Vinegar is truly a versatile product. It has the ability to clean safely and without environmental degradation. Yet, like any other product, it works better if it is stored properly. Therefore, it is important you know the facts about the shelf life of vinegar.

Shelf Life

Arguments exist concerning the shelf life of vinegar. Some argue that if you leave vinegar unopened and stored properly, it will last for at least 3 years. The same individuals state that an opened vinegar bottle, even when properly stored, will be good only for 6 to 9 months. The Vinegar Institute disagrees, as do many researchers. They argue vehemently based upon the scientific make-up of the product. Vinegar is acidic in nature. This results in self-preserving. As a result, the shelf life of vinegar is relatively “infinite”. White vinegar and balsamic vinegars have the longest shelf lives.

Although some types of vinegars may undergo some changes in appearance—they may become cloudy, change color slightly or have evidence of sediment, this is cosmetic. It does not affect the product itself. Sedimentation over time is normal in vinegar, just as it is in vinegar’s close relative, wine. The formation of mother of vinegar is also a natural process and does not indicate any contamination or potential ill effects if the product is digested. In some cases, shaking the bottle will disperse the sediment completely. However, it is not harmful to drink mother of vinegar, and some believe it actually offers health benefits. So don’t worry about the mother, though you may wish to strain off some of the other sediments, depending on how the vinegar was blended originally.

As usual, some researchers and vinegar lovers take a middle road. They feel that an opened bottle of vinegar is subject to flavor diminution. In a year, the opened bottle of vinegar will begin to lose its original flavor, weakening its initial impact on the taste buds and, perhaps, its ability to clean as effectively. If you are worried about the effectiveness of your vinegar, buy smaller amounts at a time. This way, you can be sure to use it all up before a year has ended and any potential quality loss will be reduced.

Where To Store It

Vinegar does not need to be refrigerated. What it requires is a tightly fastened lid. It also needs a dark, cool place away from temperature fluctuations or high heat. A cold cellar, wine cellar or basement may be appropriate.


Vinegar is generally divided into two types—culinary and distilled—but the reality is so much more. Vinegar comes in a surprisingly wide variety, and countries around the globe have created their own version of the ancient condiment. In North America, the most common are white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Americans may also turn to balsamic vinegar. Yet, North Americans in general are restrictive in their exploration of the various kinds of vinegar available. While it is possible to explore the different types in your cooking and pickling, this book is about discovering the uses of vinegar beyond the kitchen. The following chapters will explore the uses of vinegar. It will look at its varied facets but first needs to discuss how to best store vinegar. Only then can you ensure that, in the kitchen or in the sick room, you are employing it at its best.