The accidental discovery in ancient times that grape juice, left undisturbed, turns into wine was a cause for celebration. Wine has been used in celebrations ever since. The subsequent and inevitable discovery that wine, left undisturbed, eventually turns into vinegar was not heralded with as much enthusiasm. However, over many long years the wonders of vinegar have been revealed, and will continue to be for many years to come.

Ancients very quickly uncovered the tremendous versatility of vinegar. While records were not kept before 5000 BC legend has it that the Sumerians, a civilization of ancient Babylonia, used vinegar as a cleaning agent. The Babylonians discovered that vinegar slows or stops the action of bacteria that spoils food so they used it as a preservative. They also used it as a condiment. Caesar's armies used vinegar as a beverage. The Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, demonstrated its solvency powers by dissolving precious pearls in vinegar to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. Helen of Troy apparently bathed in vinegar to relax. Hannibal, the famous African General, used vinegar to help his army cross the Alps. According to the writings of Titus Livius, a historian who lived around the time of Christ, obstructive boulders were heated and drenched in vinegar.2 This action cracked the boulders into small pieces, allowing them to be easily moved away.

Vinegar has been revered throughout the ages. There are many Biblical references in both the Old and New Testaments that reveal the use of vinegar as a beverage, likely diluted and sweetened. In fact, the scriptures say that Jesus drank vinegar just before he was crucified. There are also Biblical references to the use of vinegar as a condiment to dip bread and as a remedy for infections and wounds. Vinegar is also mentioned in the Talmud where it is called for to make haroseth in Pesachim. Vinegar became one of our first medicines around 400 BC. Hippocrates, a Greek physician and writer, known as the father of medicine, extolled vinegar's therapeutic qualities. He prescribed drinking vinegar to his patients for many ailments.

Vinegar came to the rescue in the Middle Ages in some extraordinary ways. During the Black Plague in Europe, thieves poured vinegar over their skin to protect themselves from germs before robbing the dead.3 During the seventeenth century in Europe and England vinegar was used as a deodorizer. Citizens held sponges soaked in vinegar to their noses to reduce the smell of raw sewage in the streets. Women conveniently carried vinegar-laden sponges in small silver boxes and men stored them in their walking canes. The powerful British Navy used vinegar to preserve food during long sea voyages and to clean the decks of their ships.4

In modern times vinegar continues to play a valuable role in society. During World War I vinegar was used to treat wounds on the battlefields. Today, white vinegar is recommended for the treatment of rashes, bites and other minor ailments when camping. Vinegar has become most popular, however, as a condiment on French fries and as an ingredient in food and baking. The virtues of specialty vinegars, such as balsamic and rice vinegars are proclaimed with increasing passion by food connoisseurs. Vinegar is still used for pickling and preserving, but less so, as people have less time for this fine craft.

Women for centuries have used white vinegar for cleaning and have passed on their usage tips from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter. In focus groups in 2003 women fondly recalled their grandmothers' cleaning tips using vinegar. However, in our time-pressed world many of the great cleaning uses for white vinegar have been forgotten. This web site provides a broad range of vinegar usage tips that are convenient to use and that really work. It is hoped that history is in the making and that vinegar will become increasingly popular as an all-purpose household cleaner. The advantages to the pocketbook, the planet and our health, compared to toxic cleaners, will hopefully speak for themselves.