Does Vinegar Expire? The Shelf Life Of Vinegar, Explained

White distilled vinegar does not expire - it has an indefinite shelf life.

Does vinegar expire? Not according to the Vinegar Institute, who asserts that the shelf life of most vinegars is virtually indefinite. In fact, the acetic acid in most vinegars makes them both self-preserving (no need for refrigeration!) and capable of preserving other foods. (And as you likely know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, vinegar is also useful for a variety of cleaning tasks!)

Properly stored, distilled white vinegar will remain unchanged over time, but other types of vinegar (including wine vinegar, rice vinegar, and apple cider vinegar) may change in color and appearance. The Vinegar Institute says that these changes are mainly aesthetic, and that the vinegar is still perfectly good to use, even if it’s already opened.

So if vinegar is a food that doesn’t go bad, why does it have an expiration date on the bottle? I was curious about that myself, so I did some research and will be sharing what I learned in this post. First, let’s talk expiration dates.

Two pictures of a woman holding a bottle of castile soap, showcasing its uses as a cleaner.

Does Vinegar Go Bad? The Truth About Expiration Dates

There are four types of dates that are commonly printed on food packaging, including:

  • Sell-By Date – the latest date the seller should display or sell the product
  • Use-By Date – the date when the manufacturer predicts the product will peak in quality
  • “Best If Used By” Date – the latest date you can expect peak flavor, texture, or quality
  • Closed-By or Coded Dates – a packing number used by the manufacturer

What’s interesting about these dates is that none of them are expiration dates, and neither do they indicate anything about food safety. In fact, the FDA allows almost any food to be sold past these dates. So even if you see a bottle of vinegar at the store with a date that’s coming up relatively soon, you can still buy and use it with confidence!

The dates are chosen by the manufacturer, and indicates when they believe the product will have optimum flavor, but it doesn’t mean that after that date the food will be inedible. For instance, unless it smells rancid, peanut butter can be eaten after the date on the jar.

Apple cider vinegar does not expire. It may turn cloudy but will be safe to consume.

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Expire?

Apple cider vinegar, made from fermented apples, may change in color, become hazy, or form a layer of sediment at the bottom of the bottle over time, but that doesn’t mean it has expired. In terms of its best shelf life, apple cider vinegar lasts about five years, but can be used almost indefinitely.

Having apple cider vinegar in your cupboard is great for making tasty marinades and dressings, but it’s just as useful outside the kitchen too. It has both health and wellness benefits and some unexpected beauty benefits, and some believe it can aid in weight loss and heartburn relief (though there isn’t much research to support these claims).

A bottle of rice vinegar sitting on a counter.

Does Rice Vinegar Expire?

Rice vinegar also has an indefinite shelf life, but after a couple of years, further fermentation may change its flavor somewhat. Once you open it, it should remain unchanged over an extended period — about two years — but even does experience aesthetic changes, it won’t go bad.

A bottle of balsamic vinegar sits on a counter alongside castile soap.

Does Balsamic Vinegar Expire?

Balsamic vinegar will maintain its tasty acidity for three to five years. It will still be safe to use and eat after that, but it might not look and taste exactly the same. With any vinegar you buy, check the label to make sure the only ingredient is 100% vinegar.

A bottle of red wine sitting on a counter.

Does Red Wine Vinegar Expire?

Delicious as a condiment or addition to salad dressing, red wine vinegar is pantry staple with a long shelf life. It may change color or get cloudy after a few years, but like other pure vinegars, red wine vinegar does not expire or go bad.

There are so many uses for vinegar from cleaning to killing weeds, and since vinegar doesn't expire, you can stock up without worry.

What Else Can You Do With Vinegar?

Vinegar is not only one of the many foods that don’t expire, but it has so many uses around the house that buying it in bulk just makes good sense! I try to avoid wasting food and money at all costs, but since vinegar is incredibly useful and lasts forever, I know it won’t go to waste!

With the help of vinegar, getting pet stains out of carpet is nearly effortless, and it plays a starring role in many of my favorite homemade cleaning products. It has even more uses when you combine vinegar with baking soda or use them consecutively. Vinegar truly is a wonder — you can use it to clean your electric kettlekill weeds, clean suede shoes, and more!

Distilled white vinegar does not expire.

The Takeaway

Even if the date on your vinegar has long since passed, there’s no need to worry — it’s perfectly safe to consume vinegar after the expiration date. So don’t be afraid to stock up on vinegar — just store it in a cool, dark place and it will keep nearly forever!

What’s your favorite kind of vinegar?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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