The ancient Babylonians have been using vinegar since 3000 BC, needless to say, it’s been around for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. But it’s only natural to think vinegar might have a chance of being flammable as it’s made from alcohol.
So, what’s the deal here? Is vinegar flammable?
Despite being made from alcohol, vinegar is not flammable. The only flammable part is the acetic acid. But there’s only a 5-20% acetic acid in vinegar along with 80-95% of water. The higher proportion of water doesn’t let vinegar catch on fire.
If that’s what you came here for, you can close the tab. But vinegar is an interesting liquid with a lot more interesting fact.
Have a spare minute? Great. Let’s start-
Read also: Is Canola Oil Flammable? Dose It Catch Fire?
What Is Vinegar?
Vinegar is a 5-20% acidic solution made from fermenting ethanol with acetic acid bacteria. It has a distinct flavor along with helpful chemical properties, making it ideal for both cooking and cleaning. When you blend in different base ingredients, they add their own unique flavors to the vinegar.
Back in the old days, people used to make homemade vinegar. They bottled up old wine or beer, mixed in the ingredients, and let it sit for a long time. After a significant amount of time, the alcohol turns into acetic acid, which is what’s responsible for the all-known sour taste of vinegar.
But nowadays that’s not what happens. Commercial producers use sugar and different fruits for the fermentation process. From apples to oranges, you could use a number of different fruits and vegetables.
Because of the super easy manufacturing process and various useful properties, vinegar is still popular even after 3,000 years the Babylonians started using it.
Is Vinegar Affected by Heat?
Vinegar mainly consists of acetic acid and water. Acetic acid is a flammable compound but you have to keep in mind that vinegar is mostly water. With a water percentage around 80-95%, it’s not affected by heat. However, the pH of the vinegar will change depending on the amount of heat.
But that’s it. You won’t notice any other changes. The water will evaporate before it even gets a chance to do anything. And needless to say, the properties of the vinegar will stay the same regardless of the pH change.
However, you should never try to heat vinegar. When you put vinegar in a high-temperature environment, the concentrated acetic changes its properties, making itself into a corrosive compound.
Unless you heat it up in a glass container, chances are it’ll have rust and corrosion within a short time. That said, avoid heating vinegar altogether.
Is Vinegar Flammable and Combustible?
No matter how you heat it, vinegar won’t catch fire. Even though vinegar consists of a highly flammable compound such as acetic acid, the primary ingredient here is water. And water can’t catch fire regardless of how much you heat it.
But if you want to go deep, then the answer is a bit different. At one point, the heat is going to evaporate all the water, leaving you with only acetic acid. Even though 5%-20% of acetic acid is not much, you’ll still get to see it.
However, this is not an easy task. The boiling point of acetic acid is 118°C. As you can guess, it’s far too similar to water. What trying to say is, you’d have to maintain extreme precision to make sure the acetic acid stays intact.
Only then you can separate it and put it on fire. Seems like a far-fetched process, right? Well, it is.
What Is the Difference Between Cleaning Vinegar and Regular Vinegar?
Regular or white vinegar has acetic acid of about 5% with 95% water. But cleaning vinegar has more acetic acid with a percentage of 6% and 94% water. The extra 1% acidity might seem insignificant but it’s what makes the vinegar 20 times stronger than regular vinegar.
Some might say that buying cleaning vinegar is better as you can use it for both cleaning and cooking. But little do they know, it’s not been tested for impurities. And not to mention the taste is going to be horrible.
Nevertheless, cleaning vinegar is still environmentally safe for both humans and pets. On the other hand, white vinegar or regular vinegar is used primarily for cooking. But it’s not like you can’t use it for cleaning. It’s just that the efficiency is going to be low similar to distilled vinegar.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Flammable?
Similar to every other vinegar out there, apple cider vinegar is not flammable. Even though it includes highly flammable acetic acid, it can’t catch fire because of the water.
Apple cider vinegar has an acid percentage of 5-6% with pH levels ranging from 2-3. Needless to say, it’s almost as similar to regular white vinegar.
If you can separate the acid from the vinegar, only then would it become flammable. But then again, the acetic acid is what’s flammable, not the vinegar. Without water, you can’t call it vinegar.
Anyway, don’t worry about fire hazards due to vinegar. There’s no way it can catch fire without precise scientific methods.
Is It Dangerous to Inhale Vinegar Fumes?
Vinegar is weak compared to other acidic solutions, making it completely safe to inhale. Unless you have to inhale vinegar for a prolonged period of time, don’t even worry about it. After all, vinegar is 80-95% water.
It’s only dangerous when you have to inhale vinegar fumes for a long time. And even then, you can wear safety gear to eliminate the risks.
Let’s say you work in a vinegar manufacturing company. Now it goes without saying that you’d have to be around vinegar all the time. In such a situation, if the acidic solution is intense, the manufacturing company will provide your safety gear for precaution.
Again, this is a completely made-up situation. And it’s highly unlikely to happen to you. But remember this, it’s not a problem if you inhale vinegar. Just don’t do it for too long.
That’s when you might notice irritations or color changes in your skin, nose inflammations, and a bunch of other problems. Anyway, those things will only happen with long-term exposure to vinegar.
Is It Safe to Boil White Vinegar?
I get where you’re coming off. A lot of people on the internet suggest that vinegar steam can disinfect your household. Before I answer if it is safe or not, let me discuss why you shouldn’t boil vinegar at all.
But the truth is, boiling vinegar can give 2 effects on your home-
- Your house will have a vinegary smell.
- You will have less vinegar.
This is something that spread around the internet by naive people. And it’s gained credibility as ‘a lot of people’ were saying it. But deep down, it’s nothing but an old wives tale.
Even if you can kill disinfectants with vinegar steam, the concentration would need to be much higher. But the problem is it’d be toxic to humans.
Vinegar does have disinfectant properties. But only when it comes into contact with other virus or bacteria particles. The problem is flu diseases don’t spread that way. It’s never in the air per se.
When someone secretes a virus or bacteria particle, it becomes aerosolized and then falls onto a surface. After that, another person touches and somehow it gets into the body. So, vinegar steam is never going to work. You’re better off washing your hands with soap.
Now, when it comes to whether vinegar is safe to boil or not, it’s totally safe unless to use coal as fuel. The carbon monoxide of coal and vinegar create a deadly combination.
And most importantly, boiling vinegar turns itself into a corrosive material, which can damage your pan or pots. So, boiling vinegar is safe but it’s bad news for your cooking material.
Handy Hints: Check out our other article about Can olive oil catch on fire?
Can You Flambé with Balsamic Vinegar?
The acidity percentage of balsamic vinegar is around 6%, which is not enough to make it catch fire. While acetic acid is a flammable content, most of it is water. This all makes it unsuitable for flambé. Liquor is your only option if you want the true taste of flambé.
You can pour over some balsamic vinegar to bring in the famous distinct flavor. But no matter what you do, it won’t create a fire.
I mean a lot of people do say that they get a similar taste without using alcohol. However, you can’t call it a flambé dish, if it doesn’t have the aftertaste of rum or brandy.
If you truly want to taste a flambé dish, there’s no alternative to alcohol. The balsamic vinegar will only add its own flavor, nothing else.
Is vinegar flammable? Well, now you know it better than me. Even though vinegar might look like a flammable solution for its transparent color and unique smell.
But everyone seems to forget that vinegar is mostly water. There’s no way for it to catch fire without separating flammable acetic acid. And trust me, doing that is not a task for everybody.