The main function of acetic acid is to inhibit harmful bacteria and it is used as a preservative because of this action. Acetic acid is not vinegar, as often thought, but is the component that gives vinegar its strong smell and taste.
Exposure to industrial compounds that contain acetic acid, such as paint, pesticides, plastics and textiles is hazardous to health. However, acetic acid is generally recognised as safe for use in foods and has been a staple of folk medicine for centuries all over the world. Whether acetic acid acts harmfully depends on the process of manufacture, the other chemicals involved in making up the compound and the degree of dilution.
Acetic acid is often used to treat infections of the outer ear canal, bacterial vaginitis, head lice, ear wax impaction, ear infections and as diluted vinegar for thrush, plantar warts, nail fungus and impetigo.
Vinegar is often used to heal wounds due to the properties of acetic acid.
Natural sources of acetic acid