What Is the pH Level of Vinegar and What Is the Significance?

Medically Reviewed on 9/20/2022

Understanding the pH level of vinegar 

Vinegar is unique, playing the roles of both a powerful household cleaner and a cooking ingredient. The pH level may vary; however, most vinegar is quite acidic, ranging from 2 to 3 on the scale.
Vinegar is unique, playing the roles of both a powerful household cleaner and a cooking ingredient. The pH level may vary; however, most vinegar is quite acidic, ranging from 2 to 3 on the scale.

Vinegar is unique, playing the roles of both a powerful household cleaner and a cooking ingredient. Vinegar is produced from anything containing sugar, like a piece of fruit or even a grain. Some kinds of vinegar have an alkalizing effect on the body, like apple cider vinegar, and have taken hold as an alternative health craze.  

When it goes through a two-part fermentation process, sugar turns into ethanol and is then processed into acetic acid. With a typical pH of 2 to 3, vinegar is acidic and can be used as a preservative or mixed in a drink to boost immunity. 

So, why is understanding the pH level of vinegar significant? Read on to find out! 

Ultimately, how many free hydrogen ions a substance has will determine its pH level. These ions are responsible for the acidic or sour flavor you may taste in certain food items.

The pH level of all substances is measured on a scale ranging from 0 to 14, with water resting in the middle at seven, making it a neutral substance. Substances with a pH level below seven, like vinegar, are considered acidic, while anything above seven is considered a base.  

Comprised of water and alcohol, vinegar undergoes a two-step fermentation process that results in a highly acidic substance. The pH level of a substance may seem like useless or trivial information, but knowing whether something is more acidic or basic can be tremendously beneficial. For instance, the acidic quality of distilled white vinegar makes it great for cleaning up around the house.

Depending on the type of vinegar you’re using, the pH level may vary; however, most vinegar is quite acidic, ranging from 2 to 3 on the scale. Made with water and acetic acid, the pH level of distilled white vinegar is typically around 2.5. 

Its less acidic counterpart, balsamic vinegar, is sweeter and can add flavor to a healthy salad or fish dinner. Chock-full of important vitamins, essential amino acids, and mineral salts, vinegar is a great addition to your grocery list that can bring you several wonderful benefits.

Types of vinegar and their uses 

Vinegar is a diverse tool and a pantry staple like olive oil. It can be used for household cleaning or added to your food as a dressing, in sauces, and in marinades. You can choose from many unique types of vinegar at the grocery store, with two of the most common being apple cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar. Some vinegar contains special ingredients like cinnamon or herbs like basil.  

Here are the different types of vinegar on the market and their uses:

Apple cider vinegar 

This liquid extract is light or golden in color, derived from crushed apples, and has a slight apple flavor. Apple cider vinegar is tart but milder in taste than white distilled vinegar. It may darken lighter-colored fruits and vegetables due to its color despite having lower acidity than other types of vinegar. This vinegar is an excellent addition to sweeter dishes, a salad, or a sauce. 

When apple cider vinegar is labeled raw, this typically means it is organic and has been unfiltered. It is typically made from apples that grow in soil free of synthetic pesticides or fertilizer. 

Distilled white vinegar 

This type of vinegar is clear, colorless, and made from distilled fermented grains that often have a pungent flavor. Distilled white vinegar is preferred for pickling fruits or vegetables because it’s clear and does not alter their color. Distilled white vinegar is a popular ingredient in meals due to its lack of aromatic flavors that compete with other savory flavors found in herbs and spices. It is also a popular choice for cleaning.

Distilled white vinegar can remove mineral deposits from your shower stalls or soap scum from sinks. The 5% acetic acid content in distilled white vinegar is also powerful, capable of killing some pathogens lingering around your home. However, you should not exclusively use distilled white vinegar as a cleaning product. Continue purchasing commercial disinfectants that are strong enough to kill pathogens like salmonella.  

Unlike other household cleaners that can be harsh, distilled white vinegar is safe to use on your skin and around your children and pets. No lingering odor or residue is left behind after using distilled white vinegar as a cleaner. Surfaces may also stay cleaner longer because cleaning with distilled white vinegar could inhibit future bacteria growth. 

Want to get tough stains out of your clothing? The pH level makes vinegar a strong acid that busts through even the heaviest grass stains or unpleasant sweat odors. 

The next time you’re looking to buy vinegar as a household cleaning agent, look for vinegar with a ph of around 2.5.

Other types of vinegar 

Some additional but less popular types of vinegar are made from fermented rice, which is often used to complement dishes like sushi or stir-fry. 

Vinegar made from red or white wine has a sharp flavor that is excellent for cooking meat or as an addition to your favorite salad. When a vinegar base like wine vinegar is mixed with fruit or herbs like sage, it creates unique flavor combinations that can be used in everything from sauces to dressings. 

Balsamic vinegar is dark brown and is made from fermented grapes, giving it a sweeter taste. You can add this type of vinegar to a delicious bowl of fruit or your favorite ice cream.

Why you should pick up vinegar on your next shopping trip

Low in calories, vinegar is an ideal ingredient to flavor food for those on a restricted diet because it contains no sodium or sugar. Read the vinegar label carefully, though, and choose one with 5% acidity. Anything below that may result in spoilage. 

Add flavor to your next meal or spice up a rich dish by considering vinegar as a regular staple item in your kitchen. 


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Medically Reviewed on 9/20/2022

Consumer Reports: "9 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar."

Harvard School of Public Health: "Vinegar."

Penn State Extension: "Advice about Vinegar."

The Public Health and Safety Organization: "Reliable and Scientific Tips for Cleaning With Vinegar."

U.S. Geological Survey: "pH scale."