Does vinegar expire?

In this brief article, we will answer the question does vinegar expire, factors affecting its shelf life and three changes in it.

Does vinegar expire?

Vinegar has an impressive shelf life and typically remains usable for extended periods. The primary factor that leads to vinegar going bad is the introduction of contaminants. 

Due to its low pH and high acidity, vinegar creates an unfavorable environment for bacterial growth, resulting in intense competition within the solution that inhibits bacterial proliferation. (1)

Like many other food items, vinegars undergo oxidation once their containers are opened. This oxidation process sets off a series of chemical and enzymatic reactions that result in noticeable changes within the vinegar.

Oxygen plays a crucial role as the main catalyst for the degradation of vinegar quality. 

During storage or over time on store shelves, undesirable alterations in appearance and color can occur, including issues like turbidity and precipitation, which can negatively affect the overall quality of the product.(2)

What is the shelf life of vinegar?

White distilled vinegar, as well as other commercially prepared vinegars like cider, malt, balsamic, rice, wine, and flavored varieties, have an indefinite shelf life. 

These vinegars are considered safe for consumption over extended periods. However, it’s worth noting that non-white vinegars may experience gradual changes in appearance and flavor as time goes on. 

While these changes are typically harmless, it is recommended to use the vinegar within 2-3 years from the purchase date to maintain its optimal quality, especially when proper storage conditions have been maintained. (3)

What is the best way to store vinegar?

Implementing proper storage practices is vital for reducing food waste and preserving the quality of various food items by slowing down decay and deterioration. 

When it comes to vinegar, maintaining its freshness relies on storing it in a tightly sealed, airtight container, which effectively protects it from oxidative changes in a cold, dry corner or shelf of your pantry or kitchen cabinet away from direct sunlight. 

By ensuring these storage conditions, you can extend the shelf life of vinegar and maintain its optimal quality for longer periods.(2, 3)

Does vinegar need to be stored in the fridge?

No, refrigeration is generally not required for vinegar. Due to its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not necessitate refrigeration. White distilled vinegar, in particular, maintains its quality virtually unchanged over a prolonged period. 

While other types of vinegars may undergo aesthetic changes such as color variations or the development of haze or sediment, these alterations do not affect their usability. Such vinegars can still be safely used and enjoyed with confidence. (3)

What are the health implications of consuming contaminated vinegar?

Vinegar, particularly when made from fruits directly obtained by individuals from their personal orchards, can potentially contain elevated levels of toxins derived from these fruits. 

These toxins have the capacity to harm crucial organs and systems, such as the liver, kidneys, and immune system. Moreover, they can negatively impact the gastrointestinal system by interfering with the function of the intestinal barrier and disrupting the balance of intestinal microbiota.

 It is important to be aware of these potential risks associated with homemade vinegar production and consumption.(4)

Other FAQs about Vinegar which you may be interested in.

Can mold grow in vinegar?

How much sodium is in vinegar?

Can rice vinegar go bad?


In this brief article, we have answered the question does vinegar expire, factors affecting its shelf life and three changes in it.


  1. Adriana Dabija et. al. Study concerning the quality of apple vinegar obtained through classical method. Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies  20(4), 2014.
  2. Minjeong Kang, Jung-Heun Ha, Youngseung Lee, Physicochemical properties, antioxidant activities and sensory characteristics of commercial gape vinegars during long-term storage, Food Sci. Technol, Campinas, 40(4): 909-916, 2020.
  3. Marlene Geiger, Vinegar Shelf Life and Safety, Iowa State University, Answer Line, 2021.
  4. Z.D. Heperkan et al, Unexpectedly high patulin contamination and co-occurrence of ochratoxin A in homemade vinegar, Food Control 148, 2023. 

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