Apple Cider Vinegar vs White Vinegar: How to Choose

So, you are standing in the grocery aisle looking at rows and rows of vinegar bottles. They come in all sorts of sizes and colors – it can get overwhelming.

But unless you are planning on some gourmet cooking, you choice is likely to come down to two.  Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar.

These are the most common types of vinegar and also the most readily available. But what’s the difference between them? Why would you choose one over the other?

Here we’ll take a look at apple cider vinegar vs white vinegar and how to choose.

Apple Cider Vinegar Versus White Vinegar

The difference between these vinegars is in things you can see (like color) and things you can’t (like acidity.)

Let’s start with the most noticeable difference.


Apple cider vinegar is amber brown due to being fermented from apples. Because it is usually unfiltered, it is cloudier than white vinegar.

White vinegar is fermented with grains like corn or rice. Distillation from the mother (the bacteria that ferments it) gives a clear product.


Both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are sour. But, apple cider vinegar is sweeter and fruitier. This makes it popular for cooking and using in a lot of different recipes.

In contrast, white vinegar is stronger in taste and smell while being very acidic.


Different vinegars have varying levels of acetic acid. The typical scale is 4% to 7%. The lower the better for cooking and medicinal purposes.

A normal apple cider vinegar is 5% to 6% acetic acid. This makes it ideal for the following uses:

  • Marinades and dressings
  • Weight loss aid
  • Soothing balm for burns
  • Anti-bacterial cleaning
  • Lowering of blood sugar levels in diabetics
  • Sore throat relief
  • Fly trap
  • Produce wash
  • Hair rinse

Read More: How to Choose the Best Apple Cider Vinegar

White vinegar has a higher level of acetic acid. There are safe variations used for cooking and health purposes – anywhere up to 7%. Cleaning vinegars with a higher level of acidity than table vinegar are also available.

The ideal uses for white vinegar are:

  • Killing black mold
  • Laundry detergent additive
  • Stain remover
  • Pickling
  • Disinfecting surfaces and tools
  • Mop solution
  • Prolong the freshness of cut flowers
  • Cleaning and descaling kitchen appliances
  • Pet odor remover
  • Cleaning paint brushes

Never, never try to cook with a vinegar that is higher than 7% in acidity. It will damage your stomach. Vinegar made to a higher acidity level will be labeled cleaning vinegar.

If you are looking at vinegar for the sole reason of heavy cleaning, look for the special cleaning label. Most companies make their cleaning vinegar weak enough to still be used for cooking.

Vinegar that falls into the highest acid level is also used as a natural herbicide.  Though one that strong is hard to find on your grocery store shelves.

The Two Vinegar ‘Tribes’

When it comes down to it, there are two primary ‘tribes’ for vinegar – cooks and cleaners. Either of these can enjoy the natural and health qualities of vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is the ideal choice for the chef or cook offering better flavor and less acidity. There are many ways to take apple cider vinegar in recipes and drinks to enjoy its health benefits.

For cleaning, white vinegar is a natural, non toxic solution that does many jobs for a small price. If you only want vinegar for cleaning, then choose one labeled accordingly.

Regardless of your tribe, there is versatility with both apple cider and white vinegar. Both are edible while being useful for cleaning. It is a matter of choice if you want to have one or the other or both in your home.

A Summary of the Difference

So, in summary the differences between apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are:

  • Ingredients used to make them – apples vs grains
  • Appearance – cloudy vs clear
  • Taste – sweet and fruity vs sour and acidic
  • Acetic acid level – 5-6% vs 4-7% (or higher for cleaning vinegar)

Whether you want to descale a coffee pot or marinade a roast for dinner, both of these vinegars can do the job.

Which one you choose will come down to whether you are a cook or cleaner. But the best scenario is to have both. Keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar in the kitchen and bottle of white vinegar under the sink.

That way you don’t have to choose 🙂

Bottles of apples cider vinegar and white vinegar

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