Does vinegar need to be refrigerated (+3 tips on how to store vinegar)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does vinegar need to be refrigerated” with an in-depth analysis of which type of vinegar needs to be kept in the fridge. Moreover, we are going to discuss the chemistry behind the processing of vinegar and the tips to store vinegar efficiently.

Whether or not the vinegar should be refrigerated has been a frequent inquiry with the groups being divided into the ones that are in favor of refrigeration of the vinegar while the others that do not find it necessary to keep the vinegar in the fridge. 

If you are also confused between the two, you need not worry as we will give you a thorough analysis that will rectify your confusion of “does vinegar need to be refrigerated”.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Does vinegar need to be refrigerated?

No, in general vinegar does not need to be refrigerated because it is self-preserving. 

Vinegar is created through the process of acetous fermentation, which entails fermenting diluted alcoholic solutions. Another method involves utilizing natural alcoholic solutions and employing microbiological processes. Additionally, vinegar can be produced by diluting acetic acid. (1)

Because of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration.  White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. 

While changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change.  The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence. (2)

What is the shelf life of vinegar?

Commercially prepared white distilled vinegar keeps indefinitely.  Like white vinegar, commercially prepared cider, malt, balsamic, rice, wine, and flavored vinegars are also safe indefinitely. 

However, it’s important to note that the appearance and flavor of non-white vinegars may undergo gradual changes over time. 

Although the alterations that occur in vinegar are generally benign, it is advisable to utilize the vinegar within a span of 2-3 years from the date of purchase to uphold its optimal quality, particularly when it has been appropriately stored. (2)

What is the best way to store vinegar?

Optimal storage practices play a crucial role in minimizing food waste and preserving the quality of food by slowing down its decay and deterioration. 

To maintain the freshness of vinegar, it is essential to store it in a well-sealed, airtight container, shielding it from oxidative alterations.(2, 3)

Which type of vinegar needs to be refrigerated?

As stated, because of its acidic nature, vinegar is self-preserving, does not need refrigeration and it is safe to keep in a cold, dry corner or shelf of your pantry or kitchen cabinet away from direct sunlight.

If the vinegar is less acidic like wine vinegar, rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar,, some manufacturers may recommend to store it in a refrigerator to preserve its freshness and flavor for a long time.(2, 3)

Does vinegar go bad?

Vinegar rarely ever goes bad. It is only when there is an addition of contaminants that it does so. Its low pH and high acidity makes it unfavorable for more bacteria to grow because of the competition that takes place inside the medium. (4)

Similar to other food items, vinegars undergo oxidation once they are opened. The oxidation process triggers a sequence of chemical and enzymatic reactions that bring about changes in the vinegar. 

Consequently, oxygen emerges as the primary catalyst for the deterioration of vinegar quality. The storage or retail period may lead to undesirable alterations in appearance and color, such as turbidity issues and precipitation, which can adversely impact the overall product quality.(3)

What are the health implications of consuming contaminated vinegar?

Vinegar, especially when derived from fruits obtained directly by consumers from their personal orchards, may contain heightened levels of toxins originating from these fruits. 

These toxins possess the potential to harm vital organs and systems, including the liver, kidneys, and immune system. 

Additionally, they can have detrimental effects on the gastrointestinal system by interfering with the function of the intestinal barrier and disrupting the balance of intestinal microbiota.(5)

Other FAQs about Vinegar which you may be interested in.

Can you substitute apple cider vinegar for lemon juice?


In this brief guide, we answered the question “does vinegar need to be refrigerated” with an in-depth analysis of which type of vinegar needs to be kept in the fridge. Moreover, we discussed the chemistry behind the processing of vinegar and the tips to store vinegar efficiently


  1. M. Plessi, VINEGAR, Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), Academic Press, 5996-6004, 2003.
  2. Marlene Geiger, Vinegar Shelf Life and Safety, Iowa State University, Answer Line, 2021
  3. 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.
  4. Adriana Dabija et. al. Study concerning the quality of apple vinegar obtained through classical method. Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies  20(4), 2014.
  5. 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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