from Job's Tears; it is similar in flavor to rice vinegar.


Kombucha vinegar is made from kombucha, a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. The bacteria produce a complex array of nutrients and populate the vinegar with bacteria which some claim promotes a healthy digestive tract, although no scientific studies have confirmed this. Kombucha vinegar primarily is used to make a vinaigrette and is flavored by adding strawberries, blackberries, mint, or blueberries at the beginning of fermentation.

Culinary uses

Vinegar commonly is used in food preparation, particularly in pickling processes, vinaigrettes, and other salad dressings. It is an ingredient in sauces such as mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Vinegar sometimes is used while making chutneys. It often is used as a condiment. Marinades often contain vinegar.

  • Condiment for fish and chips - People commonly use malt vinegar (or non-brewed condiment) on chips.
  • Flavoring for potato chips - many American manufacturers of packaged potato chips and crisps feature a variety flavored with vinegar and salt.
  • Condiment for french fries, particularly in the UK, Northeastern United States, and universally across Canada (white or malt vinegar).
  • Vinegar pie - is a North American dessert made with a vinegar to one's taste.
  • Pickling - any vinegar can be used to pickle foods.
  • Cider vinegar and sauces - cider vinegar usually is not suitable for use in delicate sauces.
  • Substitute for fresh lemon juice - cider vinegar can usually be substituted for fresh lemon juice in recipes and obtain a pleasing effect although it lacks the vitamin C.
  • Saucing roast lamb - pouring cider vinegar over the meat when roasting lamb, especially when combined with honey or when sliced onions have been added to the roasting pan, produces a sauce.
  • Sweetened vinegar is used in the dish of Pork Knuckles and Ginger Stew which is made among Chinese people of Cantonese backgrounds to celebrate the arrival of a new child.
  • Sushi rice - Japanese use rice vinegar as an essential ingredient for sushi rice.
  • Red vinegar - Sometimes used in Chinese soups
  • Flavoring - used in the Southern U.S. to flavor collard greens and green beans to taste.

Medicinal uses

Many remedies and treatments have been ascribed to vinegar over millennia and in many different cultures, however, few have been verifiable using controlled medical trials and, several that are effective to some extent, have significant risks and side effects.

Lowering cholesterol and triacylglycerol

A scientific study published in 2006 concluded that a test group of rats fed with acetic acid (the main component of vinegar) had "significantly lower values for serum total cholesterol and triacylglycerol", among other health benefits.

Blood glucose control and diabetic management

Small amounts of vinegar (approximately 20 ml or two tablespoons of domestic vinegar) added to food, or taken along with a meal, have been shown by a number of medical trials to reduce the glycemic index of carbohydrate food for people with and without diabetes. This also has been expressed as lower glycemic index ratings in the region of 30%.

Diet control

Multiple trials indicate that taking vinegar with food increases satiety (the feeling of fullness) and so, reduces the amount of food consumed. Even a single application of vinegar can lead to reduced food intake for a whole day.

Other medicinal uses

  • Applying vinegar to common jellyfish stings deactivates the nematocysts, however, placing the affected areas in hot water is a more effective treatment because the venom is deactivated by heat. The latter requires immersion in 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) water for at least four minutes for the pain to be reduced to less than what would be accomplished using vinegar.
  • Vinegar should not be applied to Portuguese man o' war stings, however, since their venom is different from most jellyfish and vinegar can cause their nematocysts to discharge venom, making the pain worse.
  • Many people used to believe the popular urban myth that vinegar was also a cure to mild to moderate sunburn when soaked on the area with a towel or in a bath, similarly to covering a burn with unsalted butter.
  • Vinegar and sugar combined make a remarkable cure for hiccoughs.

  • A small amount of vinegar mixed with water has been recommended as a home remedy for minor topical and vaginal yeast infections for hundreds of years.
  • Vinegar also is claimed to be a solution to dandruff, in that the acid in the vinegar kills the fungus, Malassezia furfur (formerly known as Pityrosporum ovale), and restores the chemical balance of the skin.
  • Apple cider vinegar is used as a household remedy for common warts.
  • Vinegar can be effective in relieving heartburn.

Dangers of cider vinegar

There was a reported adverse event (Esophageal Injury by Apple Cider Vinegar Tablets) recorded by members of Department of Human Environmental Science (Human Nutrition), University of Arkansas, and available on Pubmed as an abstract of a paper submitted to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association: There also is a paper reporting on a woman in whom chronic ingestion of excessive amounts of cider vinegar caused serious health problems - Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia and Osteoporosis in a Patient Ingesting Large Amounts of Cider Vinegar, available from

Veterinary uses

Vinegar mixed with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is used in the livestock industry to kill bacteria and viruses before refrigerated storage. A chemical mixture of peracetic acid is formed when acetic acid is mixed with hydrogen peroxide.

Vinegar is being used in some Asian countries in an aerosol spray to control pneumonia. A mixture of five-percent acetic acid and three-percent hydrogen peroxide is commonly used.

Cleaning uses

White vinegar often is used as a natural household cleaning agent. With most such uses dilution with water is recommended for safety, reduced risk of damaging certain surfaces, and budgetary reasons. It is especially useful for cleaning mineral deposits found on glass, inside a coffee maker, or other smooth surfaces.

Vinegar is an excellent solvent for cleaning epoxy resin and epoxy hardener. It will even clean epoxy that is starting to harden. Care should be taken not to allow contact with the eyes (if such contact occurs, the eyes should be flushed immediately and persistently with warm water) or skin (the affected skin area should be washed thoroughly after use). See household chemicals.

Vinegar also is very good to clean off chewing gum stains from clothes; usually normal cleaning products are not capable of cleaning off chewing gum, so rubbing with vinegar before the machine wash should do the trick.

Diluted apple cider vinegar can be used to deep clean dreadlocks, removing residue and even beeswax. One method involves spraying a mixture of one part vinegar to four parts water onto the hair, letting it soak in, rinsing with water, and repeating this process as many times as necessary.

A few tablespoons of white vinegar mixed with a few teaspoons of common table salt makes an excellent cleanser for cleaning badly-stained stainless steel cookware. This vinegar and salt mixture also can remove oxidation from copper-clad cookware and make it shine with practically no rubbing required.

One cup of white vinegar to four cups of water (for a stronger solution, one cup of white vinegar to one cup of water works) makes a fine window-washing fluid, substituting for Windex. If windows appear streaky after washing with vinegar, add a half-teaspoon of liquid soap to the mix. This removes the waxy, streak-causing residue left over by commercial window cleaners.

Malt vinegar sprinkled onto crumpled newspaper is a traditional, and still-popular, method of cleaning grease-smeared windows and mirrors in the UK.

Plumbing drains can be cleaned by using a combination of vinegar and baking soda. Pour one-half cup baking soda down the drain, followed by one-half cup of white vinegar. Let sit for a while. Cover the drain while it works, meanwhile bring a tea kettle of water to a boil, and pour the boiling water down the drain. This is a good way to prevent build-up in the drain.

Vinegar also works well as a fabric softener; just add half a cup to the rinse cycle.

Add a cup of vinegar to an empty dishwasher and run through the washing cycle to remove mineral deposits and odors. One also can put it in the rinse dispenser instead of Jet Dry.

Removing odors using commercial cleaners often causes damage to surfaces. Vinegar can act as a very effective odor-remover especially in situations involving sensitive surfaces.

Vinegar is effective in removing rust from metals and for cleaning ice-skate blades.

Agricultural and horticultural uses

herbicide use

Vinegar can be used as an herbicide as shown by scientific trials reported by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture in 2002. Vinegar made from natural products classifies as organic and so there is interest in its being used on farms, orchards, and gardens which are certified as organic.

The trials showed that a number of common weeds could be controlled effectively by using vinegar with 5% to 20% acetic acid as a herbicide, although the lower concentration is less effective. A crop of corn may be sprayed with vinegar at 20% strength without causing harm to that crop, so it may be used to help keep a corn crop clear of weeds. In Fall 2007, the EPA registered the world's first organic vinegar-based weed and grass killer, named Weed Pharm. The product's active ingredient is 200-grain “food grade” vinegar.

Acetic acid is not absorbed into root systems, so vinegar will kill top growth, but perennial plants will reshoot.

Commercial vinegar, available to consumers for household use, does not exceed 5% and solutions above 10% need careful handling since they are corrosive and damaging to skin. Stronger solutions (i.e., greater than 5%) that are labeled for use as herbicides are available from some retailers.


When a bottle of vinegar is opened, the mother of vinegar may develop. It is considered harmless and can be removed by filtering. Colloquially-collected knowledge recommends an expiration or shelf-life date of 12-18 months, although no reference explicitly states its toxicity. Various records can be found warning of decomposition of flavoring elements, such as whole leaves, prepared in the vinegar.

When vinegar is added to sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), it produces a volatile mixture of carbonic acid rapidly decomposing into water and carbon dioxide bubbles, making the reaction, "fizz". It is exemplified as the typical acid-base reaction in school science experiments. The salt that is formed is sodium acetate. This also serves as a qualitative test for some carboxylic acids.

Some countries, prohibit the selling of vinegar over a certain percentage acidity. As an example, the government of Canada limits the acetic acid of vinegars to between 4.1% and 12.3%. Departmental Consolidation of the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations - Part B - Division 17-28. Health Canada. Retrieved on 2008-09-02..

According to Muhammad, vinegar is one of the best condiments.

Lord Byron would consume vast quantities of white vinegar in an attempt to keep his complexion pale.

Some people also believe that vinegar can be used as a detoxification agent for marijuana, but this is myth.

Posca, a Roman legionaries' basic drink was vinegar mixed with water and optional honey.

According to legend, in France during the Black Plague, four thieves were able to rob houses of plague victims without being infected themselves. When finally caught, the Judge offered to grant the men their freedom, on the condition that they revealed how they managed to stay healthy. They claimed that a medicine woman sold them a potion, made of garlic soaked in soured red wine (vinegar). Variants of the recipe, called Four Thieves Vinegar, have been passed down for hundreds of years and are a staple of New Orleans Hoodoo practices.

Vinegar can be mixed with heated milk to create a casein-based plastic.

Diluted vinegar can be used as a homemade stop bath during photographic processing.


See also

External links

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