Difference Between Acetic Acid and Vinegar

Acetic Acid vs Vinegar

Acetic acid belongs to the family of organic compounds known as carboxylic acids. They have the functional group –COOH. This group is known as the carboxyl group. Carboxylic acid has a general formula as follows.


In the simplest type of carboxylic acid, R group equals to H. This carboxylic acid is known as formic acid. Despite formic acid, there are many other types of carboxylic acids with various R groups. The R group can be a straight carbon chain, branched chain, aromatic group, etc. Acetic acid, hexanoic acid, benzoic acid, are some of the examples for carboxylic acids.

Acetic acid

Acetic acid is the carboxylic acid where the R group of the above structure is –CH3. In the IUPAC nomenclature, carboxylic acids are named by dropping the final –e of the name of the alkane corresponding to the longest chain in the acid and by adding –oic acid. Always, the carboxyl carbon is assigned number 1. According to this, the IUPAC name for acetic acid is ethanoic acid. So the acetic acid is the common name of it.

As the name says it is an acid, so can donate a hydrogen ion into a solution. It is a monoprotic acid. It is a colorless liquid with a sour taste and a characteristic smell.  Acetic acid is a polar molecule. Because of the –OH group, they can form strong hydrogen bonds with each other and with water. As a result, acetic acid has a high boiling point which is about 119 °C. Acetic acid easily dissolves in water. Since it is a carboxylic acid, it undergoes all the reactions of carboxylic acids. Since they are acidic, they react readily with NaOH and NaHCO3 solutions to form soluble sodium salts. Acetic acid is a weak acid, and it exists in equilibrium with its conjugate base (acetate ion) in aqueous media. Acetic acid is the main component in vinegar, which is used in food processing. It is used as a polar solvent to prepare solvent systems. It is also used as a chemical reagent to synthesize compounds. For example, it is used with an alcohol to produce an ester

Acetic acid is naturally synthesized by anaerobic fermentation using sugar substrates. This is carried out by anaerobic bacteria. The main method of synthetically producing acetic acid is by the methanol carbonylation method.


This is a liquid which contains acetic acid and water. Vinegar is produced by the fermentation of carbohydrate by micro organisms. Variety of substrates can be taken to produce vinegar.  Malt, coconut, rice, palm, cane, beer, wine, apple cider are some of those. Natural vinegar is produced by a slow process, which may take weeks or months, but there is also artificial vinegar in today’s market. For commercial purposes, the fermentation process can be speeded up. Vinegar is used for so many purposes. Most commonly it is used for food preparation. It can also be used as a herbicide. Further vinegar is used for medical purposes such as for diet and diabetic control, as an antimicrobial agent, etc.


What is the difference between Acetic Acid and Vinegar?

• Vinegar contains acetic acid and water.

• Therefore, somewhat diluted acetic acid is found in vinegar.

• Other than acetic acid, natural vinegar may contain other compounds like citric acid, tartaric acid, etc.