White Vinegar vs Distilled Malt Vinegar

Is White Vinegar the Same as Distilled Malt Vinegar?

There are many articles, videos, forums and blogs online that discuss whether or not white vinegar is the same as distilled malt vinegar. In fact, finding an answer to this question can be difficult, and not to mention confusing.

I’ve done my research and the simple answer is:

White vinegar and distilled malt vinegar are both members of the vinegar family. However, they are not strictly the same thing. White vinegar is better for cleaning than distilled malt vinegar.

I’ll now go on to outline the significant differences between the two vinegars, so you’ll be a vinegar expert by the end!

Differences Between White Vinegar and Distilled Malt Vinegar

Acetic acid

The most notable difference between the two is that they have a different acetic acid content.

White vinegar’s acetic acid content is anything up to 10%. The remaining content of a bottle of white vinegar is made up of about 90% water.

On the other hand, distilled malt vinegar has a lower acetic acid content level of around, if not less than, 4%.

The high level of acetic acid in white vinegar is what makes it a good cleaning product. The acetic acid helps to loosen up and remove tough stains. 

Core ingredients

There is also a difference between the main ingredients that make white vinegar and distilled malt vinegar.

White vinegar is created by fermenting an alcoholic liquid similar to grain-based vodka. Acetic acid bacteria break down the alcohol in the liquid and acetic acid is the byproduct of this process.

Distilled malt vinegar is created by fermenting a barley-based liquid much like beer. Acetic acid bacteria break down the alcohol in this beer like liquid to make acetic acid. The resulting raw brown malt vinegar is then distilled to remove the colour.

pH level

All vinegars have a pH level because they contain acid. The typical pH level for a vinegar is between 2-3.5. The lower the number, the stronger the acid.

White vinegar has one of the highest pH levels of all the vinegars available today. Its pH level is usually around 2.5. Distilled malt vinegar’s pH level is less.


Both white vinegar and distilled malt vinegar are clear, so they can be easily mixed up.

However, you may have come across a bottle of malt vinegar in the supermarket that is brown in colour.

Brown malt vinegar is not really supposed to be used for cleaning because it will stain whatever surface you use it on. Use white vinegar because it is colourless.

Lab-made acetic acid

Interestingly, white vinegar can be made by using lab created acetic acid. This type of acetic acid is again diluted using water.


As you may have guessed, with a greater acetic acid content, white vinegar is far stronger than distilled malt vinegar. This is the reason why it is the preferred vinegar to use during cleaning.

White Vinegar


What Should You Use for Cleaning?

The best vinegar to use for cleaning is white vinegar. The simple reason for this is because white vinegar has a higher percentage of acetic acid in it, and this is perfect for cleaning!

In addition to this, white vinegar doesn’t usually stain other products, if it is diluted and used correctly. Whereas distilled malt vinegar, although it can be bought in clear form, can also come in a brown-like colour which can stain household items.

Finally, white vinegar can be bought in fairly large bottles, and at a very reasonable price. So, you’ll get lots of use out of one bottle as you use it to clean the various goods in your home!


White vinegar can be used to clean so many different things around the home, from windows to blinds, and from shower heads to carpet stains. You can find out where to buy it and see some more uses in our article here.

Take Home Message…

If you’ve been reading online you will have found different answers to this question. However, based on my research I have concluded that white vinegar and distilled malt vinegar are not the same.

The reasons for this are:

  • White vinegar and distilled malt vinegar are made using different processes.
  • White vinegar is grain based and distilled malt vinegar is barley based.
  • White vinegar contains more acetic acid (up to 10%).
  • Distilled malt vinegar has a lower acetic acid content level (less than 4%).
  • White vinegar is far stronger than distilled malt vinegar.

White vinegar should be used for cleaning as it has so many different uses and it’s strong!