Does Vinegar Go Bad? How Long Does Vinegar Last?

During summer cleaning,  you’ve purchased a new bottle of vinegar then you come home to find there is a half bottle of vinegar on your shelf. Sometimes it is difficult to remember the purchase date and it seems it best to use the new bottle and to toss the opened one, but that usually is not the case.

Quick Answer

Vinegar has been named one of the most versatile products on the shelf. It can be used for a variety of culinary applications from making marinades to being used as a tenderer for tough cuts of meats.  Vinegar is not a product that can necessarily go bad or sour. In fact, it can actually lose its bitter taste if the storing conditions aren’t met. The color and smell can change overtime as well.


Just keep air moisture and oxygen out of the bottle and this natural green cleaning tool can last for years!

Does Vinegar Go Bad? How Long Does Vinegar Last?

Vinegar has been around for almost 10,000 years. It goes through two processes before it becomes the acid that we know today! We usually have a few forgotten bottles sitting in the pantry or under the cabinets. The question is how long can vinegar sit and does it ever go bad?

White distilled vinegar is nearly an indefinite shelf stable product due to its ability to self perverse. The acidic nature of vinegar does not call for it to be refrigerated also making it a non-perishable food additive. Thus, instead of an expiration date there is a “best by date” printed on the bottle.

If you are storing white distilled vinegar for an unknown period of time, its qualities will mostly remain unchanged. In other types of vinegar such as apple cider vinegar there may be a color change or a haze of sediment settling at the bottom of the container. However, this only entails an appearance change. Rest assured that you can still use it for cooking, cleaning, or any need.

Though, if you find a bottle that had been stashed away for a year or long, you may see a circular disk floating atop the vinegar. This is not mold or a harmful substance, it is the vinegar mother. The vinegar mother occurs naturally and is the result of harmless vinegar bacteria. The mother is made of cellulose; a fiber produced after the bacteria’s digestion. These days most producers prevent the mother from forming by pasteurizing their vinegars. If you had your vinegar for some time, and it was not stored in an airtight container this is when you might find that jelly-like substance.

When food is added to vinegar that is when it can spoil. Pickled fruit or vegetables such as pickles will usually last about 1 to 2 years provided they have been stored properly. To tell if this type of vinegar based product is no longer good, you would check by the smell, “best by date” date, change in texture, change in taste, bulging lid or bubbling in the jar.

With proper storage, you can ensure that your choice of vinegar will last almost indefinitely.

How Long Does Vinegar Last Outside?

Properly stored vinegar will remain shelf-stable and non-perishable. For this reason, there is only a “best by date” printed on the bottle. Moreover, vinegar can still be safely used after this date.

Vinegar goes through a double fermentation process. The first being alcoholic fermentation, yeast changes sugar into alcohol. Then a group of bacteria converts the alcohol into an acid; the second fermentation takes place.

This acid does not need to be refrigerated and can last outside in a pantry until the entire container is finished. Be sure that it is store with the lid on and in a cool, dark, place away from extreme temperatures.

How Long Does Vinegar Last in the Fridge?

Vinegar adds depth to your cooking and an extra punch when cutting through cleaning grease, once it’s opened certain vinegars can be added to the fridge.

Apple cider vinegar and white distilled vinegar should be left in a cupboard, while balsamic or wine vinegars can be popped into the fridge. This way you can be sure you’re getting the best tasting acid. Though this is not a requirement because vinegar does not need to be stored at a cold temperature to keep it from spoiling.

Vinegar is self preserving, all types can last for years as long as they are kept in an air tight container. This ensures the alcohol in the vinegar does not evaporate

How Long Does Vinegar Last in the Freezer?

Vinegar will last in the freezer for however long it is kept frozen. There may be a few changes to the product once it is thawed.

If you’re looking to preserve vinegar, it does not need to be frozen or placed in the fridge. It may loose some of its acidity and color. However, if you’re just wanting to freeze it, you absolutely can.

While freezing does not have too many ill effects, its best not to use this frozen vinegar for pickling or in anything that requires a strong acid. The potency may be reduced due to introduction of moisture from the air.


Vinegar is an awesome versatile product to have on hand! It can be used to clean, kill mold, and cook. This wildly biological acid has an indefinite shelf life; that is if it’s stored correctly.

How To Tell If Vinegar Has Gone Bad / How To Know Vinegar is Fresh

While vinegar usually does not expire, the acidity level and taste can change over time. It’s best to be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place to prevent oxygen and moisture from coming in contact with the vinegar. Here is how to check for a change in quality:

Sediment is starting to settle: There may be a noticeable amount of cloudy particles settling at the bottom of the container or around the lid, this usually means it might be time to buy a fresher batch. Though, this vinegar can still be used for cleaning, topical, or gardening uses.

The color change is lighter or darker: Apple cider or balsamic vinegars are likely to dull or lighten overtime, this could be due to air or too much oxygen exposure.

The quality of the vinegar changes: Constant exposure to air changes the acidity level in vinegar, thus effecting the taste, smell, or cleaning ability.

If you do find that you come across vinegar that’s past its prime, there are still uses. It can be used for unwanted plant control, air freshener, fruit and vegetable wash, and can be used in the laundry cycle. To ensure that you have the freshest vinegar on hand, check the “best by date”, the smell, and color.

How to Store Vinegar?

Shelf: To ensure the fresh qualities are maintained, all types of vinegar should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. A shelf would be suitable and convenient area as it keeps the bottle and its continents away from changes in temperatures.

Cupboard: If you decide to purchase vinegar in bulk then a closed cupboard would be a perfect place permitting that it is dry, dark, and cool.

Refrigerator:  Sealed and opened containers of vinegar can be refrigerated. Storing any type of vinegar does not prolong its shelf life or prevent it from spoilage.

When it comes to an opened bottle, remember to keep it sealed tightly when not in use to prevent air and oxygen from seeping into the bottle.

Can You Freeze Vinegar? How?

Each type of vinegar can be frozen. Vinegar freezes at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure your freezer is set at that temperature or lower before freezing. It takes  6 to 12 hours to freeze vinegar.

Step 1: Transfer the vinegar to a leak proof freezer-safe container. Make sure this is a durable container.

Step 2: Being a liquid, vinegar will expand as it freezes. Do not fill the container to the top, leave about 1 to 2 inches to allow for this expansion.

Step 3: Before covering the container with the lid, it’s advised to wrap the container with plastic wrap. This just adds extra leakage assurance.

Step 4: Cover the container with the lid then tightly wrap the container with more plastic wrap. These steps are taken to avoid leaks.

Step 5: Freeze for an eternity or until needed.

How to Thaw Vinegar?

Cooking: Remove the container from the freezer and add it directly into the recipe. It does not need to be thawed for this.

Running water: Another way to thaw vinegar is by either running the container under room temperature water or leaving it in a bowl of water for an hour or two.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vinegar’s Shelf Life

Being a shelf stable item, vinegar has many uses and as a result there are frequent questions asked  about it’s properties. Here are a two questions and responses to them:

Is vinegar and acetic acid the same thing? They are not. Acetic acid is obtained through chemical processes and is not recognized by the FDA as vinegar and is misleading if a manufacturer attempts to state otherwise on their product. Acetic acid is produced when bacteria converts alcohol into this vinegar.

Can expired vinegar be consumed? Yes it can. However, if you are absolutely certain the vinegar is expired then it is best that it is used to clean with rather than being consumed. If you find that your vinegar is past the “best by date” then you can safe consume it.

Wrap Up

Vinegar has the ability to last an eternity due to its biological acidic make-up. Keep vinegar on hand for your cleaning and cooking needs. Just be sure to house it in a place like your kitchen or bathroom cupboard for proper storage.

Leave a Reply