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What Happens When Vinegar Is Added to Food Coloring?

Updated February 21, 2017

Vinegar is a common ingredient in many types of cooking. Some types of vinegar can also be used as a salad dressing. It is a common ingredient in Easter egg dyes where it is mixed with food colouring. The food colouring gives the vinegar its hue and the vinegar affects the colouring in other ways.

Vinegar Changes Color

The primary effect that adding food colouring to vinegar offers is that the vinegar changes colour. This is due to the colouring agents of the food colouring. It is the same as if the colouring was added to any liquid or food. That colour is diluted and spread throughout the liquid giving its colour to the entire solution. Add red food colouring and your vinegar will turn red. Add green to turn it green and so on. The more food colouring you add, the more concentrated the colouring content and the brighter the colours.

Dye

Vinegar is used in making some kinds of dyes. This is most commonly done when colouring eggs for Easter. Vinegar is slightly acidic. It is in-between tomato juice and lemon juice on the pH scale with a pH of around 2.4. This allows the vinegar to react with the food colouring by breaking it down. This helps the dye maintain its colour once applied to a surface such as eggshell. It also makes the dye stick better to the egg than if the colouring was used with plain water.

Effect on Vinegar

The food colouring is affected more than the vinegar. Vinegar that has had colouring added to it can still be used in normal ways such as on salads, in cooking or other uses. The vinegar will be a different colour, but the chemical make-up of the colouring is mild. The changing of colours is its only affective property. The taste of the vinegar will remain unchanged as well as the smell. Of course, this is assuming that only a few drops of colouring have been used. It only takes a drop or two to colour a liquid amount several times larger. If enough colouring has been used to dilute the vinegar, it can no longer be used normally.

Other Uses

Food colouring can be added to any type of vinegar that you may be using. If using vinegar on food, you can add food colouring to spice up the dish with a variety of colours. Salad dressing can be made brighter and more vibrant with a few drops of food colouring. Some people won't care for unnaturally coloured foods though, so be careful with which foods you add coloured vinegar to. You can also use red food colouring to give colour to the classic vinegar volcano science project. When the acidic vinegar breaks down baking soda and begins to fizz, some red food colouring can make it look more like lava.

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About the Author

Clifton Watson started writing and editing in 2008. He edited the "American River Review" and maintained a number of online blogs for Unitek College. Watson has an Associate of Arts in liberal arts from American River College.