Vinegar such as red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and rice vinegar is the most popular in the United States. Most vinegar has a “best before” date on them, but if stored properly, they are usually safe to use after this date.

Although vinegar can lengthen the shelf life of other foods, such as when used to pickle cucumbers, it does not guarantee that these items will remain fresh for eternity. This article tackles the proper ways of storing vinegar so its shelf life will be lengthened.

What is vinegar?

Fruit is fermented with yeast acetobacter, transforming the alcoholic content into acid to produce vinegar. In other words, acetic acid is produced as a byproduct of the fermentation of ethanol by bacteria. As a result, acetic acid is what sets vinegar unique.

What is vinegar made of?

Vinegar also contains minerals, vitamins, and other tasty ingredients in addition to acetic acid. Many components can be used to make it, giving it a wide range of distinct properties and flavors. It’s also possible to produce vinegar, such as apple cider or white.

What Is vinegar’s pH Level?

A pH strip, which you can get online or at your local pharmacy, will allow you to determine the vinegar’s pH. Depending on the concentration of acid in the vinegar, the pH changes. However, the commercially distilled variant found in most supermarkets has a pH between 2.40 and 3.40, lower than the pH of distilled water.

What is meant by the “Mother” of Vinegar?

Most vinegar on the market has been pasteurized to prevent the “mother of vinegar” from developing. Instead, bacteria cultures are known as “mothers of vinegar” are used to start ethanol’s fermentation process. During the pasteurization, the vinegar is heated to kill the slime-like cellulose glob that forms in the solution. Raw varieties are those that have not been processed in this manner.

Expiration dates for various kinds of vinegar

Three glass bottles with different types of vinegar isolated on white background

All vinegar has a lengthy shelf-life because of the fermentation process, but the precise shelf life of vinegar depends on the vinegar type and how it is stored. Always remember that store- brought vinegar is different from homemade ones because the latter can easily go bad,

White Vinegar

White vinegar is considered the longest-lasting and most stable of all the types. You can keep it open or unopened for a long time without having to put it in the refrigerator. Its virtually indestructible thanks to its fermentation that makes it acidic and hence self-preserving,

Shelf life:

indefinite for both pantry and fridge storage in terms of best quality and usability

Apple Cider Vinegar

When properly stored, it can last up to two years, although it’s safe to use practically indefinitely. Although apple cider vinegar has a long shelf life, quality deteriorates over time, particularly after opening. Changes in flavor or cloudiness may indicate something is wrong, but it’s still safe to use.

Americans prefer this type of vinegar. While this fruit vinegar can be stored indefinitely, it will lose its distinctive aroma and flavor. Several factors will hasten the process; this includes” high moisture content due to the frequent bottle opening and exposure to direct sunlight.

Fortunately, if you keep your vinegar according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you won’t detect much difference in fresh and old vinegar flavors.

Shelf life: 

5 years both for fridge and pantry in terms of quality; indefinite safety, and usability

White Balsamic Vinegar

While balsamic vinegar can be kept for years if the cap is kept on, its quality is at its peak for the first three years after opening. Do not worry about the fact that the quality can degrade over time. It will last for many more years. Keep it in the dark pantry with a tight-fitting lid to extend its shelf life.

Balsamic vinegar is a salad dressing staple for many people. Writing down the date of purchase is a good idea because this product should not be used for more than two years. After that period, buying a new bottle is advisable to ensure the greatest possible flavor.

Shelf life: 

2-3 years for fridge and pantry in terms of quality; indefinite safety, and usability

Red wine vinegar

After opening, red wine vinegar retains its greatest quality for around two years, but it can be stored indefinitely without risking the loss of potency. If the flavor is important to you, you may wish to buy a new bottle after two years if you find the old one lacking. It is because the quality will decline over time. However, it is still safe to consume even after it becomes foggy.

Shelf life:

2 years for fridge and pantry in terms of quality; indefinite safety, and usability

Rice vinegar

Even though rice vinegar can be stored for several years in the cupboard if the color isn’t discolored, the vinegar’s flavor starts to degrade after two years. Therefore, it’s advisable to throw out vinegar that has become discolored.

Shelf life:

2-3 years for fridge and pantry in terms of quality; indefinite safety, and usability

Malt vinegar

After two years of storage, malt vinegar’s quality decreases and may turn hazy. If this happens, don’t be alarmed because you can still use it.

6 telltale signs that indicate a vinegar has gone bad

white vinegar bottle on the wooden table

When stored properly, vinegar has an indefinite shelf life since it cannot deteriorate. No need to refrigerate because of the acidic nature of this product; it will keep for months without refrigeration.

You may have noticed that the flavor and look have changed when you keep vinegar in your cupboard for a long period. However, even though these are usually harmless, you should be aware of them. Here are six telltale signs that indicate a vinegar has gone bad.

Floating particles

It’s a solid sign that the vinegar you’re using has lost its quality if anything is floating around or sediment forms at the bottom. However, this does not mean that you should stop using vinegar since you can eliminate these particles by filtering or just continuing to use vinegar that way.

Change in color

Vinegar comes in various colors: white, yellow, red, and black. The type you decide to utilize in your kitchen is entirely up to you. If the color had changed from the original hue when you bought it, it could be a sign that the vinegar has been stored for too long or the storage conditions aren’t ideal. It also indicates that its quality is not as great as before.

Rotten smell

Sometimes it is better to toss away a product because you can’t do anything with it. An example is when your vinegar has a rotten smell. This scent is a sure symptom of mold growth on the surface. However, due to the acidic atmosphere, it’s a rare occurrence, although it can happen.

Taste deterioration

When exposed to excessive humidity, vinegar’s acidity will deteriorate more quickly. The acetic acid will slowly break down in these conditions, and the acidity level will eventually drop. There is always a change in taste and quality when this happens, even though it is quite harmless.

Rust formation in the container’s cap

If you can see rust starting to form on the bottle cap, it is due to the contact between the lid’s substance and the vinegar’s acid. Replace the old product with a fresh one instead of old ones.

The open appearance of the “mother” of vinegar

The mother of vinegar is a slimy jelly-like substance in other vinegar types such as apple cider. The mother is harmless, despite the unappealing appearance. Using a coffee filter, you can quickly and easily remove it.

Ways of properly storing vinegar

To maintain its acidity and flavor, vinegar must be stored properly to prevent oxidation. Even though it needs to be kept in the dark and cool environment, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Always remember to:

Tighten the cap on a bottle

This will help keep oxygen out. In this method, undesired fermentation activities can be reduced to a minimum.

Store in a moisture-free environment

Keep the vinegar’s acidity and shelf-life intact by preventing moisture from lowering its acidity.

Pasteurize and heat it

Vinegar is prone to acetic acid degradation as it ages. However, pasteurization and heating it to 155 degrees Fahrenheit can prevent it (68 C).

Where you can store vinegar

There are several options on where you can store vinegar. You can place it in the cupboard, which is the ideal option, or other least favorable options are in the refrigerator and freezer. Different storage places have different storage techniques.


This acidic product is best stored in glass or high-quality plastic containers. Using a metal container to hold vinegar is a bad idea. Moreover, you can place it in the cupboard whether the container is opened or not.


Vinegar can be kept in the fridge in the same way; it’s kept in the cupboard. First, ensure that the bottle’s cap is securely fastened.


Vinegar should never be frozen in glass containers. Pouring it into an airtight plastic container is preferable. When putting the lid on a container, cover the opening with a piece of transparent foil or adhesive tape to avoid leakage.

Another way is to use an ice cube tray to freeze vinegar. You don’t have to defrost frozen vinegar before using it in a recipe. Before preparing dips or seasonings using this product, it is sufficient to let the container sit in the refrigerator overnight. To hasten the thawing process, you can submerge it in hot water.

Vinegar with the “mother.”

Most vinegars are pasteurized and filtered; however, some are still available with the mother Vinegar needs to be kept from being exposed to oxygen since the bacteria colony keeps growing after you open the bottle.  In the case of apple cider vinegar, for example, people utilize it as a probiotic since it contains a bacterial colony.

Alternative ways of using vinegar:

Vinegar may be stored indefinitely may urge you to stock up on the largest bottle of the stuff you can locate. However, while you may already be aware of vinegar’s ability to enhance flavor, you might be surprised to learn just how many other uses it has.

Vinegar has a tart, acidic flavor that can be utilized in many foods to achieve a more balanced flavor. This simple pantry staple is an all-purpose product that never expires. To put it another way, if you can buy in quantity.

For your beauty regimen:

When used as a hair rinse and applied to the face, the product’s devotees claim it gives them gorgeous locks and bright skin—and a quick soak in the substance can make your feet fungus-free and silky-smooth.

For cleaning

Vinegar can also be used on any equipment, including coffee makers and washing machines. It may also be used to cleanse surfaces and remove buildup from showerheads.

Frequently asked questions

Aromatic vinegar making - vine and apple vinegar with ingredients at wood table

Why is there an indicated “use by date” for vinegar?

As a general rule, vinegar has a “use by” date on the label. Date focuses on high quality rather than safety. Because dates don’t work well for vinegar storage, it’s best not to rely on them. Instead, the printed date is a promise from the manufacturer that the product will maintain its high quality for the specified time.

Because that doesn’t mean the quality will immediately begin to deteriorate. And in most cases, it continues to function well for a few more years after the initial purchase. Hence, the date talks about quality, and not safety and usability,

Should I freeze vinegar?

You don’t need to keep vinegar in the freezer because it has an indefinite shelf life. However, keep in mind that acetic acid breakdown may reduce the vinegar acidity when frozen. Depending on the vinegar you’re using, the freezing point can range from 28 F (-2 C) to as low as 0 F (-32 C).

However, thawed vinegar can be used in most cooking and salad preparations but should be avoided while pickling. Freezing this product in an airtight plastic container is the best solution. Afterward, place the packaging in a firm freezer position to avoid spillage.

Here’s how to properly freeze vinegar should you need to do so:

  • Using an ice cube tray is preferable if you only want to freeze a little amount of vinegar.
  • Place the tray in the freezer and then pour the mixture into it. All the cubes will be completely frozen after six to twelve hours.
  • Before putting them back in the freezer, please remove them and seal them in a freezer bag or container.

What happens if I freeze vinegar?

Vinegar can be preserved without being frozen. Self-preserving vinegar can be stored in your cupboard for years with little or no obvious impact. However, you can freeze the vinegar, whatever type, with corresponding varying reactions. Vinegar freezes at a temperature of 28 degrees Fahrenheit or such. Freezing could occur if you leave it outside or in an unheated garage.

Just be aware that freezing vinegar may have additional consequences and that how you use it afterward may be affected. Here are some of them:

  • If you freeze homemade vinegar, its flavor and strength may suffer.
  • You may have to change how you utilize it after freezing it.
  • On the other hand, you may not notice any changes if you use vinegar mostly for cooking and creating dressings.
  • When it comes to vinegar for pickling or cleaning, avoid freezing it because the dilution of the vinegar could reduce its effectiveness and make it less efficient than it should be.
  • If you freeze vinegar, you may be diluting the vinegar’s acidity even further. This is because the solution freezes and then melts, adding water to the mix and diluting the acid in vinegar.


Vinegar can be used to preserve food due to its strong acidity. Your choice of product and method of storage will affect its shelf life. All of them will last for a long time, even though their properties alter sooner in some than others. Compared to unopened vinegar, and opened one is a bit faster in terms of losing its quality.

Even though vinegar has a long shelf life, air and sunshine will degrade its quality over time. Changes in look and flavor will occur if vinegar is not properly preserved. It’s crucial to be aware of these changes for your safety.