What is the difference between vinegar and cleaning vinegar?

In this brief article, we are going to answer the question, “What is the difference between vinegar and cleaning vinegar?”, and discuss what vinegar and cleaning vinegar is, the uses and benefits of vinegar along with what cleaning vinegar is.

What is the difference between vinegar and cleaning vinegar?

The main difference between vinegar and cleaning vinegar is the amount of acetic acid in the final product.  

In essence, vinegar is a liquid product derived from the fermentation of carbohydrate sources, and it must contain a minimum of 3.75 to 5.0% (w/v) acetic acid.

Traditional vinegar, often referred to as brewed vinegar, is produced through the fermentation of grains, fruits, or alcoholic beverages. Another method involves mixing and ripening these ingredients with a grain saccharified solution or fruit juice.

On the other hand, cleaning vinegar, also known as synthetic vinegar, is manufactured by diluting glacial acetic acid or acetic acid with drinking water. The overall acid content is measured by its acetic acid content, which typically falls within the range of 4.0 to 29.0%  (1)

How is vinegar made?

Vinegar results from the acetic fermentation of mildly alcoholic liquids, where the ethyl alcohol content is typically below 10–12% by volume. It’s important to note that the transformation of alcoholic liquids into vinegar is not a true fermentation process but rather an oxidation process.

During this process, ethanol undergoes dehydrogenation to form acetic acid, while the accompanying cosubstrates are oxidized through the respiratory chain. 

Additionally, acetic acid can be formed in smaller quantities under anaerobic conditions through the dismutation of two molecules of acetaldehyde, which, in turn, are derived from alcohol through oxidation. (2)

What are the uses of cooking vinegar?

Vinegar serves as a versatile addition to your diet, and you can incorporate it by adding a small quantity, typically 1 to 2 teaspoons, to a variety of dishes or even water. 

Its primary purpose is to enhance flavor and aid in food preservation, making it an excellent option for baking and preparing salad dressings.

Vinegar finds frequent use in various recipes, juices, soups, and as an addition to water for consumption. By including it in these preparations, you can enjoy its benefits while infusing a tangy twist into your meals. (1)

The application of vinegar can also alter the texture of various foods. It possesses the ability to break down the chemical structure of proteins, making it effective as a marinade for tenderizing meats and fish.

Moreover, vinegar plays a crucial role in the production of cottage cheese when added to milk. The acidic nature of vinegar facilitates the separation of solid curds from the liquid whey in the milk.

Another significant use of vinegar is in the pickling of food. This preservation method helps extend the shelf life of perishable foods by eliminating bacteria that can cause spoilage. (3) 

What are the health benefits of vinegar?

Vinegar has garnered attention for its wide range of reported health benefits. It is believed to contribute to improved digestive system function, stimulate appetite, and possess antioxidant properties. 

Additionally, it is thought to aid in recovery from exhaustion, lower lipid levels, and regulate blood pressure.

Moreover, vinegar contains polyphenols that show potential in preventing various health issues such as lipid peroxidation, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, inflammation, DNA damage, and cancer development.

The diverse array of organic acids found in vinegar, especially acetic acid, can penetrate the cell membranes of microorganisms, leading to their demise and promoting bacterial cell death.

Research has also linked vinegar to improved insulin sensitivity in humans, suggesting potential antidiabetic effects. In fact, several studies have explored the use of vinegar as a treatment option for diabetes.

Incorporating dietary acetic acid from foods, even at a concentration as low as 0.3%, has shown promise in reducing serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Furthermore, acetic acid has been reported to enhance lipid homeostasis and aid in lowering cholesterol levels. (1) 

What are the uses of cleaning vinegar?

Thanks to its high acidity, vinegar proves to be highly effective in eliminating grease and calcium buildup. As a result, it becomes a valuable solution for removing mineral deposits and soap scum in areas like toilets, showers, and dishwashing machines.

Typically, common household white vinegar contains approximately 5 to 8 percent acetic acid, granting it a pH of around 2.5, which classifies acetic acid as a moderately strong acid.

The acidic properties of vinegar are what enable it to inhibit the growth of various fungi and other microorganisms, making it a versatile and practical solution for various household cleaning tasks. (4, 5)

Does vinegar have adverse effects?

Acetic acid, a crucial component of vinegar, possesses corrosive properties that can be harmful to both the skin and gastric mucosa. 

When in liquid or spray mist form, it has the potential to cause tissue damage, particularly affecting the mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth, and respiratory tract.

Inhaling the spray mist can lead to severe irritation of the respiratory tract, resulting in symptoms like coughing, choking, or difficulty breathing. 

Additionally, acetic acid is known to induce inflammation of the eyes and skin, and prolonged exposure can contribute to dental enamel erosion, bronchitis, and eye irritation.

In cases of acute overexposure, acetic acid may even lead to bronchopneumonia and pulmonary edema. (6)

Other FAQs about Vinegar that you may be interested in.

Can you cook with cleaning vinegar?

Can you cook with distilled white vinegar?

What happens if you drink vinegar?

What aisle is vinegar in?


In this brief article, we answered the question,”What is the difference between vinegar and cleaning vinegar?”, and discussed what vinegar and cleaning vinegar is, the uses and benefits of vinegar along with what cleaning vinegar is.


  1. Chin Wai Ho, et al, Varieties, production, composition and health benefits of vinegars: A review, Food Chemistry, 221, 2017
  2. M. Plessi, VINEGAR, Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), Academic Press, 5996-6004, 2003.
  3. Harvard. The Nutrition Source. Vinegar, Harvard T. H. Chan. School of Public Health 677 Huntington Avenue, 2019
  4. Rogawansamy S, Gaskin S, Taylor M, Pisaniello D. An evaluation of antifungal agents for the treatment of fungal contamination in indoor air environments. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2; 12(6): 6319-32. 2015.
  5. Debra Rose Wilson, Daniel Yetman, Can You Get Rid of Mold Using Vinegar?, Healthline Media LLC. 2020.
  6. Pravasi, S. D.  Acetic Acid. Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 33–35.(2014).

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