Vinegar as disinfectant (C) Daniel Friedman Using Vinegar for Water Purification / Dinsinfection
Warnings & research concerning use of vinegar as a water disinfectant or purification method
     

  • VINEGAR for WATER DISINFECTION - CONTENTS: description of the effectiveness of vinegar as a disinfectant, a water disinfectant, a food wash, and warnings about the limitations of vinegar for water disinfection to make drinking water potable or safe.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the limitations of and safety of vinegar (acetic acid) water disinfection methods
  • REFERENCES
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Report on the effectiveness of vinegar, lemon juice, and mixtures of vinegar, lemon juice & household bleach as a water disinfectant against various pathogens including Salmonella, Polio virus, and Giardia cystts.

Included are reader opinions and more solid research citatations and abstract excerpts commenting on the effectiveness of vinegar as a cleaner and a disinfectant. We include specific warnings about claims of the ability of vinegar to kill parasitic cysts found in some drinking water supplies.

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Using Vinegar for Water Disinfection or Drinking Water Purification

Effectiveness of Vinegar as a Water Sterilizer

Experts present ample research evidence that vinegar in some applications is a reliable sterilizer for some but not all pathogens (Olsen 1994). Certainly acids or these food-acids (vinegar, lemon juice) are effective against some common pathogens found on foods: Sengun (2004) found that mixing lemon juice and vinegar was effective at removing Salmonella after a 30 minute soak.

Before we get over-excited about vinegar it's worth noting that research shows that other acids, even lemon juice, may be more effective in disinfecting the same pathogens that vinegar can address and that niether of these approaches addresses all of the common pathogens that may be present in water.

Watch out: Cyst-like organisms however can be resistant to this disinfectant approach. For example vinegar does not appear in the documents we have reviewed on water purification for Giardia.

Nevertheless a reader (at REFERENCES) has written to InspectApedia that

"... vinegar is highly acidic and it breaks down the walls of the giardia cysts, if it is used full strength. Dr. Omar Amin confirmed this."

Escudero (1999) emphasized (as do most experts) that

The bactericidal effect of disinfectants was related to the concentration, exposure time, combination with chlorine (surfactants and organic acids), and susceptibility of each strain.

We have not obtained information about the necessary concentration nor contact time when using vinegar for a vegetable disinfectant wash to handle all of the common pathogens including bacteria and cysts that are found on food and in many unreliable water supplies that may be used to wash food.

Other current disinfectants for drinking water include ozone, chlorine dioxide, iodine, mixed oxidants electrochemically generated from brine, and halogenated resins. Ozone has been successfully used for water purification but with high contact times. - Lazarova (1999) But ozone-water-purifier products used as a vegetable wash were not impressive in their performacne.

The best procedures for washing fruits and vegetables are found at VEGETABLE DISINFECTION along with supporting research.

Reader Comments: effectiveness of vinegar as a disinfectant for Giardia cysts in drinking water

Vinegar as a vegetable wash:

I am the person who wrote about Dr. Amin not knowing the concentration of peroxide to kill Giardia Cysts.

I do use pure vinegar to sterilze vegetables as it is highly acidic and breaks down the cysts. You cannot add vinegar to water to sterilyze water. The dilution would not be strong enough but the pure vinegar works to soak hard eggies like onions, cucumbers, peppers, etc. I put them in a large bowl with vinegar, cover with a plastic bowl lid that is smaller than the bowl so that I can put some weight on it and weigh it down and I soak the veggies for 25 minutes. Then I remove the veggies and wash off the vinegar with sterile water.

I battle an immune disorder, called "CVID" and this method has worked for me and over the 20 years that I have been doing this, I have never reinfected with Giardia or any other parasite. I keep the vinegar standing in the bowl, covered with the right sized cover when not in use. and I use it a number of times before replenishing it.

I am the same person who had spoken to Dr. Amin about this. You may contact him yourself to verify the information. - G.B. 5/24/2013

...

A long time ago, I related you info on vinegar treatments and parasite cysts that had been given to me by dr. Omar Amin. I am no longer sure of it's veracity because I have recently come across a scientific article that says that vinegar will not kill cysts. I have that article in my computer ... .Regards, S.R. 24 January 2015

Reply: Giardiacidal activity of lemon juice, vinifer & vinegar on viable Giardia intestinalis cysts

We prefer to stick to information and disinfection solutions supported by authoritative, expert, unbiased research from appropriate experts. Consumer experience is important to factor into such information but cannot substitute for it. In this case thanks to G.B. we can cite two articles offering details that may not have been available when Dr. Amin offered the opinion described above:

Watch out: The effectiveness of vinegar as a disinfectant has been widely studied. Vinegar treatments cannot be easily relied-upon to adequately disinfect all of the kinds of pathogens that may be in drinking water, particularly parasitic cysts One thing experts cite is the importance of temperature in the disinfection procedure (see my second and third citataions below).

Abstract The giardiacidal efficacy of simple disinfecting materials, ie lemon juice, vinifer, and vinegar, for uncooked foods with Giardia cysts was investigated to help travelers in Giardia-endemic areas. The cysts were obtained from stools of individuals with Giardia intestinalis infection by modified sucrose gradient procedure.

A pooled batch of 3 x 10(4)/ml Giardia cysts was made from all specimens. The cysts were kept at 4 degrees C until use. Before each experiment, the number of cysts was determined by hemocytometer. Two sets of Eppendorf tubes were used for the experiments, one set at 4 degrees C and one at 24 degrees C. One thousand microliters each of lemon juice, vinifer, or vinegar was poured into each tube, and 1,000 microl of Giardia cysts were added. Variables were disinfectant materials, temperature, and time of exposure. Cyst viability 140 was determined by eosin inclusion procedure.

Viability of at least 250 cysts in each tube at 0, 0.5, 1, 2 and 3 hours after the beginning of the experiments was determined. The mean giardiacidal activity at 4 degrees C after 3 hours for lemon juice, vinifer, and vinegar was 18.9, 12.8, and 28.4%, and at 24 degrees C, 28.3, 16.2, and 40.6%, respectively. In conclusion, the giardiacidal activity of vinegar was more than the other materials, and as exposure time and temperature increased, giardiacidal activity also increased; the highest giardiacidal activity of vinegar was at 3-hours exposure at 24 degrees C.

A second useful citation on the effectiveness of vinegar as a disinfectant that can treat giardia is:

Abstract The inactivation of Giardia duodenalis cysts by vinegar was investigated. Experiments were carried out in 100 ml volume of vinegar (acetic acid 4%), undiluted or diluted in distilled water in ratios of 1:1, 1:15.6, and 1:62.5 (vol/vol), which were inoculated with 5 × 105 cysts obtained from human feces. Experiments were performed at room temperature (21 ± 1 °C) and at 4 °C.

After contact times of 1.5 min, 10, 30, and 60 min, the cysts were recovered from the treatment fluid and subjected to an in vitro excystation assay to determine their viability. The relative viability, which was calculated in relation to controls (maximum excystation percentage), was significantly affected (p < 0.1) by the vinegar concentration, contact time, and temperature.

At 21 ± 1 °C, no cysts remained viable after being treated with undiluted vinegar for 60 min, while the treatment with 1:1, 1:15.6, and 1:62.5 vinegar–water mixtures decreased the relative viability to 1.8%, 19.4%, and 56.4%, respectively. The relative viability after corresponding treatments at 4 °C also decreased, but 23.6% to 48.8% remained viable after 60 min, and thus complete inactivation was not obtained with any treatment at that temperature.

A 2011 reference by Costa AO et als includes additional warnings about using vinegar to treat water infected byu Giardia cysts whose abstract is quoted here:

The inactivation of Giardia duodenalis cysts by vinegar was investigated. Experiments were carried out in 100 ml volume of vinegar (acetic acid 4%), undiluted or diluted in distilled water in ratios of 1:1, 1:15.6, and 1:62.5 (vol/vol), which were inoculated with 5x10(5) cysts obtained from human feces. Experiments were performed at room temperature (21+/-1 degrees C) and at 4 degrees C.

After contact times of 1.5 min, 10, 30, and 60 min, the cysts were recovered from the treatment fluid and subjected to an in vitro excystation assay to determine their viability. The relative viability, which was calculated in relation to controls (maximum excystation percentage), was significantly affected (p<0.1) by the vinegar concentration, contact time, and temperature. At 21+/-1 degrees C, no cysts remained viable after being treated with undiluted vinegar for 60 min, while the treatment with 1:1, 1:15.6, and 1:62.5 vinegar-water mixtures decreased the relative viability to 1.8%, 19.4%, and 56.4%, respectively.

The relative viability after corresponding treatments at 4 degrees C also decreased, but 23.6% to 48.8% remained viable after 60 min, and thus complete inactivation was not obtained with any treatment at that temperature. -

What does this mean to a normal reader wanting to disinfect drinking water or use vinegar (or vinegar and lemon juice) as a vegetable wash?

Vinegar washes can be useful as general cleaners and mild disinfectants but you should rely on vinegar to assure the safety of water or foods that may be infected with parasitic cysts.

  1. Pay close attention to the concentrations and contact time required for effective disinfection. If 30 minutes is required to remove all salmonella from carrots in a vinegar and lemon juice wash of a particular concentration, washing your carrots in a weaker solution for 10 minutes is not a reliable alternative.
  2. Don't assume that all pathogens on a particular food product are addressed by the wash you are using.

Research on the Effectiveness & Safety of Vinegar as a Disinfectant

...


Continue reading at WATER DISINFECTION LIMITATIONS or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.

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VINEGAR for WATER DISINFECTION at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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