Making White Vinegar

It is expensive to buy white vinegar in Japan. The default Japanese vinegar is made of rice and white vinegar is a niche import. The prices tell the story:

  • Heinz distilled white vinegar: 1200 yen/liter
  • Thai-import white vinegar: 1000 yen/liter
  • Domestic rice vinegar: 390 yen/liter

Since I want white vinegar for my botanic color projects, as well as for cleaning and cooking, I decided to make my own. It’s a simple lab mixture of water and acid.

A 500 ml bottle of Glacial Acetic Acid (99% acid) makes 10 liters of 5% vinegar strength solution. Tod found a bottle on Amazon for 266 yen. A 2 liter container of distilled water is 315 yen, delivered. I bought one with a cute pour spout.

Materials cost for my homemade vinegar comes to 184 yen/liter. Cheaper than rice vinegar!

There was another 50 yen in safety equipment costs, which I was happy to spend. Glacial acetic acid is very caustic and will burn you badly if it contacts your skin, and do not breathe too deeply when the bottle is open. I protected myself with disposable gloves (20 yen), a mask (30 yen), and my glasses.

I used the box that the materials came in as a disposable lab space to protect my kitchen counter from drips or splashes. Thanks, Amazon, for the useful cardboard. 🙂

The process was as simple as could be. I poured 100 ml of distilled water out of the container (later putting it into my steam iron) and replaced it with 100 ml of carefully handled glacial acetic acid. Recapped both bottles, shook up the vinegar mixture, made a label for it, and rinsed the beaker that had the acid in a lot of running water. Done.

If you need white vinegar in Japan and you are comfortable working with strong chemicals, this is definitely the way to go.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.