Distilled White Vinegar VS White Vinegar: Is There A Difference?

Distilled White Vinegar VS White Vinegar

There are several types of vinegar available in the market. Most of them are clearly different, for example, you can easily tell apple cider vinegar apart from white vinegar. But how would you differentiate between distilled white vinegar vs white vinegar?

They have the same appearance, taste, flavor, and other characteristics. Yep, they’re the same thing. Well, except the label, but that doesn’t mean anything. Distilled white vinegar and white vinegar both mean the same thing.

Distilled White Vinegar vs White Vinegar: A Quick Look

The Concentration Question

When you look up the differences between white vinegar and distilled white vinegar, several people suggest that the concentration of acetic acid is the difference. It is suggested that distilled white vinegar has an acetic acid concentration of 10-20%, while white vinegar has acetic acid concentration of 5-10%.

This description is somewhat apocryphal and a stroll in a store could easily prove it wrong. You can easily find distilled white vinegar with 5% acetic acid. 

In fact, the FDA doesn’t consider any such labeling differences. The only thing that matters here is that vinegar should have a minimum 4% of acetic acid or 4 grams of acetic acid per 100mL. 

It should be noted that the FDA doesn’t consider dilute acetic acid as a vinegar. So, while your conventional white vinegar might be 5% acetic acid and 95% water, it must be produced by distillation. 

So, if someone starts with 5 grams of acetic acid and adds water to it, thus reaching a 5% acetic acid concentration, it cannot be labeled as vinegar. If such a product is used in food, it must be clearly labeled (for example, as dilute acetic acid), so that the consumer doesn’t confuse it for vinegar.

Interestingly, while 5% white vinegar is the most common product in households, vinegar with higher concentration of acetic acid is also readily available. However, users should be very careful when using these for cooking. Better yet, you should avoid these in cooking.

Vinegar is used not just for cooking, but also in baking, marinades, and making pickles. It is also an excellent cleaning agent and can be very helpful in cleaning surfaces or in cleaning appliances like coffee makers.

Finally, let’s answer is distilled white vinegar the same as white vinegar? Yes it is!

Understanding The Distilled White Vinegar And White Vinegar

As we have already noted, in the USA, vinegar must come from distillation or fermentation. A product made by diluting acetic acid has to be labeled as such, and cannot be called vinegar.

However, not all countries have the same or similar rules. Some countries allow dilute acetic acid to be called vinegar, synthetic vinegar, artificial vinegar, or similar names. In such places, a name like distilled white vinegar has important connotations. 

The term “distilled” here implies that the vinegar was produced through the conventional distillation process, not through dilution of acetic acid.

For example, in the UK, dilute acetic acid was sold under the name of “non-brewed vinegar” for a while. A court found that the name was a false description of the product, and such products shouldn’t use the name “vinegar”. A lot of times, these products now use the term “non-brewed condiment”.

So while the UK and USA made such decisions around the ‘50s and ‘60s, not all countries are on the same page. It’s possible some countries might have inventive terminology for dilute acetic acid sold as vinegar.

What Color Is White Vinegar?

The words white vinegar might encourage us to think that the vinegar has a white color, or at least a white tinge. White vinegar is a clear liquid, much like water, and it doesn’t have any color.

The vinegar is conventionally made with the distillation of dilute distilled alcohol. This alcohol is generally sourced from grain, thus white vinegar is also known as grain vinegar and spirit vinegar.


What Is Distilled Vinegar?

White vinegar, distilled vinegar, and distilled white vinegar are all the same thing. This type of vinegar is produced by fermentation of dilute alcohol, usually grain alcohol. A bacteria is introduced to the grain alcohol, which converts the alcohol in the mix to acetic acid. 

Once the fermentation process is complete, pretty much all alcohol has been converted to acetic acid. Distilled vinegar is clear and doesn’t have any tinge or coloration. It usually has about 5-10% acetic acid, though higher percentage variations are available too.

Interestingly, all types of vinegar are made through distillation. It is the original ingredient of distillation that makes a difference. For example, apple cider vinegar is made from the distillation of apple cider, while white wine vinegar requires fermentation and distillation of white wine.

Can You Drink Distilled White Vinegar?

Conventional distilled white vinegar has about 5% acetic acid. It finds use in cooking, baking, and pickling. Therefore, it is considered safe to consume and is non-toxic. 

However, should you choose to drink it, the unpleasant and sharp taste won’t do you any favors. Drinking it in larger quantities might even cause it to irritate the digestive system and mouth.

White vinegar with higher concentration of acetic acid can be dangerous when consumed undiluted. Higher the concentration of acid, the greater the chances of injury.

Long story short, you shouldn’t drink distilled white vinegar.

Can You Use Distilled White Vinegar For Cooking?

Distilled white vinegar is often used for cooking, baking, marinades, and pickling. Its uses are fairly common and it does an excellent job in adding a touch of acid to food products. Conventional distilled white vinegar has 5% acid and a sharp taste. 

Does White Distilled Vinegar Go Bad?

When stored properly in an airtight container away from moisture, heat, and light, white vinegar can have a nearly indefinite shelf life. The acid content of the vinegar means that it is self-preserving and doesn’t need additional efforts like refrigeration.

If you have an old bottle that you don’t feel comfortable using for cooking or edible purposes, it’s still okay to use it for cleaning. There’s a good chance the vinegar is still edible, but it’s acceptable that some people might not be comfortable with the long-term storage.


Now that we have looked at things in detail, we can say the distilled white vinegar vs white vinegar comparison exists for labels only. Both of these are the same thing, especially if you’re in the USA. Other popular names for white vinegar include white distilled vinegar, grain vinegar, and spirit vinegar. 

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