Vincent Adamo

Chemical Name + Formula

The chemical name of vinegar is acetic acid. It is generally only made up of 5% acetic acid, but is the primary component of vinegar. The chemical formula of acetic acid is C2H4O2. It is comprised of 2 carbon atoms, 4 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. It is the result of the polyatomic ion (a group of atoms with a charge) of acetate gaining an extra hydrogen atom. The addition of hydrogen converts acetate into an acid, and acetic acid is formed.

Compound Structure

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The image above shows how each element is bonded to one another in acetic acid. One line represents a single bond (most elements in acetic acid share this bond with one another) and two lines represent a double bond (Carbon and Oxygen share this bond).

Compound Type

Acetic Acid is a molecular compound as it is made up of only non-metal elements and it has an electronegativity level (tendency of an atom to attract electrons) that is below 1.7. It's chemical shape in a 3-D model is shown on the right. Because acetic acid's chemical shape has many parts to it, it does not represent a specific molecular shape. The shape varies from the point of view of individual atoms in the compound. For example, to the carbon atom surrounded by 3 hydrogen atoms and another carbon atom, the shape of the compound is tetrahedral. However, to the oxygen atom surrounded by the hydrogen and carbon atom, the shape of the compound is bent. Furthermore, to the carbon atom surrounded by another carbon atom and 2 oxygen atoms, the shape of the compound is a triangular (thanks to the double bond oxygen has with it). An acetic acid molecule is a polar molecule. A polar molecule is a molecule that has a slightly positive charged end and a slightly negative charged end. This allows the bonds between molecules to be strong for a molecular compound (molecular compounds generally have weaker bonds). This means that the compound has low boiling and melting points, as the bond between the vinegar molecules are not strong (due to the bond being molecular). The polar bond of vinegar is greater than molecules with non-polar bonds, so the bonds are strong.

Common Uses

Vinegar is mainly used for cooking and cleaning, and is also used to help improve health. Regarding cooking, vinegar is most commonly used in salads, for marinating meats, and to add extra flavour to food being prepared. Vinegar is also used for cleaning, as it's acidity helps remove stains on all types of materials, eliminate germs in places such as bathrooms and kitchens, cleans stainless steel appliances and windows. Last, it helps improve people's health in many ways, mainly as relief. It can be used to relieve sunburn, dry skin and bug bites. It also helps with heartburn relief if you ingest a little bit of it (a lot can make it worse). In addition, it helps treat sinus infections and colds, soothes a sore throat, fights dandruff, and much more. Vinegar, if used properly, can be really beneficial to a persons health.


Physical Properties of Vinegar:

State: Aqueous. Acetic acid is an acid, and is therefore in an aqueous state. Vinegar appears as a liquid in stores for this reason.

Colour in Aqueous State: Clear, "white" vinegar sold in stores is clear!

Melting Point: 16.6ºC, Vinegar has a fairly low melting point. This is due to the fact that vinegar is an molecular compound (molecular compounds have lower melting points). It isn't too low because it is a polar molecule (has stronger bonds between it's molecules than non-polar molecules). This lower melting point is the reason why vinegar is most commonly found as an aqueous liquid. It allows vinegar to be used as dressing and as a cleaning fluid.

Boiling Point: 117.9ºC, Vinegar also has a fairly low boiling point, also due to reasons stated above. Weaker bonds between molecules means bonds are easier to break, and boiling becomes easier.

Chemical Properties of Vinegar:

Flammability: The vinegar bought in stores is not flammable. This makes it easier and safer to use for whatever purposes it is used for. However, substances containing more acetic acid are flammable.

Toxicity: The severe toxicity of acetic acid is low. Low amounts of it in a solution are not harmful. Vinegar generally only has a 5% acetic acid solution in it which is why it is not harmful when a person ingests it. However, large amounts of acetic acid are toxic when ingested and sometimes are toxic at the touch because it is extremely acidic.

Benefits of Vinegar to Human Health

There are many benefits that consuming vinegar has on human health. Acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, can increase the bodies absorption of important minerals from the foods we eat. Vinegar also helps to control blood sugar levels. As a result, it has the potential to help people with type 2 diabetes. When cooking, vinegar can be used to replace unhealthy fats and sodium as ingredients in food, allowing people to eat healthier! Finally, it can also protect against heart disease and cancer and even help us age more slowly. In the common uses section, it was mentioned that vinegar, if taken properly, can be used to relieve irritations or infections.

Risks of Consuming Vinegar

Although there are many benefits to using vinegar everyday, there is also some risks people may not be aware of. Vinegar is very acidic. As mentioned above, regular vinegar sold in stores only had a 5% acetic acid solution in it so the effects of it's acidity are not really an issue if you only consume a small amount of it. However, consuming too much vinegar at once or consuming undiluted vinegar can be a problem to a person's health. It can be damaging to teeth enamel, it can impact a person's potassium levels and certain forms of vinegar can aggravate indigestion and heartburn. Also, although not proven, unpasteurized vinegar may not be safe to consume during pregnancy. Heavy vinegar ingestion can cause our bodies to change its ph level. If it changes significantly, it can cause conditions like osteoporosis and shingles. Acetic acid can destroy red blood corpuscles, resulting in anemia and cancer of the blood, or leukaemia. It also can cause ulcers and the hardening of the liver. Undiluted vinegar is corrosive and can also burn skin and eyes.

Suggestions for Safe Use

A lot of benefits and risks of consuming vinegar exist. However, small amounts of vinegar in foods will not cause any harm to a person as long as it is not ingested in large amounts at one time. Vinegar bought in stores does not have enough acetic acid in it to cause any real harm to a person, so stick to using vinegar when cooking. Undiluted vinegar is corrosive and should always be handled with care. Do not ingest undiluted vinegar as it may be harmful if swallowed and can cause internal injury.


Chemistry Reference. (July 5, 2014)

The Vinegar Institute. (July 5, 2014)

Noël-Marie Taylor, The New Homemaker. (July 5, 2014)

DHerbs.,ai.html#.U729UI1dXmV (July 6, 2014)

The National Academies Press. (July 6, 2014)

Frankie Smith, Live Strong. (July 6, 2014)

Gayle A. Alleman, How Stuff Works. (July 9, 2014)

Mail Online. (July 9, 2014)