Can Applying Vinegar Neutralize A Skin Burn From Concrete?

Summary: Concrete burns in some folks can result in serious skin damage. It was originally thought that adding an acid like vinegar may cause more skin damage. Recent evidence suggests this thought was wrong. Applying household vinegar to a concrete burn is a viable treatment and appears to result in quicker healing of the burn.

Dear Curtis: I poured a little bit of concrete and got some of it on my skin even though I tried pretty hard not to. In my everyday life I’m an office worker – so my skin certainly isn’t accustomed to this stuff and it’s burning now. I have heard that using vinegar can neutralize the burns from concrete. Is that true? If so, do you think it’s safe?

The fact of the matter is some folks are more sensitive to concrete than others. My father-in-law has poured concrete 30+ years. A brother-in-law has been pouring it for around ten years and I’ve never really seen them get serious burns. I’ve helped before and nothing has ever happened.

But, some folks, like yourself, are very sensitive to concrete and can get some pretty serious burns.

Why Concrete Burns

Before we talk about using vinegar I think it’s important to understand why concrete burns and irritates because there is actually more than one reason. This will also help you determine the best treatment.

First of all, concrete is naturally abrasive because it has sand and gravel in it.

Secondly, Portland Cement is very basic. Meaning it’s caustic with a very basic pH of 12 to 13. A neutral pH is around 7. Also, when the Portland Cement begins to dry it draws water out of whatever it is coming into contact with. Be it sand, gravel, dirt or skin.

Concrete also contains lime which itself can lead to burns.

All these factors brought together lead to concrete being potentially very abrasive to the skin.

Does Vinegar Work?

Now, remember, concrete is basic (a high pH). Vinegar is acidic (a low pH). So, in theory it works. But one of the historical concerns about applying an acid like vinegar (it’s acetic acid) is that you’ll damage the skin even further. Historically, doctors insisted that you should just flush the burn with water and continue to irrigate it to bring the pH level down.

But studies have shown that when the pH level is above 12 that’s when you get some serious damage. If you can get it below 11 you still may get damage but it will be slower and less severe.

The problem with concrete is that the pH is so high that the tissue damage may not be thwarted in time with just water. You need something to bring it down quicker. In short, researchers have discovered that regular household vinegar does appear to minimize alkaline skin burns.

However, don’t just apply the vinegar right away. Try flushing the area with water first and then applying the vinegar. It will drop the pH faster than water alone and will help minimize the damage.


  1. Andrews, Kris M.D.; Mowlavi, Arian M.D.; Milner, Stephen M. M.B., B.S., B.D.S., F.R.C.S.(Ed.), F.A.C.S.. The Treatment of Alkaline Burns of the Skin by Neutralization. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: May 2003 – Volume 111 – Issue 6 – pp 1918-1921

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  1. Debbie letendre says:

    My daughter worked in concrete and its got her body looking bad she is broke out with some kind of rash and its hard to ware cloths and it itches and puse is training out and we need someone to tell us what can we do to get ride of it please help us get ride of this

  2. LF says:

    Vinegar and mayonnaise both work very well on concrete burns. The quicker the burn is treated the faster it heals. I have 21 yrs in commercial construction and have sensitive skin ( female). I have gotten a few burns, no scares etc. I do know protect myself better than when I was young. Concrete burns if not treated can kill you, if it gets into your blood stream, if spidering ( red lines on your skin) appear go to the hospital. I had a co- worker spend 3 months in the hospital with concrete burns. It almost killed her. Treat the burns quick. Yes vinegar hurts when applied but it fades fast an it neutralizes the lime in the concrete. Mayonnaise has a lot of vinagar in it. It also has oils that help moister in your skin, old finishers treatment. Works.

  3. Mike Sauber says:

    Many years ago a friend who was doing concrete work with me told me to use vinegar to neutralize the high PH of the cement. I was really amazed at what my hands felt like. Now I use it regularly asap after concrete work. Just a quick wash with soap and water, then cup my hands and pour in the vinegar and rub it in full strength. If you have cuts or abrasions it WILL sting, but get over it. It is well worth the sting which will go away. I leave the vinegar on until my hands are dry. It also works if you are doing gardening work in the soil, especially a heavy clay soil that dries out the skin. After it all dries, I put on a skin moisturizer/lotion. Living in the southwest, it’s especially crucial.

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