Safe Vinegar Storage Tips for Long-Term Use

Is Vinegar Flammable

For thousands of years, vinegar has been used as an antiseptic and preservative.  If you’re looking at being in a situation where you have to provide for yourself and your family for an extended period of time, having a large supply of vinegar on hand will be essential.

Because vinegar has such an acidic smell, however, many people wonder if it is flammable.  The short answer is that it is not, and it is perfectly safe to store large amounts of it in your home.

Is Vinegar Flammable?

The only thing in vinegar that is flammable is acetic acid.  While this acid is highly flammable in large concentrations, it simply isn’t concentrated enough in typical vinegar to make the vinegar flammable.

Because this substance isn’t flammable, it is possible to store a large quantity of it without worrying too much about safety concerns. 

How Long Does Vinegar Last?

Vinegar never truly goes bad.  While it is possible for varieties such as apple cider vinegar and rice wine vinegar to lose some of their sour taste, there is no point in time where the vinegar goes bad and has to be thrown away.

Vinegar from over two thousand years ago has been found by archeologists and consumed by humans with no ill effects.

Because vinegar never goes bad, it can be stored indefinitely.  Many people choose to store extra vinegar because of this. Vinegar is relatively cheap, yet during a long-term survival situation it becomes absolutely essential yet hard to find in stores.

In fact, during the recent Covid epidemic, many people reported that they were unable to buy vinegar in the stores.

After cleaning supplies quickly disappeared from store shelves, millions of people turned to vinegar to clean the surfaces in their homes and the food that they purchased from the grocery store.

Vinegar is one of the few substances that can be used to disinfect fruits and vegetables and leave produce edible.

Vinegar is the main ingredient used in many store-bought fruit and vegetable washes that can remove pesticides, wax, and other residue.  The acidity of vinegar is able to cut through grease and other substances while killing any viruses and bacteria present on a surface.

As vinegar was bought up by people desperate to clean everything in their homes, a number of people were able to trade, sell, or donate their supply that they retained for an emergency.

Vinegar is also an essential element in preserving food.  Vinegar is essential in the pickling of vegetables.  In a long-term survival situation, a family will most likely need to preserve the food that they grow.

While refrigeration can work in the short term, it will typically only add a week or two to any fruit or vegetable.  Pickling, however, is able to preserve fruits and vegetables for over a year.  Some pickled vegetables can even last for up to a decade.

Pickled foods have been around for thousands of years.  Some studies have shown that pickling with vinegar is one of the best ways to preserve the nutritional value of produce.

Many people claim that learning how to pickle is a lot simpler than learning how to can, making this a basic survival skill that just about everyone should learn.

How to Preserve Vinegar

Because vinegar can’t really go bad, it’s one of the easiest substances to preserve.  Preserving vinegar is really more about conserving or saving vinegar.  Start by figuring out the needs of your family.

Compute the quantity needed for cleaning by multiplying the amount used by your family in a typical month by twelve.

Of course, this may require you to switch all of your current cleaning supplies over to vinegar for a while, but you will be able to judge how much your family will need.

Secondly, estimate your family’s usage for preservation.  While it’s not uncommon to only use a few gallons of vinegar a year when you have access to a store with canned goods and fresh vegetables, in a situation where these things were not available, it will be necessary to use a lot more vinegar to preserve the vegetables you grow on your own.

Estimating this amount can be difficult, particularly because it’s impossible to predict how much you’ll be able to grow on your own, although it is possible to get a good estimate.

Make sure you have enough vinegar to fill all of the pickling jars that you have.  Even if you store more vinegar than is necessary, you’ll be able to use it for trading.  Since it never goes bad, just make sure you use it over the next several years.

Vinegar can be stored in just about any clean container.  Many people choose to just leave the vinegar in the plastic or glass bottles that it comes packaged in from the store.

These bottles can be stored anywhere.  Unlike other substances and foodstuffs, vinegar is not particularly sensitive to heat and cold, making it a good substance to store outside or in a basement or garage.  

If you want to store a large quantity of vinegar, you might want to consider using a large water drum or similar container.  Think a lot about how you will access the vinegar in whatever container you choose to use for storage.

Water drums with spigots can be ideal because it’s easy to access the vinegar without opening up the entire container.   Small amounts of vinegar can be used, and the drum can be refilled as vinegar becomes available again at the store or you make more.

Another option is to store vinegar in the glass jars that will eventually be used for pickling.

While this method requires a lot of shelf space, it also allow a family to only use the vinegar they need at a particular moment.  Having vinegar already separated into small containers also makes it easier to sell or trade.  

Can Vinegar go Bad?

Vinegar cannot spoil, but the taste of certain types of vinegar can go off if vinegar is not stored correctly.  White distilled vinegar will rarely experience any change in taste, but other types such as apple cider vinegar can go bad.

Storage Pitfalls

Storing vinegar is not particularly hard, but there are a few pitfalls that you should avoid.  Storing vinegar the wrong way can lead to the vinegar being spilled and wasted, or the taste going off.  It should be noted, however, that there is no real way to store vinegar that would make it completely unusable.  Even the taste is off, vinegar can always be used for cleaning.  Watch out for these common mistakes.

Avoid Refrigeration

Refrigeration of vinegar will not cause it go bad, but it can effect the taste.  Freezing vinegar will rarely work; it has a much lower freezing point than most residential freezers can achieve.

Because vinegar can’t go bad and it isn’t flammable, there isn’t much of a point in freezing vinegar, but there are people who will refrigerate pickles.  Be aware that extended periods of refrigeration can cause pickled vegetables to taste off, but they are not bad; they can still be eaten with no ill effects.

Plastic bags

Do not store vinegar in plastic bags if it can be avoided.  There is virtually no reason to store vinegar this way.  Even cheaper brands of vinegar are often sold in plastic jugs, which are much better for long term storage.

Bags have a tendency to leak, and they are incredibly hard to store.  Glass jars are the most ideal for long term storage, but if they aren’t available use just about any other type of sealing container.

Why Store Vinegar?

Vinegar is an essential component of nearly every household.  For centuries, vinegar has been used as a cooking ingredient, antiseptic, and a preservative.  There are thousands of types of vinegar, but many people are familiar with the handful of types that are common on store shelves.  

White distilled vinegar is the cheapest type of vinegar, and it’s the most common type of vinegar used for pickling and cleaning.

Vinegar diluted with water in a spray bottle (and with a few drops of essential oil added to make everything smell nice) can clean just about any household surface.  In fact, it’s the main ingredient used today by many high-end, organic and natural cleaning products.

In addition to being used as a general purpose spray, it can also be used to flush water pipes, break up drain clogs, and brighten laundry.  Add a cup to a load of clothes to disinfect everything in the load.  One cup of distilled vinegar along with half a cup of baking soda will break through many minor clogs in pipes.

Apple cider vinegar and wine vinegar are most commonly used in salad dressing, marinades, and other recipes.  Rice vinegar is commonly used in many Asian dishes such as stir fries.

These vinegars are an important part of a balanced diet; the acid in them is essential to keep immune and digestive systems functioning properly.  Because they are used for cooking and they are more difficult to produce, expect to pay more for specialty vinegars.

In a survival situation, vinegar’s ability to kill germs and preserve food is absolutely essential.  A household that is only eating vinegar as part of salad dressings and marinades may only run through less than one cup a week.

If vinegar is being used for cleaning, expect to use around one to cups a week per person.

Double that amount if you are using it to do laundry as well.  For a large household that has to can and pickle all of its own food, it would not be unreasonable to go through nearly 100 gallons year.

If you plan on storing that quantity of vinegar, it’s important to know a lot about this substance.

Making Your Own Vinegar

Because it’s possible to use such high amounts of vinegar in a relatively short time (not to mention you’ll want to give it away to everyone who asks you for some), it’s a good idea to learn how to make your own vinegar.

All vinegar is made through the process fermentation.  Just about any organic matter can be used, as long as it has some level of natural sugar.  

The easiest way to make vinegar is to simply allow wine or beer to go bad.  Making vinegar like this can be relatively expensive, but it’s useful to know that it can be done in a pinch.

Storing vinegar is relatively simple, but there are several things you need to know in order to do it.  Vinegar storage is perfectly safe, vinegar is non-toxic and non-flammable.  If you have the space, store as much of this substance as you can.  Keeping an adequate supply of vinegar is essential to making it through a minor or major crisis in addition other items like shelf-stable drinks and noodles.

FAQs about Vinegar Safety

Is a vinegar flammable?

Vinegar is generally not flammable, but there are elements in it that can be flammable. However, the high water content in household vinegar prevents it from being flammable. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that chemistry can be complex, so caution should still be exercised when using or storing vinegar at home.

What’s the most flammable liquid?

The most flammable liquid is gasoline, paint thinner, and turpentine. These liquids are considered to be some of the most hazardous substances found in homes, as they are responsible for causing around 8,000 home fires every year.

What should not be mixed with vinegar?

Mixing vinegar with bleach can be dangerous as it can produce toxic chlorine vapors. Therefore, it is important to avoid combining vinegar with any cleaning products that contain bleach to ensure a clean and safe environment in your home.

What does vinegar do to smoke?

Vinegar has the ability to act as a ‘smoke deodorizer’ by absorbing and capturing smoke particles from the air, despite not having a strong odor itself.

Is it safe to use baking soda to put out a fire?

It is safe to use baking soda to extinguish a fire. Instead of using water, you can rely on two common ingredients found in your pantry to safely put out a small grease fire: Baking soda is a great option as it releases carbon dioxide when heated, effectively smothering the flames.

What are the most flammable household items?

The most flammable household items, apart from gasoline and lighter fluid, include rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, and wart remover, as stated by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, which requires all flammable and combustible products to have a warning label.

What happens if we heat vinegar?

If we heat vinegar, the water in the vinegar will evaporate, resulting in a higher concentration of acetic acid. The more we boil vinegar, the more concentrated it becomes, leading to a stronger odor.

At what temperature does vinegar start to evaporate?

The temperature at which vinegar starts to evaporate is not the same as water. While the water portion of vinegar evaporates at around 100 °C, the acetic acid component has a higher evaporation point of approximately 120 °C.

Does vinegar degrade in heat?

Vinegar degrades in heat, as its flavor and quality may deteriorate over time. The vinegar can become less complex and flavorful, and its color may fade. Additionally, exposure to air, light, and heat can accelerate the deterioration process.

Does vinegar eventually evaporate?

Vinegar does eventually evaporate. Being aware of this fact can assist in preventing the mistake of leaving vinegar containers open. Its constituents, acetic acid and water, have a tendency to evaporate easily and leave behind no residue. Compared to alcohol, vinegar evaporates at a slower rate, but it evaporates faster than water.

Is vinegar spray flammable?

Vinegar spray is not flammable. However, when subjected to thermal decomposition or combustion, it may release carbon oxides and other toxic gases or vapors, which are hazardous combustion products.

How hazardous is vinegar?

Vinegar can be hazardous, as it may cause mild injuries and burns on the skin when in contact with vinegars containing 11% acetic acid or higher. Additionally, diluted solutions of vinegar can lead to dermatitis in certain individuals. Eye contact with concentrated vinegars can result in severe burns and permanent corneal injury, which may ultimately lead to blindness.

What are the hazards of white vinegar?

The hazards of white vinegar include the potential for pulmonary edema when exposed to high concentrations of acetic acid vapor. Prolonged skin contact can lead to skin irritation and burns, while eye contact can cause serious eye irritation. Ingesting white vinegar may also be harmful if swallowed.

Is it safe to spray vinegar around the house?

It is safe to spray vinegar around the house for cleaning glass, appliances, and ceramic bathroom fixtures. The best way to use vinegar for cleaning is by mixing equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. However, it is important to note that vinegar should not be used on hardwood floors or no-wax floors as its acidity can gradually diminish the shine and dull the floors over time.

How long do vinegar fumes last?

Vinegar fumes typically last for a short duration. By using vinegar sparingly, you can minimize any lingering smells. On solid surfaces, the aroma will naturally dissipate within 30 to 60 minutes. However, on soft surfaces, it may take approximately a day or so for the scent to completely disappear.

Is white vinegar spray safe?

The statement: White vinegar spray is safe. It is a cost-effective and eco-friendly option for cleaning a wide range of surfaces. Distilled white vinegar, specifically, is commonly employed for household cleaning purposes.

What can you not spray vinegar with?

You cannot spray vinegar with anything that contains bleach. Mixing vinegar with bleach can produce a dangerous gas, similar to the reaction between bleach and ammonia, as vinegar is an acid that releases toxic chlorine vapors when combined with bleach.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.