What Is Distilled Vinegar?

By Mary Beth Magee

Sometimes dismissed as merely an ingredient for pickles or salad dressing, distilled vinegar has many uses. The clear liquid is a happy accident discovered to have amazing possibilities. From food to cleaning, plumbing to healing, vinegar is a handy item to have around the house.

What Is Distilled Vinegar?


According to the Vinegar Institute, "The French said it succinctly: 'vin aigre'--meaning sour wine. That is its origin, the discovery that a cask of wine gone past its time had turned to a wonderful new product." Sugar in grape juice fermented to make wine, which fermented into vinegar. Vinegar's rich history has included medicinal uses, road construction (Hannibal used it in his epic trip across the Alps) and food preservation. Make vinegar from nearly any fruit or vegetable that has sufficient sugar content to support the two-stage fermentation, first to alcohol and then to vinegar.


White distilled vinegar begins as corn. Combine the corn with water and ferment to create corn alcohol. The second processing stage allows the corn alcohol to ferment until no alcohol remains. If you filter the remaining acetic liquid repeatedly and dilute it to the minimum 4-percent acidity concentration mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you have vinegar.


Make your own flavored vinegars by steeping herbs in a bottle of vinegar. Infuse fruit juice, such as raspberry juice, with vinegar to create a special flavor.



Use distilled vinegar to clean. Leave windows and mirrors streak-free with rinse water containing vinegar. Clear greasy messes quickly with the aid of vinegar. Vinegar Connoisseurs International offers a wide range of cleaning tips using distilled vinegar.

Fight fat with vinegar. ScienceDaily.com highlights a Japanese study that points to strong indications that a diet rich in vinegar may prevent some fat gain.

Expert Insight

Household maven Heloise touts vinegar as a multipurpose tool. From plumbing to aromatherapy, she finds a myriad of ways to use this "green" cleaning tool. She has investigated it as a safe disinfectant and as a lime remover.