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Vinegar vs. Distilled Vinegar: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 6, 2023
Vinegar is a versatile acidic liquid made from fermenting various liquids; distilled vinegar is purified vinegar with a clean, sharp flavor, obtained through distillation.

Key Differences

Vinegar is an acidic liquid that is created through the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria. Distilled vinegar, on the other hand, undergoes a distillation process after fermentation, which purifies and refines its final output. Each possesses its own distinct applications and character, driven significantly by their production processes.
Distilled vinegar is notable for its pure, unadulterated consistency and a notably crisp, strong acidic flavor profile. Conversely, vinegar, in a general sense, may entail a wide spectrum of types and flavors, such as balsamic, apple cider, and wine vinegar, each bearing its unique taste and application. Both can be used for culinary and non-culinary purposes, reflecting their versatility.
Vinegar, with its various forms, introduces a plethora of options in the culinary world, offering different flavors, aromas, and colors to enhance dishes. Distilled vinegar does not bring varied flavors to the table, but its potent and clear character is preferred in certain recipes and cleaning purposes where a neutral impact is desired.
In the realm of cleaning and disinfecting, both vinegar and distilled vinegar display significant efficacy. Distilled vinegar, due to its higher acidity and purity, is often opted for tasks requiring a powerful disinfectant, while vinegar, especially white, is a popular choice for cleaning with an added subtle scent.
Vinegar can be derived from numerous starting materials, including apples, grapes, or grains, each contributing to its final character. Distilled vinegar, while it may originate from various sources, is distinguished by its subsequent processing, ensuring a uniform and neutral product that stands apart from other types of vinegar.

Comparison Chart

Source Material

Can be made from a variety of sources (fruits, grains, etc.)
May originate from various sources but goes through a distillation process

Flavor Profile

Comes in various flavor profiles depending on the source
Has a clear, sharp, and neutral flavor due to distillation


Can have different colors based on the source and type
Usually clear and colorless due to distillation


Culinary (cooking, dressing), cleaning, and preserving
Commonly used for pickling, cleaning, and as a neutral culinary acid

Acidity Level

Can have varied acidity levels depending on the type
Typically has a consistent high acidity level

Vinegar and Distilled Vinegar Definitions


Vinegar can serve as a household cleaner due to its acidic nature.
She cleaned the windows with a mixture of water and vinegar to remove streaks.

Distilled Vinegar

Distilled vinegar is a culinary acid used to add tartness without affecting color.
She sprinkled distilled vinegar over the salad for a straightforward, zesty kick.


Vinegar is a sour-tasting liquid produced through the fermentation of ethanol.
She added a dash of vinegar to the salad dressing to enhance its tanginess.

Distilled Vinegar

Distilled vinegar is a clear, sharp-flavored vinegar created through distillation.
Distilled vinegar was used to preserve the vegetables through pickling.


Vinegar can be derived from various substances, including apples, grapes, and grains.
The recipe called for apple cider vinegar to add a fruity acidity to the dish.

Distilled Vinegar

Distilled vinegar is often employed as a neutral flavoring agent in various dishes.
To maintain the soup’s clarity, she opted for distilled vinegar instead of balsamic.


Vinegar is a culinary ingredient that adds flavor and preserves food.
The chef used vinegar to pickle the cucumbers, ensuring they would last longer.

Distilled Vinegar

Distilled vinegar, due to its antiseptic properties, is used for medical and health purposes.
She diluted distilled vinegar in water to create a soothing solution for her sore throat.


Vinegar is utilized in certain health and wellness applications, such as in skin care and digestive aids.
He drank a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the morning to kickstart his digestion.

Distilled Vinegar

Distilled vinegar serves as a potent cleaner due to its high acidity and purity.
The homeowner utilized distilled vinegar to effectively descale the kettle.


A sour liquid containing acetic acid, produced by fermenting a solution (such as wine or fermented rice) containing ethanol produced by a previous fermentation, used as a condiment and preservative.


Sourness of speech or mood; ill temper.


Liveliness and enthusiasm; vim.


How is distilled vinegar made?

Distilled vinegar is made by fermenting ethanol, then distilling it to create a clean, acidic liquid.

Is distilled vinegar good for cleaning?

Yes, its high acidity and purity make distilled vinegar an excellent cleaner.

Can vinegar be used for cleaning?

Yes, vinegar’s acidity makes it an effective cleaner and disinfectant.

Can I substitute vinegar for distilled vinegar in recipes?

Sometimes, but consider that distilled vinegar has a sharper, neutral flavor compared to other vinegars.

What is vinegar?

Vinegar is an acidic liquid produced from the fermentation of ethanol.

Is distilled vinegar used in skin care?

Yes, it is sometimes used as an astringent or for treating minor skin irritations.

Can vinegar be used for pickling?

Yes, vinegar is commonly used in pickling for its ability to preserve and flavor vegetables.

Is distilled vinegar used in certain cuisines more than others?

Yes, distilled vinegar is commonly used in American and some Asian cuisines for its neutral acidity.

Is distilled vinegar the same as white vinegar?

Often, yes – “distilled vinegar” is often synonymous with “white vinegar” in the U.S.

Is apple cider vinegar a type of vinegar?

Yes, apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple cider.

What is the pH level of vinegar?

Vinegar typically has a pH level of 2-3, making it acidic.

Does distilled vinegar have a strong smell?

Yes, distilled vinegar has a sharp, potent smell due to its high acidity.

Is vinegar used in baking?

Yes, vinegar can be used in baking to activate baking soda and regulate color in confections.

Can distilled vinegar be made from various sources?

Yes, it can be made from any vinegar but is distilled to be clear and more neutral.

Are there flavored versions of vinegar?

Yes, vinegars like balsamic, apple cider, and wine vinegar have distinct, unique flavors.

Are there different colors of vinegar?

Yes, vinegars like red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and balsamic have different colors.

Can distilled vinegar remove calcium deposits?

Yes, its strong acidic nature helps dissolve calcium deposits.

What are the health benefits of vinegar?

Vinegar, especially apple cider type, is associated with digestive and skin health benefits.

Can distilled vinegar kill weeds?

Yes, it is often used as a natural herbicide to control weeds.

Is vinegar gluten-free?

Most vinegars, like apple cider and wine vinegar, are gluten-free, but malt vinegar may not be.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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