Can breathing vinegar hurt you?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question “Can breathing vinegar hurt you?”

We will also put some light on the uses of vinegar and precautions to be maintained while using it.

Can breathing vinegar hurt you?

Yes, acetic acid, one of the main components of vinegar, is corrosive to skin and gastric mucosa. Liquid or spray mist may produce tissue damage, particularly on mucous membranes of eyes, mouth, and respiratory tract.

Spray mist inhalation may produce severe irritation of respiratory tract, coughing, choking, or shortness of breath. It is also known to cause inflammation of the eye and skin.

Repetitive exposure to acetic acid may cause erosion of dental enamel, bronchitis, and eye irritation. Bronchopneumonia and pulmonary edema may develop following acute overexposure.(1)

How can you safely handle vinegar?

Use with adequate ventilation and do not breathe dust or vapor. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing. Wash hands thoroughly after handling.(5)

What should you do if you get hurt by vinegar?

Exposure should be terminated as soon as possible by removal of the patient to fresh air. The skin, eyes, and mouth should be washed with copious water. Contaminated clothing and jewelry should be removed and isolated. 

Contact lenses should be removed from the eyes to avoid prolonged contact of the acid with the area. A mild soap solution may be used for washing the skin and as an aid to neutralize the acid but should not be placed into the eye.

No cream, ointment, or dressing should be applied to the affected area. Dilution with water may be the solution if a small quantity of vinegar is swallowed. 

Under no circumstances should carbonated beverages ever be used because of large quantities of carbon dioxide gas released that distend the stomach. (1)

 Is it true that vinegar is harmful to your eyes?

Vinegar routinely produces only minor ocular damage unless contact is prolonged. Consequences of typical exposures include immediate pain, conjunctival hyperemia, and mild, reversible injury to the cornea.

 Acetic acid typically requires concentrations greater than 10% to cause severe injury. More dilute acetic acid concentrations, however, may produce significant ocular injury after very prolonged contact. 

Permanent corneal opacification was described in a woman who fainted after having vinegar thrown in her face. Severe, irreversible damage may result from the essence of vinegar and glacial acetic acid. (3)

What are the health effects of vinegar consumption?

Vinegar has been traditionally considered an essential component of a healthy diet, mainly because it is used as a condiment in many vegetable-based recipes.

Moreover, due to its properties as a flavoring and acidifying agent, it may enable less use of salt, thus reducing the risk of hypertension. 

The use of vinegar to fight infections and other acute conditions dates back to Hippocrates, but recent research suggests that vinegar ingestion favorably influences biomarkers for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes .

Most concerning properties attributed to vinegar are related to the antidiabetic and antiobesity properties of acetic acid. (2)

What is the definition of vinegar?

Vinegar is defined as a liquid fit for human consumption and contains a specified amount of acetic acid and water.

 It is produced from raw materials of different agricultural origin containing starch and sugars, that are subjected to a process of double fermentation, alcoholic and acetous. (2)

Vinegar is made naturally via a two-step process that begins with yeasts digesting the glucose in fruits, cereals (and sometimes vegetables) to create wineries, beers, or grain alcohols. 

Acetic acid bacteria, which are found in abundance in the environment, ferment the alcohol further to produce vinegar. (Learn about vinegar’s interesting history and contemporary legends.)

Commercially accessible vinegar has been combined with water or various liquids to yield between 4 and 8 % acetic acid, with a four-percent minimum requirement set by the Food and Drug Administration. The proportion of acetic acid must be stated on the label.(2)


In this short article, we provided an answer to the question “can breathing vinegar hurt you?. We will also put some light on the uses of vinegar and precautions to be maintained while using it.


  1. Pravasi, S. D.  Acetic Acid. Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 33–35.(2014).
  2. M.C. Garcia-Parrilla, M.J. Torija, A. Mas, A.B. Cerezo, A.M. Troncoso, Vinegars and Other Fermented Condiments, Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention, 2017, 577-591,
  3. ANGELA C. ANDERSON, Chapter 15 – Ocular Toxicology,Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose (Fourth Edition), W.B. Saunders,  301-315, 2007. 
  4. Chin Wai Ho, et al, Varieties, production, composition and health benefits of vinegars: A review, Food Chemistry, 221, 2017.
  5. Scholar Chemistry. Vinegar. Material safety data sheet, Harper College, 2009.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!