Vinegar is an aqueous solution of acetic acid and trace chemicals that may include flavorings. Vinegar typically contains 5–8% acetic acid by volume. Usually the acetic acid is produced by the fermentation of ethanol or sugars by acetic acid bacteria. There are many types of vinegar, depending on source materials. Vinegar is now mainly used in the culinary arts: as a flavorful, acidic cooking ingredient, or in pickling.
As the most easily manufactured mild acid, it has historically had a wide variety of industrial and domestic uses (such as its use as a household cleaner).
The term "distilled vinegar" as used in the United States (called "spirit vinegar" in the UK, "white vinegar" in Canada) is something of a misnomer because it is not produced by distillation but by fermentation of distilled alcohol. The fermentate is diluted to produce a colorless solution of 5% to 8% acetic acid in water, with a pH of about 2.6. This is variously known as distilled spirit, "virgin" vinegar, or white vinegar, and is used in cooking, baking, meat preservation, and pickling, as well as for medicinal, laboratory, and cleaning purposes. The most common starting material in some regions, because of its low cost, is barley malt, or in the United States, corn. It is sometimes derived from petroleum. Distilled vinegar is used predominantly for cooking, although in the UK it is used as an alternative to brown or light malt vinegar. White distilled vinegar can also be used for cleaning, and some types are sold specifically for this purpose.