Does Vinegar Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on December 18th, 2022

The short answer is that vinegar is a fermented substance, and the good news is that it has a “virtually endless” shelf life. In addition, vinegar is self-preserving and does not require refrigeration due to its acidic composition.

What exactly is vinegar?

Vinegar is an acetic acid solution formed by fermenting fruit and yeast acetobacter, transforming the alcoholic component into acid.

different Vinegars

Americans’ most commonly used vinegar includes distilled white vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and rice vinegar.

Most of them are undoubtedly wondering if vinegar goes bad and how long vinegar lasts. Let us investigate.

How Is Vinegar Produced?

The acidic liquid is produced by fermenting ethanol alcohol. Bacteria are employed to break down or ferment the ethanol, producing many byproducts, one of which is acetic acid. Acetic acid is what distinguishes vinegar.

In addition to acetic acid, vinegar includes minerals, vitamins, and other tasty ingredients. It may be made with various components contributing to its distinct features and flavors. You may even produce your apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.

What is Vinegar’s pH?

The pH of vinegar fluctuates based on the amount of acid it contains. The commercial distilled variant, available at any grocery shop, has a pH of 2.40 to 3.40.

A pH strip, which you can get online or at your local drug shop, may be used to determine the pH of vinegar.

What is the “Mother” of Vinegar?

The “mother of vinegar” is the initial bacterial culture used to start the ethanol fermentation. It is a slimy glob of cellulose that develops in vinegar and is often destroyed during the pasteurization process when it is heated.

Almost all vinegar on the market has been pasteurized to prevent the formation of the “mother of vinegar.” Those types that have not gone through this treatment will be labeled “raw.”

Does Vinegar Go Bad?

Vinegar does not deteriorate and has an infinite shelf life if stored correctly. In addition, because of its acidic nature, this product may self-preserve and does not need to be refrigerated.

However, you will notice that its flavor lasts longer when both open and unopened bottles of all vinegar types are stored in the fridge.

White distilled vinegar is the only form that remains constant throughout time. Therefore, sediments and ‘mother of vinegar,’ slimy discs generated at the bottom, are likely to cause minor alterations in the look of the other kinds.

Fortunately, they will not alter the flavor or quality of this culinary product so that you may use it without concern.

How Long Does Vinegar Last?

Vinegar may be used to preserve food due to its highly acidic characteristics. However, the kind and manner of storage determine its shelf life. Even if some may alter their qualities faster than others, they will survive a long time.

Vinegar Shelf LifePantryFridge
Vinegar typeFor best qualitySafe and usableFor best qualitySafe and usable
Apple cider5 yearsindefinitely5 yearsindefinitely
Balsamic2 to 3 yearsindefinitely2 to 3 yearsindefinitely
Red wine2 yearsindefinitely2 yearsindefinitely
Rice2 yearsindefinitely2 yearsindefinitely

Despite the several varieties available on the market, apple cider vinegar is the most commonly used in American kitchens.

Even if it remains undisturbed for years, this fruit vinegar will lose its characteristic scent and taste. This process will be accelerated for several reasons, including:

  • Bottle opening frequency
  • Direct sunlight exposure
  • High moisture content

Fortunately, you won’t notice a big difference in the flavor of fresh and old vinegar, especially if you keep it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Vinegar Expiration Dates & Shelf Life

Because of the fermentation process that produces vinegar, all kinds have a lengthy shelf life; however, the particular shelf life of vinegar varies on the type of vinegar and how it is stored.

Although raw or handmade vinegar might rot, this article focuses on store-bought vinegar.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Although apple cider vinegar has a long shelf life, its quality will decline, particularly after opening. This can be detected by a change in flavor or the product becoming hazy or clouded, but the product is still safe to use.

It normally retains its finest quality for around two years when properly preserved. However, it can be used indefinitely.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar may be kept for years if the cap is not removed. After that, however, its quality might decline. So keep the lid tightly closed and store it in a dark spot, such as a pantry, to extend its shelf life.

Its quality is finest for the first three years after opening, but it will last many years beyond that.

Not sure which brand to go with? See our list of the top balsamic vinegar selections on the market, which includes both low-cost and high-end goods.

Malt Vinegar

Malt vinegar may also be stored indefinitely. However, its quality decreases after two years and may get hazy. If this occurs, it is still safe to use.

Most vinegar has a “best before” date stamped on the bottle, although if stored correctly, it is typically OK after this date.

It should be emphasized that vinegar enhances the shelf life of other foods – for example, when used to pickle cucumbers – but it does not make them indefinitely shelf stable.

Red Wine Vinegar

Red wine vinegar is best used within two years of opening, although it can be used indefinitely. It will get foggy over time as the quality deteriorates, but it is still safe to use.

If you are picky about flavor, you may detect degradation after two years and need to buy a new bottle.

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar will keep in the pantry for several years as long as it remains clear in color, but its flavor will deteriorate after two years. If the vinegar becomes discolored, it is preferable to toss it.

White Vinegar

White vinegar has a practically infinite shelf life. Because of the fermentation that makes it acidic and therefore self-preserving, it lasts the longest and practically never goes bad of all types.

It does not need to be refrigerated and can be stored indefinitely, whether opened or unopened.

Why is there an expiration date on vinegar?

The best-by date is usually placed on the label of the vinegar. That deadline is for quality, not safety. By no means is it an expiration date.

The printed date represents the manufacturer’s promise of how long the product will remain in excellent condition. Of course, this does not imply that the quality will suddenly deteriorate. On the contrary, it will last for another couple of years in most situations.

In other words, reliance on dates for vinegar storage is ineffective.

Instead, go by quality and taste: if the condiment isn’t up to par, dump it. Whether unsure if the flavor is there, try it in a marinade or anything else you use it for and see if it works. Simple, yet powerful.

Following the Opening

An open bottle of vinegar often loses quality faster than an unopened bottle, although the difference isn’t significant if you keep your vinegar correctly.

So, even if you have an outdated bottle of vinegar, you should still check to see if it is safe to use. The remaining liquid is probably acceptable, even if it’s only half full.

Vinegar changes alteration, but not considered bad

While vinegar has an almost infinite shelf life, exposure to air and direct sunlight will degrade its quality over time. Vinegar that has been improperly kept can alter in look and taste. Although these changes are natural and harmless, they should be noted.

Color Alteration

The color of vinegar varies depending on the kind. It comes in white, pale yellow, red, and black. If the color of your vinegar changes, it has lost its greatest qualities.

The Formation of Haze and Sediment

It is no longer high-quality if your vinegar has particles floating on top of it or sediments. To remove sediments from cloudy vinegar, filter it.

The Vinegar’s Mother

The mother of vinegar is a slimy jelly-like material found in apple cider vinegar and other varieties. The mother is perfectly harmless, despite its unappealing look. You can easily remove it using a coffee filter.

Taste Modification

The acidity of the vinegar can be reduced by absorbing water from the air. It will lose taste when the acidity decreases. Though it is safe to use, vinegar with an odd flavor will affect your recipes.

How to Tell if Vinegar Is Bad

You may notice that vinegar stored in your cupboard for an extended time alters your taste and appearance. You should be aware of them even if they are typically infrequent and harmless.


If you observe anything floating inside the bottle or any sediment in the bottle bottom, you may be certain that the vinegar you are using has lost its high quality.

However, this is not a reason to discontinue product usage because these particles may be removed by filtering or just continuing to use vinegar in this manner.

The mother of vinegar is a mucous gelatinous substance found in most fruit vinegar.


Vinegar comes in white, pale yellow, red, and black varieties on the market. The type you wish to utilize in your kitchen is entirely up to your tastes and preferences.

Any changes in the color of a common product suggest that it has been sitting in the pantry for too long or that the storage conditions are inadequate. In any situation, the vinegar is no longer of the highest quality, and you must determine whether or not to utilize it.


The foul scent indicates mold development on the vinegar surface. It infrequently happens due to the acidic atmosphere, but it can happen. It is also possible that you will be unable to use this product and should discard it.


Be careful that the acidity of the vinegar can deteriorate with time, especially if exposed to high humidity levels. In those settings, the acetic acid slowly decomposes, and the acidity level gradually decreases. Although this alteration is somewhat innocuous, it always results in a change in flavor and quality.

When it comes to flavor, rice vinegar is an exception. When the color of this product turns yellowish, you will know it has degraded in quality.

Many people cannot fathom preparing a salad without balsamic vinegar. Because it is preferable not to use this product for more than two years, it is a good idea to write down the opening date. Then, to ensure the greatest flavor, replace the opened bottle with a fresh one after that period.


Rust may be seen on the bottle top, believe it or not. The interaction between the material of the lid and the acid in vinegar causes it. Replace it with a fresh bottle if you are using such a product.

How to Store Vinegar

Vinegar is a highly dependable product that must be stored properly to avoid losing its acidity and flavor. Therefore, even though it must be kept in the dark and cool area, it is not required to store the bottle in the refrigerator.

Tightening the cap always helps to limit oxygen penetration into a container. In addition, you’ll be able to reduce undesirable fermentation processes this way. Another consideration is to keep moisture from reducing the acidity of the vinegar and shortening its shelf life.

Remember that vinegar’s stability might naturally deteriorate with time, resulting in an acetic acid breakdown. However, pasteurization and heating at 155 F can prevent it (68 C).


All vinegar, open or unopened, can be stored in the pantry. However, because this product is acidic, it should be stored in a glass container or high-quality plastic packaging. Vinegar should never be stored in a metal container.


Vinegar may be stored in the refrigerator in the same manner that it can be stored in the pantry. First, check that the bottle is securely closed.


Vinegar in glass bottles should never be frozen. Pouring it into an airtight plastic container is a preferable option. Always lay a transparent foil or adhesive tape over the aperture before closing the lid to avoid leaks.

You may also freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray. It is not necessary to thaw frozen vinegar before using it in cooking.

Allowing the jar to lie in the fridge overnight before using this product for dips or seasonings will suffice. Another alternative is to put it in a dish of hot water to help it thaw faster.

Vinegar Contains The Mother

Even though most vinegar is filtered and pasteurized, a few are marketed with the mother. 

Apple cider vinegar, for example, is frequently supplied containing this bacterial colony and is used as a useful probiotic.

Limiting the exposure of vinegar to oxygen is critical since it continues to ferment as the bacteria colony grows once the bottle is opened.

The Dangers of Consuming Old Vinegar

Vinegar is one of those inexpensive foods seldom spoils and has an infinite shelf life.

However, any change in flavor, look, or quality suggests that it is best not to use this product, even if it is not toxic to ingest.

If the vinegar you’ve been storing for a while has been exposed to heat, air, and moisture, it’s best to toss the bottle and get a new one. When you notice the corroded bottle top, you should do the same. Another approach is to discover a method to eliminate rust from metal before reusing it.

Can Vinegar Be frozen?

Vinegar has an infinite shelf life and does not need to be frozen. Unfortunately, its container is frequently made of plastic, so freezing is a fantastic way to buy one large bottle rather than multiple smaller ones and save money.

Vinegar is a liquid with a freezing point of roughly 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius). However, this varies depending on the variety. Remember that freezing may reduce the acidity of the vinegar owing to acetic acid breakdown.

In most circumstances, thawed vinegar can be used in cooking and salad dressings, but it should not be used for pickling.

This product should be frozen in an airtight plastic container. Then, place the package in a firm position in the freezer to prevent spillage.

If you want to freeze a tiny amount of leftover vinegar, use an ice cube tray. Pour it onto the tray, wrap it in clear foil, and store it in the freezer.

After 6 to 12 hours, all of the cubes will be completely frozen. Then, it is time to remove them from the freezer and place them in a freezer bag or sealed container before returning them to the freezer.

What Happens When Vinegar Is Freeze?

Whatever sort of vinegar you have, you can certainly freeze it. You may see varied responses in different kinds of vinegar. We’ll get to those in a minute.

For the time being, we’ll go over the fundamentals of what to expect when you freeze vinegar.

To begin, it is not necessary to freeze vinegar to preserve it. Vinegar is a self-preserving substance that may be kept on your pantry shelf for years with little to no impact.

However, freezing your vinegar can be beneficial in a variety of ways. There are a few more things you may notice when you freeze vinegar.

First and foremost, vinegar freezes at around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. So it might freeze if you leave it outside or in a non-temperature-controlled garage.

Acetic acid decomposes over time, which is why you may see discoloration if you keep your vinegar on the shelf for years. This does not cause your vinegar to spoil; it only lessens its strength and acidity.

When vinegar is frozen, it is conceivable that the acidity of the vinegar is reduced even further. In addition, because the solution freezes and then melts, it can introduce additional moisture into the mix in the form of water, diluting the acid in vinegar.

If you opt to freeze your vinegar, remember that it may not be as powerful as before. You should also be aware that if it has been sitting in your cupboard for two years, it may not be as potent.

One of the essential things to remember about freezing vinegar is that you may need to change how you utilize it after it has been frozen.

For example, if you usually use vinegar in cooking and creating dressings, you probably won’t notice much change when using it.

However, suppose you use vinegar for pickling or even extra-strength cleaning. In that case, we recommend that you do not freeze it since the drop in potency produced by dilution may make your vinegar less effective than it is supposed to be.

Remember that freezing vinegar may have additional adverse effects, and how you utilize it after that may be affected.

Ways to Make Use of Your Vinegar

You might be tempted to bring home the biggest bottle of vinegar you can find now that you know it lasts forever…and you wouldn’t be wrong. Vinegar is well-known for its sour, acidic flavor, which may be utilized to produce a more balanced flavor in a variety of foods. (As a bonus, this liquid gold is excellent in deglazing a pan.)

You may be aware of the taste boost that vinegar delivers, but it turns out that it can do much more.

For example, apple cider vinegar might be the missing element in your beauty routine: Fans believe it gives them gorgeous locks when used as a hair rinse and bright skin when applied to the face—and a simple bath in it may even leave their feet fungus-free and silky-smooth.

On the other hand, white distilled vinegar is a frequently used cleaning solution capable of removing stains, disinfecting surfaces, building up from showerheads, and cleaning practically any equipment, from coffee makers to washing machines.

Yes, this common pantry staple is an all-purpose foodstuff that never goes bad. In other words, buy in bulk whenever possible.


Vinegar seldom goes bad or expires. However, you may discover symptoms of quality alteration, turbidity, or sediment occurrence in your product. In most circumstances, you can rapidly fix the problem if required filtration.


Editorial Staff

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