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Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome

From Chace Audio

Vinegar Syndrome is an indicator of a complex chemical process caused by the decomposition of the acetate film base of certain types of mags and audiotapes. Over time, this deterioration process yields acetic acid (or vinegar) as a pungent byproduct, giving this syndrome its distinctive odor and its name.

Acetate, a type of plastic, was used extensively as a base for motion picture sound film and audiotape, predominantly between the 1950s and the 1980s. Since that time, the industry has largely moved to polyester-based stock, which is not susceptible to this type of decomposition.

Currently, no process exists which can reverse Vinegar Syndrome once an element starts to decompose. As a result, film and audiotape elements exhibiting Vinegar Syndrome should be transferred to another medium as soon as possible, as rapid deterioration could render the acetate element past the point of transferability.

Additionally, acetate assets affected by Vinegar Syndrome should be stored separately, as chemical byproducts from their decomposition can accelerate the process in otherwise unaffected acetate elements.

Extreme caution must be exercised around Vinegar Syndrome assets, as prolonged exposure may pose health hazards.

For more information about preserving assets exhibiting Vinegar Syndrome, please contact Chace Audio.

Deterioration of this asset has reached the point where the magnetic oxide is literally falling off the reel.


Deterioration has caused this film to warp, shrink, and split.


Close-up of an RCA duplex optical sound track negative with severe vinegar syndrome base film deterioration. Photographed with the COSP-Xi™.