Vinegar does work best for burns from cleaning supplies, drain openers

Old-fashioned vinegar is the best thing to quickly neutralize a skin burn caused by alkaline chemicals found in household cleaners, drain openers and industrial solvents.

“Common cleaning supplies that contain alkalis, such as sodium hydroxide, can be found under any kitchen sink,” said Dr. Stephen Milner, co-author of a study published in the May issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The study found that weak acids, such as vinegar, worked best to neutralize alkaline burns.” That goes against some common wisdom that neutralizing alkaline burns should be avoided.

After initially rinsing the wound with water, the sooner you apply vinegar to the site, the better. The study found that weak acids like vinegar worked 15 minutes faster than water alone, potentially preventing more skin damage and pain caused by alkaline chemicals reacting with fat in the skin.


Every year, Americans suffer more than 15,000 alkaline burns, some of which are so severe they require skin grafts to repair the damage, Milner said.

Although weak acids that can be found at home, such as vinegar, can help reduce the damage of alkaline burns, researchers don’t know how they might affect similar burns to eye tissue or internal organs.


Jane E. Allen