A Guide to Vinegar: Types, Uses, & How To Make Your Own

Vinegar has been used for centuries as a health tonic and is also a beloved product in the modern pantry, medicine cabinet, and as a household cleaner. In this article, we’ll explore different types of vinegars and their most popular uses, so you can decide which varieties are best to keep in your home. 

For the true DIY homesteader, making your own vinegar is a great option for producing the exact flavors and intensities you desire, as well as for creating a natural probiotic. Read on to learn more and you’ll be experiencing the multitude of vinegar’s benefits in no time!

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What Is Vinegar Made Of?

Vinegar is a liquid such as alcohol, juice, or wine, that sits out for a long amount of time in order to chemically change into acetic acid. The most simple way to make vinegar is by allowing the liquid to sit in an open container at room temperature for several months. At first, any sugar or fruit in the liquid will convert to alcohol. Then, the alcohol will oxidize into acetic acid. 

Vinegar is most commonly made from cider, fruit, rice, and alcohol. 

The finished product is highly acidic and antimicrobial, making it perfect for disinfecting surfaces, preserving food, cutting through grime as a cleaning agent, and much more. It is also much safer (as well as often healthy) for human consumption, making it a perfect replacement for toxic house cleaners and beauty products. 

Types of Vinegar

types of vinegar

Distilled White Vinegar

This type of vinegar is by far the most common as well as the most affordable. It has a high acidity and a very neutral flavor, making it very versatile in cooking. It’s an excellent choice for pickling vegetables or adding an additional kick alongside some tenderness in a chicken dish. It’s straightforward strength and neutral smell also makes it great for using as a non-toxic natural household cleaner. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

This type of vinegar contains the fermented juice of crushed apples. It contains the vitamins and minerals that are found in the original fruit, such as vitamin A and vitamin B. Apple cider vinegar is used for hair shampooing, obesity, indigestion, diabetes, and various skin conditions. While there is no scientific evidence that states that these claims are true, it is celebrated in the natural wellness community as a powerful natural medicine. Its sweet and sour flavor also make it the perfect flavoring agent with several dishes. 

White Wine Vinegar

This vinegar is derived from red wine and is a popular culinary choice. It has a delicate, fruity, acidic flavor and aroma to it. You can use white wine vinegar to marinate fish and poultry, making a butter or cream sauce, and for lighter salads. 

Red Wine Vinegar

Red wine vinegar delivers a strong grape flavor and aroma, and comes in a beautiful ruby red coloring, making it a dramatic looking salad dressing. You can use this wine to marinate meats, added to bean dishes, and with any other foods that are bold and strong. This vinegar also pairs well with cheeses. 

Rice Vinegar

Rice vinegar is made from rice wine and is very popular in the asian region. It is a staple ingredient in Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cooking. This vinegar has a slightly sweet flavor and is much less acidic than other varieties, making it easy to add into a wide variety of dishes. This vinegar usually comes in two varieties. The first is regular, which is plain. You can also find a seasoned version that has added salt and sugar. Buying the regular will allow you better control over the amount of sugar and salt since you will be adding your own.

Malt Vinegar

This dark flavorful vinegar is made from ale. It’s toasted flavor makes it a great addition on meaty or starchy foods, such as beef and potatoes. Like rice vinegar, it is a less acidic variety, making it easy to add to most dishes. It can also be added to a vinaigrette to add complexity of flavor to your salads. 

Balsamic Vinegar

This vinegar is a sweet variety that is derived from grape juice. It has a thicker consistency than regular vinegar as well as a fruity and tart flavor. The juices are made by creating a must, which is a juice making process that uses all of the stems, seeds, and skins of the plant. 

Kombucha Vinegar

Kombucha vinegar is made from the popular probiotic beverage and intensifies its acidic and fruity flavors. This vinegar may not be commercially available and is a good way for DIY kombucha brewers to use up extra liquid they may have on hand. This vinegar can be used for cleaning, cooking, and can also be taken as a shot to alleviate indigestion and support good gut health. 

Medicinal Uses Of Vinegar

medicinal uses of vinegar

Many people regularly consume apple cider vinegar for various health benefits. It includes many nutritional compounds such as pectin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, biotin, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin c, potassium, calcium, and amino acids.

The “mother” of apple cider vinegar is a probiotic culture or film that floats on or in the liquid. It contains many important enzymes as well as good bacteria that can be used as a natural antacid, to boost immunity, to improve gut health and digestion, and as an aid for weight loss. 

Here is a quick plan of action if you’re planning on starting an apple cider vinegar drinking routine:

  1. Purchase a raw unfiltered apple cider. You will see a dark film or sediment in the bottle, which is the probiotic component known as the mother. The mother greatly increases the probiotic benefits of the vinegar. 
  2. Don’t drink the vinegar directly. This could harm your throat or teeth over time due to the acidity of the beverage. Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water at first, and build up to two tablespoons per cup if desired. You can also add the vinegar to other beverages such as tea, juice, or sparkling water, if desired. 
  3. Drink your apple cider vinegar blend 20 minutes before a meal to prepare your digestive system and control your glucose levels. 
  4. You can drink apple cider vinegar for 2 to 4 weeks, drinking 1 to 2 tablespoons diluted in water 2 to 3 times a day. After thes 2 to 4 weeks consider pausing and starting again a couple of weeks later, to allow your body regular breaks from the routine while getting the most out of its benefits. 

Another great medicinal use of vinegar is to drink is as a popular beverage called fire cider, which is a vinegar infused with other immune-supporting ingredients such as onion, garlic, lemon, ginger, turmeric, horseradish, thyme, black pepper, and cayenne. It can be sweetened with honey to taste in order to take the edge off.  

Vinegar can also be used topically to disinfect skin as well as treat minor wounds. Researchers have learned that the acetic acid in the liquid can kill over 24 different types of infectious bacteria and is not being experimented on further in preliminary clinical trials. 

It is also helpful for fungal treatment. A popular home remedy involves soaking affected feet in a solution of water, vinegar, and tea tree oil on a daily basis. It can also be applied or rubbed onto the affected area directly. 

The National Psoriasis Foundation officially recommends apple cider vinegar for releaf from psoriasis. They recommend a one part water to one part vinegar solution that is applied to the scalp and skin several times each week. 

Using Vinegar For Cleaning

Vinegar, particularly white vinegar, is an excellent environmentally friendly and non-toxic choice for your multipurpose cleaning solution. White vinegar is best since it doesn’t have coloring agents and there is no risk of staining any surfaces. 

The main component of vinegar, acetic acid, is often a main ingredient in most store-bought cleaners. It’s also incredibly affordable, especially when diluted with water and essential oils.

You can use lemon oil, peppermint oil, citrus oil, or lavender oil to match common cleaner fragrances. Adding tea tree oil will make your solution even more antimicrobial. 

Here are some great ideas to get you started:

1. Kitchen Countertops

Vinegar is a perfect natural disinfectant that can deeply clean your countertops both before and after food preparation. It can also help remove the odor of more pungent foods as well as stains. Be careful not to use your vinegar cleaner on a marble or granite surface, as it may diminish the natural shine of the stone over time. 

2. Glass Cleaner

Glass cleaner is one of the simplest and easiest cleaners to make from vinegar. Simply combine 2 parts vinegar with 1 part water into a spray bottle. This solution will leave a streak-free finish. 

3. Faucets & Drains

Turn your vinegar into a scrub that can remove calcium deposits on your faucets. Mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 1 teaspoon of salt to create your solution. You can spray vinegar on the fixtures hours or even the night before to loosen any stubborn stains before cleaning. 

4. Showers & Tubs

Cleaning your bath with vinegar is so simple that it doesn’t even require any mixture of ingredients! Simply spray the tub and walls, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then clean with a scrub brush as usual. 

5. Wood Floor Cleaner

Wood cleaners can be expensive and even toxic. You can easily make your own with a combination of water, vinegar, castile soap, and essential oils. Here is a great easy recipe with only three ingredients. 

6. Screen Cleaning Spray

Nowadays with so many touch screen devices, it’s extra important to regularly disinfect them. And since we have so much contact on our hands and faces, it’s important that we don’t get toxic cleaners on ourselves! Use a 1 to 1 mixture of white vinegar and water with a microfiber cloth to clean your hand-held devices as well as your monitors and television screens. 

7. Fridge Cleaner & Deodorizer

In addition to freshening up the smell of your refrigerator, this mixture will also disinfect your fridge in case you have any food spills that need to be addressed. Combine 1 cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of hot water as well as 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil. The hot water will help loosen stuck food and also more quickly remove odors. This method also works great for removing stuck-on food in the microwave. 

8. Disinfectant & Antibacterial Spray

Having a spray sanitizer is perfect for when those in your home (or visiting it) are sick, or are trying to stay well. Mix 1 cup of water with half of a cup of vinegar. Add tea tree oil, lavender, and lemon essential oils, a couple drops of each, to the mixture. Transplant the mixture into a small spray bottle.

You can use this mixture to disinfect remotes, pillows, couches, bedding, door knobs, and just about any surface you can think of that a sick person may come into contact with! 

9. Unclog Your Sink

Unclogging your drain doesn’t have to be a toxic process. Simply pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain, and then add a half cup of vinegar. Let the drain sit for 10 minutes. Then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. This works because the vinegar and baking soda dissolve fatty acids which often blocks your drains.

10. Clean Your Cleaning Supplies

It’s important to regularly wash and disinfect your cleaning supplies! You can use a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water to create a great solution that can clean your brooms, mops, dusters, rags, and more. 

Using Vinegar For Laundry

vinegar in laundry

There are several uses for vinegar when doing your laundry as well! 

1. Clean Your Washing Machine

Vinegar can help remove the scum and mineral deposits that build up in your washer over time. You can add 2 cups of white vinegar to your washing machine’s detergent tray, or add it directly to the basin. Run a hot cycle so that the heat can help the vinegar dissolve any mineral deposits.

2. Stop Denim (Or Other Dark Color Clothing) From Bleeding

Darker clothes, especially when new, have an annoying tendency to “bleed” and release their color, taking away their vividness and even potentially staining other clothes in your washer. 

Fill a bucket with cold water and add 1 cup of white vinegar. Turn your clothing items inside out and submerge them for several hours, up to overnight. Wash them on the coldest setting possible and allow them to air dry. Here is a great article that can show you how to test your denim for colorfastness.

3. Remove Grass Stains

Grass stains, perspiration stains, oil stains, and much more can be remedied with vinegar. Apply undiluted vinegar onto the affected area and let it sit for 10 minutes. If the stain is deeply set, use a stiff brush to gently scrub the fabric for deeper penetration. Wash as usual following this application. 

4. Make Fabric Softener

White vinegar is a natural fabric softener that won’t compromise the quality of your textiles. This gentle softening effect is easily achieved by adding a half cup of vinegar during the final rinse cycle. You can add a couple of drops of an essential oil to the bottle of vinegar for a fresher scent. This method will also help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to your clothes. 

5. Remove Mildew Odors From Towels

Have you ever had the unfortunate moment of realizing that you’ve left your laundry in the washer and forgot to move it over to the dryer? This can impart a moldy smell that often can’t be removed by a single wash cycle. To remedy this, fill your washer with two cups of white vinegar and run a complete wash cycle on hot. Afterwards, run a second cycle with regular detergent. 

Using Vinegar For Beauty

vinegar toner

1. Skin Brightener And Toner

Apple cider vinegar contains glycol which helps to fade blemishes and dark spots on the skin. It also helps to balance the moisture levels of skin, particularly oily skin. The antimicrobial benefits of apple cider vinegar also help to minimize acne. You can combine vinegar with additional natural products to add additional benefits to your natural skincare routine. 

2. Homemade Shampoo & Conditioner

Vinegar can help remove product buildup from the hair and scalp, which in turn helps hair return to its original luster and moisture level. Apple cider vinegar is the preferred variety for hair care. You can simply apply the vinegar as a conditioner, or create a DIY shampoo or conditioner with additional ingredients. 

3. Homemade Foot Rub

You can make a soothing and invigorating foot rub from only three ingredients! Mix 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil (such as coconut oil, almond oil, or whatever you have on hand) with 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 5 drops of peppermint essential oil. 

Rub the massage oil onto your feet and let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes. For deeper moisturization and penetration, put a pair of socks on during this time. Not only will this soften your feet and release tension in your muscles, but the vinegar and essential oil will naturally disinfect them. 

Using Vinegar For Cooking

salad dressings

1. Pickling Foods

Pickling foods, especially cucumbers, is one of the most popular uses for vinegar. It has historically been used as a food preserver and this method not only extends the life of your food, but adds a crisp acidic flavor to it. Many vinegars can be used for pickling, including distilled white vinegar, malt vinegar, cider vinegar, and wine vinegar. A general rule of thumb is to make sure that the acidity of the vinegar is 5% or higher to ensure it is strong enough.

You can learn more about choosing the best vinegar for pickling in this wonderful article.  

2. Salad Dressings

Any type of vinegar can make a delicious dressing, and there are literally thousands of recipes that you can experiment with. A classic vinaigrette will contain vinegar, salt, seasonings, and olive oil. From this base, many more complicated dressings can be built. Vinegar is also a perfect topping for those who want to eat a low fat salad. Use a flavored vinegar and spray it directly onto the greens. 

Take a look at these 50 salad dressing recipes for more great ideas. 

3. Marinades

When you use vinegar in your marinade, it helps to break down the surface of the food, which allows flavors to penetrate your dish more deeply. It also helps to tenderize tougher cuts of meat or vegetables for a better mouth feel. Balsamic vinegar is a popular choice since it has fruity flavors alongside its acidity. Apple cider vinegar works well with fruits, vegetables, and pork dishes.  

4. Delicious Batters

You can make an extremely light and crispy frying batter using one cup of water, one cup of flour, a half teaspoon of baking soda, and one tablespoon of malt vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

5. Salt Replacement

A lesser known benefit of vinegar is that it can replace a certain amount of salt in a recipe. It is frequently used on potatoes (prepared as fries and hash) and popcorn to add additional flavor for those who are salt free. 

Add 1/8th or a teaspoon or less of vinegar to your dish and stir vigorously before adding any salt. In addition to adding acidity and a bit of punchy salt-like flavor, the vinegar will tone down any bitter notes in the food. 

6. Shrubs & Drinking Vinegars

A shrub is a concentrated beverage that contains fruit, sugar, and vinegar. It can be enjoyed on it’s own or added to a variety of other drinks, such as cocktails or sparkling waters. This beverage can also be infused with flavoring agents such as spices and herbs.

It is similar to the drink known as the switchel and has been enjoyed for many centuries, however, there has been a resurgence of popularity as shrubs have gained popularity in upscale bars and farmer’s markets alike. 

How To Make Vinegar

Making vinegar is a simple and affordable process that requires time and very little additional labor. You will want to make sure you have a peaceful place for your batch to live in, since disturbing it may discontinue the vinegar-making process. It’s best to make vinegar in a 70F to 80F environment and to make sure there is circulation as well. 

You Will Need:

  • 1 gallon glass or ceramic jar (wide-mouth)
  • Large rubber bands and a cheesecloth
  • A vinegar “mother
  • An achololic liquid to convert into vinegar (in this example, red wine)

Step 1

Sterilize your jar with hot water to eliminate any bad microbes from the container.

Step 2

Add about 16 ounces of a liquid, such as red wine, to your jar. Make sure to use organic sulfate free wine. Sulfates can affect the outcome of your vinegar significantly so it’s best to steer clear of them. Add an additional 8 ounces of water. Then add the mother ontop. 

Step 3

Cover and secure your jar with cheesecloth and rubber bands. Use 2 or 3 layers of the cheesecloth to create a strong barrier that will keep out dust and fruit flies. You can also use a coffee filter for this step. 

That is it, and now you can sit back and relax! It will take about 3 months for your vinegar to form, a little faster in hotter conditions, and a little slower in colder ones. Make sure to mark your “end date” on a calendar, but you’ll only really know when it’s done by smelling it and tasting it. After about 2 months, start testing it, until it reaches your liking.

When your vinegar is done, take 2/3rds of it out of the jar, leaving some liquid with the mother for your next batch. You can bottle and use your vinegar immediately, or you can infuse it with fruits, herbs, and other flavoring agents to create your own blend.

Summary

Vinegar is a wonderful DIY solution for those looking to create a non-toxic and economical homestead. I assess the value of my products by how many uses they have. As you can see, the options for vinegar are truly limitless!

What ways have you used vinegar in your home and wellness routine? Let me know in the comments below!

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