Does Vinegar Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?


Vinegar is a multi-use tool that is essential for everyone’s kitchen. Whether you use it in cooking, baking, or cleaning, it helps add a little punch to any of them. However, many wonder how to store a bottle of vinegar once it is open; does it need to be put in the refrigerator or is the pantry fine?

Vinegar does not need to be refrigerated. It has a high acidic level that kills any bacteria in it. The only thing you need to consider when storing vinegar is which area has the space for it. Storing vinegar in the pantry would save room in your fridge for other perishables, but it’s up to you.

According to the USDA, “[vinegar] can be stored unopened at room temperature in the pantry for 2 years and opened for 1 year.” So, even though refrigeration is an option, it is not necessary to the longevity of vinegar.

How Long Does Vinegar Last Once Opened?

Vinegar’s shelf life is indefinite. Since it is so good at counteracting bacteria, it really does not go bad.

When the bottle is unopened, the vinegar can last as long as you need it to. After opening the bottle, it will stay the same for years but may develop some cloudy coloring inside.

Can Old Vinegar Make You Sick?

Because of the natural acidity of vinegar, no harmful bacteria can survive in it. Because of this, old vinegar is not likely to make you sick. Although the appearance and taste may slightly change, there will be no harm from using it.

How Do You Know When Vinegar Goes Bad?

Over time contaminants may be introduced and the vinegar may become diluted to the point where it can go bad. If so, it will develop a strong cloudy appearance. This cloudy appearance will help you to know when the vinegar is going bad.

However, most of the time vinegar will still be safe to eat. It will usually still good to use with this inside even though it looks a little off-putting. This may cause it to have a slightly different taste, but that is not necessarily an issue.

How to Store Vinegar After Opening

To avoid the cloudy, off-tasting vinegar, you are going to want to keep the vinegar in a nice cold, dark space. Many people mistake this to mean that vinegar must go in the fridge, but it really just means keeping vinegar out of the heat. Vinegar can be stored at room temperature, making it not necessary to keep it in the refrigerator.

Pro Tip: If you place your vinegar somewhere in the sun or in a cabinet above the stove, the flavor or quality of the vinegar will turn faster than it should. It is much better to keep vinegar containers in places like the back of the pantry where it will be kept away from any kind of heat.

Can Vinegar Be Stored at Room Temperature?

Vinegar can be stored at room temperature. Besides the pantry or fridge, a good option could be to lay the bottle in a dark drawer. If you must keep it out where light can reach it, putting a cloth over the bottle or placing the bottle in a dark box or container may help the vinegar retain its original flavor.

The thing you will have to be careful with when storing in a drawer is if the bottle accidentally opens. I would really only suggest putting bottled vinegar in a drawer only if it is unopened.

Does Vinegar Break Down Plastic?

Vinegar can potentially break down plastic. However, for this to happen would take years. For the safest keeping, a glass container is best.

Does Apple Cider Vinegar With the Mother Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening?

Apple cider vinegar with the mother does not need to be refrigerated after opening. It can be stored at room temperature and kept out of direct sunlight. Since vinegar is highly acidic, it will have an indefinite shelf life when stored correctly.

However, if the vinegar becomes cloudy or tastes completely different than you would normally expect, do not take chances. Go ahead and throw it out and purchase more.

Does Balsamic Vinegar Need to Be Refrigerated After Opening

Balsamic vinegar does not need to be refrigerated after opening. It can be kept in the pantry, out of direct sunlight, and should last up to 5 years. However, if you are using it on salads you may want to chill the vinegarette before use.

Does Rice Vinegar Need to Be Refrigerated

Rice vinegar does not need to be refrigerated, even after opening. It should be stored in a cool, dark location, away from direct sunlight. You can expect it to remain at peak quality for up to 5 years and be usable well beyond that. Refrigeration will typically double the shelf life.

Does Oil and Vinegar Dressing Go Bad

Oil and vinegar dressing can go bad. If the dressing is homemade, then it will only last 3 to 4 weeks. If it is store-bought and kept in the refrigerator, then it will last 6 to 9 months. As long as the bottled dressing is kept in optimal conditions, it will continue to last past the expiration date.

Why Does My Vinegar Have Stuff Floating in It?

Many individuals who have kept their vinegar for extended periods of time have realized there are things floating in it. This can be alarming as it may appear spoiled.

The stuff floating in vinegar is called “mother of vinegar”, which is not harmful for consumption. The “mother” is a mix of bacteria and yeast that appears during fermentation. If you see this in your vinegar, just give it a shake. Your vinegar does not need to be thrown away because of it.

It is recommended that you just mix all of the ingredients back together so it is ready to be used. Although many do not wish to eat it, do not worry. Mother of vinegar is a probiotic making it a popular belief that it can help your digestive system.

Vinegar Uses

Baking soda with vinegar, natural mix for effective house cleaning

Vinegar is a pretty simple and tasty way to cut down on salt in cooking. While it is not a perfect salt substitute, you can add much less salt than normal to recipes. The sourness of the vinegar greatly enhances the flavor of salt in cooking.

To do this correctly, you have to start with just a little bit of salt, maybe half of what you were originally planning, then use a small amount of vinegar, like a teaspoon. Adjust the amount of vinegar to taste. Make sure to choose a vinegar that would go well with the recipe. For example, many Italian food recipes would work well with balsamic vinegar, but balsamic vinegar has a strong taste that may not mix with other powerful flavors.

Vinegar also has many uses that go beyond cooking.

Vinegar for Cleaning

Many people use many kinds of vinegar when cleaning. The high acidic levels effectively destroys most germs it comes in contact with without leaving a stain.

Vinegar is best used to clean large appliances with odor problems without the need to use strong chemicals. In my own experience, it works wonders on a stinky washing machine, dishwashers, and mildew-smelling showers.

It is also great to use this and baking soda to combat difficult stains on clothes while still being gentle. All you have to do is pour a teaspoon of baking soda over the stain, then equal amounts of vinegar on top, and lightly rub them together until they are a gooey paste. You can adjust the amounts as you see fit for the stain. Leave that on for a few hours until it is dry, wash the clothing item like normal, and voila! The stain is gone.

Even though vinegars like apple cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar are great options for natural cleaning products, many people elect to steer clear of them because it may take more time cleaning with just these items.

Instead, if you would like to use fewer chemicals in your house but do not really want to try vinegar yet, consider using Better Life Natural All-Purpose Cleaner. This all-purpose cleaner is natural, safe around kids, and gets the job done. If you would like to see more options for all-natural cleaners, the New York Magazine’s website The Strategist has a complete list of their top picks.

Pickling Foods

Pickling is another fun use of vinegar that many people take up as a hobby. If you can think of a vegetable, it can most likely be pickled so you have plenty of options. In most pickling recipes, you do not need too many ingredients.

All you have to do is make the brine, put in the red onions, and leave it overnight to fully absorb the tasty flavors. The best part about this recipe is that after you create the brine, you can add whatever you like. The flavors I enjoy adding the most are honey, garlic, and dillweed, but other strong herbs and spices – like turmeric, ginger, or basil – will also give your onions a delicious tang.

Besides onions, some popular pickling possibilities are pickles (of course), green beans, radishes, and red cabbage. Some will take longer than others depending on the recipe and the vegetable, but in the end, it will always be worth the wait.

Vinegar Substitutes

Vinegar can either be used to emphasize other flavors in recipes or it can be used for its own flavor in a meal. In food, the best kinds of substitutions are sour, almost bitter liquids.

1. Lemon or Lime Juice

Lemon and lime juices would work well as long as you also add a bit of salt to help balance out the extreme sourness of the juice.

When replacing vinegar in cooking, it is best to double the amount of lemon juice that the recipe calls for if you’re using it to replace vinegar. For instance, if the recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of vinegar, use a half cup of lemon juice. Then, just add an extra pinch of salt to accentuate the taste of the lemon. It does not need to be too much, just a pinch is fine.

These substitutes also work well in baking. In baking, you will not need to add more salt, but you should be careful with how much you add. It is not an exact replacement so you should not put in the same amount of lemon juice as vinegar. For every 1/4 cup of vinegar the baking recipe calls for, add in a 1/3 cup of lemon juice.

2. Wine

Another great substitute would be wine. This works best when substituting red or white wine vinegar, but you can also make it work with recipes that need apple cider vinegar. Be careful when using wine and use one that is close to the sharpness of vinegar.

When doing this replacement in a recipe, you can do a one-to-one measurement, but start slow. If you are concerned about the measurements, start with less wine and taste as you make your dish. Keep track of how much you have put in and add more if you think the recipe needs the whole replacement amount. It is much easier to add less wine to a recipe than it is to take out too much.

3. Other Vinegars

Let’s say that when you’re making food and the recipe calls for apple cider vinegar, but you only have rice wine vinegar. Well, that is just fine! There are plenty of vinegars and combinations of vinegars that can be a one-to-one replacement for another vinegar. The example of substituting apple cider vinegar with rice wine vinegar is true.

The taste, while they may not be perfectly the same, will work. Be cautious; not every vinegar is completely interchangeable for another. For example, balsamic vinegar would not be a good replacement for apple cider vinegar. The flavors are too different. Apple cider vinegar is less strong than balsamic and balsamic has a savory-sour flavor that apple cider vinegar cannot really match.

What is Vinegar?

Vinegar has been used for centuries. Vinegar was thought to first be used in 3000 BC by ancient Babylonians. They used vinegar frequently in many different settings. Not only did they use it in cooking, but they were thought to use it as a medicine as well. There is evidence of vinegar in other areas after Babylon, like ancient China and Egypt. As time progressed, so did the process of creating vinegar.

Even though most of these eras did not have access to refrigerators, they were able to use and store vinegar. That still holds true today. Even our ancestors were able to use vinegar and centuries later we were still able to find it and make that connection with our past.

According to the Britannica definition, “Vinegar [is a] sour liquid that is made by the fermentation of any of numerous dilute alcoholic liquids into a liquid containing acetic acid.”

This means that vinegar is a kind of alcohol that is fermented in sugar and acetic acid past the point of being alcoholic. Even though the liquid is not alcoholic it is usually made from something that was. Most kinds of vinegar are made from liquids like wine, but there is a wide variety of vinegar.

Vinegar can be made with a variety of base ingredients, including

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Apricots
  • Malted barley
  • Oats
  • Industrial alcohol (such as red wine/ white wine sherry, and champagne)
  • Beer
  • Sugar cane
  • Rice

The type of vinegar created really just depends on what liquid was further fermented. The bacteria that are formed during this process essentially become much stronger than in regular alcohol. That is why these do not need to be refrigerated; because they have more intense acidity, they cannot really go bad. The bacteria that would make it go bad cannot be sustained in this environment.

Different Types of Vinegar

We discussed some of the main ingredients of vinegar above, but now let’s talk about some of their differences and key uses.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is often used in both cooking and cleaning. It can be used as a slight flavor enhancer while cooking or a disinfectant when mixed with equal parts of water.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: This is used in plenty of cuisines. It leaves a sweet tang of fruit, which makes it perfect for balancing the flavor of meat or sautéed vegetables.
  • Kombucha Vinegar: This is a lesser-known vinegar that is created from yeast and bacteria. It has a kick that is typically paired well with fruity flavors. So, this might taste excellent in salads or recipes with fruit that does not pack too much of a punch, like dates.
  • White Wine Vinegar: White wine vinegar is much different from red wine vinegar. It is much lighter and works better with salads and marinades.
  • Distilled White Vinegar: This is used more for cleaning than cooking. Many people buy large gallons of this and create a disinfectant by mixing equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. It is also used for large pickling purposes.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar: This is used in many Asian food recipes. It is excellent in stir-fry and fried rice.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: Balsamic is mostly used in Italian and European foods. It makes a wonderful topping on salads, pasta, and sandwiches.

Final Thoughts

Vinegar has many uses and is a mainstay in kitchens around the world. I hope this article has helped you learn a little bit about correct usage and storage.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss Best Vinegar for Pickling | Every Type Compared.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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