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21 Unbelievable Cleaning Uses for Citric Acid Powder

Do you want to make the move towards more natural cleaning products that actually work? Have you ever needed to clean something but had no cleaning products in the house?  I have recently discovered these many household cleaning uses for citric acid powder and now it’s a staple in my home. 

Citric acid is a non-toxic, natural crystalline powder that cleans exceedingly well and is a cost-effective agent of homemade cleaners. It has no odor and has more cleaning power than vinegar. Buy in bulk to save money as the small quantities available at grocery stores can be pricey.

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What is citric acid powder?

Citric acid, also known as sour salt, is a weak organic acid found in various vegetables and fruits, but its highest concentration is in citrus fruits. Oranges and grapefruit have less than half the concentration of citric acid than lemons and limes. Citric acid is responsible for the sour taste of citric fruits like lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit.

Historically, citric acid was produced by extracting it directly from fruits. American food chemist, James Currie, discovered in 1917 that feeding a cheap source of sugar solution to a strain of mold would produce citric acid. Industrial level production of citric acid powder started about 2 years later. 

What are common uses for citric acid?

Over 2.60 million tons of citric acid was produced in 2019. It is expected to reach 3.29 million tons by 2025. The major industrial use of citric acid powder is as a flavoring and preserving agent in food and beverages.  

Citric acid is used in household detergents and cleaners because it kills bacteria, mold, and mildew and is ideal for general disinfecting and cleaning purposes. It is also a chelating agent that binds tightly to metal ions in hard water, so it’s also effective at removing hard water stains, calcium deposits, limescale, rust stains and soap scum.

Additionally, citric acid has antioxidant properties that stabilize or preserve pharmaceuticals and is used as an effervescent in powders and tablets. With a PH level between 3 and 6, citric acid is also used as a buffering agent in cosmetics, toiletries and other beauty products.

DIY cleaning uses for citric acid powder

Citric acid is the active ingredient in some bathroom and kitchen cleaning products and can be used in numerous cleaning applications around the house. It’s tough on grease, foamy and antibacterial, making it a great homemade cleaning staple. 

How do you mix citric acid powder for cleaning?

The basic citric acid cleaning solution recipe is to mix a couple of heaping tablespoons of citric acid powder with hot water in a 16 oz spray bottle. Shake to dissolve the citric acid and it’s ready to be used. Feel free to use more citric acid for more stubborn jobs.

If you want to use the solution on a vertical surface, add a drop or two of Dawn dishwashing liquid to promote foaming that will allow the solution to adhere to the surface for a longer period of time.

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Citric acid to clean your kitchen

Countertops* 

Spray citric acid cleaning solution on countertops and let sit for a minute or two. Wipe with a clean cloth. Citric acid will effectively remove grease and grime while it cleans and disinfects. It will also remove coffee and tea stains, yellow and brown discolorations, and hard water stains.

*NOTE: Don’t use citric acid on granite, marble, limestone, travertine, or onyx surfaces as acid can damage the finish. You are unlikely to see the damage for some time, but eventually your countertops will appear dull and may even have visible indentions.

Stainless steel

Spray the citric acid solution directly onto the dirty stainless steel appliance or sink and let it soak for several minutes. Then wipe the surface with a dry cloth. Rinse the surface with water and dry it again with a clean, dry cloth. This will leave your stainless steel shiny and streak free.

Faucets

Crusted calcium deposits caused by lime buildup appear in areas of hard water. Start by using soapy water and a rag to get rid of the initial build-up around your kitchen faucet including the underside and the base. Then spray your citric acid cleaning solution all over the faucet and base. Let sit for a few minutes while the citric acid dissolves the calcium and lime deposits. Rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

Remove limescale and calcium deposits from coffee makers, espresso machines and kettles

Limescale is the off-white, chalky deposit found in kettles and other appliances where hard water has evaporated. Run a mixture of the cleaning solution through your coffee maker or espresso machine, followed by 2 cycles of fresh water to remove all traces of citric acid. For kettles, simply fill them with the solution and bring it to a boil. Let it sit for a few minutes and watch all the deposits come out when you empty it. Rinse the kettle with fresh clean water.

Water and ice dispensers

Do you have hard water buildup on your fridge where the water and ice-cubes come out? Soak some cotton pads in the solution then place on the surface requiring cleaning. Leave for 10-20 minutes, depending on your build-up, then wipe off. For stubborn buildup, you may need to soak the cotton pads a couple of times.

Dishwasher

Citric acid is helpful with dishwashers in two ways; more effectively cleaning your dishes and removing mineral buildup and hard water stains in the dishwasher itself.

Citric acid is a non-toxic, natural dishwasher detergent. Add a tablespoon of citric acid to each dishwasher cycle to soften the water to remove spots from your dishes and make your glasses sparkle.

Citric acid is also an effective dishwasher cleaner. Fill the detergent dispenser with citric acid powder and run through a normal cycle. Follow up with another cycle with regular dishwasher detergent. This should remove all mineral buildup and stains inside the dishwasher.

Oven and toaster oven racks

Oven and toaster oven racks can get very greasy from splattering and dripping foods. Soak the racks in the citric acid cleaning solution for 20-30 minutes then use a brush to remove any burnt on food or grease.

Oven

A quick way to steam clean your oven is to place an ovenproof pan of citric acid cleaning solution on a rack and set the oven to 500F. Let the solution steam for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how greasy and dirty the oven is. Watch closely so that the pan doesn’t boil dry. Let the oven cool to the touch and thoroughly wipe it out with a sponge, rinsing the sponge as necessary.

Citric acid to clean your bathroom

Due to its chelating properties, citric acid cleaning solution is effective at removing soap scum, hard water stains, calcium deposits, limescale, and rust stains on bathtubs, showers, sinks and toilets. 

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Bathtubs, showers, and sinks

How to remove rust stains from your bathtub, showers and sinks.

Grout

Citric acid cleaning solution fights mold and mildew and is a powerful grout cleaner. Simply spray on, let sit 10 minutes, then rinse. Repeat the process for stubborn areas and use an old toothbrush to scrub if necessary. 

Tile

Spray your citric acid cleaning solution (add a few drops of Dawn to make it foamy) onto the tile and let sit for 10-15 minutes to give it time to break up mineral deposits, dirt, and any rust or mold. Then rinse clean and wipe with a clean cloth.

Toilet

The antibacterial properties of citric acid make it an excellent toilet cleaner and disinfectant. Spray the cleaning solution on and around the toilet, let sit for 5 minutes, then wipe it all down with a clean, damp cloth. Rinse the cloth and wipe it down again. Rinse again. Let dry.

For stubborn rust stains and hard water deposits, pour a cup of citric acid into the bowl and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Scrub with a toilet brush. If the toilet brush doesn’t remove all the staining, let sit for another 30 minutes and repeat. If this still doesn’t remove the stains, use a pumice stone to scrub off the remaining deposits.

Mirrors

Use your citric acid cleaning solution to make your mirrors streak-free! Spray the solution on the mirror and let sit for a minute or two. Wipe with a clean, lint-free cloth.

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Citric acid to clean your laundry

The water softening properties of citric acid make it an effective additive to remove stains from clothing. It’s an ingredient in most laundry detergents.

Washing clothes

Use citric acid with hydrogen peroxide to clean whites and remove stubborn stains in the laundry. Add ¼ cup of citric acid and ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide to each load to leave whites sparkling white without affecting the fabric. This combination also removes oil and other stubborn stains on colored clothing.

Clean your washing machine

Citric acid is also an effective washing machine cleaner to remove soap scum, limescale, bad smells and any build up inside the washer. Mix one cup of citric acid with half a cup of baking soda and run the machine on a hot cycle with a cold rinse. This will leave the inside of your washing machine sparkling clean and smelling fresh.

Iron

Use citric acid to clean hard water deposits off of your iron. Pour the citric acid cleaning solution into the water reservoir until it’s a third full. Turn it on to medium heat and let it steam for about 5-10 minutes so all the solution evaporates. Then, fill the chamber with fresh water and turn the iron on again to flush through traces of mineral deposits and vinegar. Wipe the base of the iron and steam vents with a paper towel.

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Don’t use citric acid on granite, marble, limestone, travertine, or onyx surfaces as acid can damage the finish. You are unlikely to see the damage for some time, but eventually your countertops will appear dull and may even have visible indentions.

Other cleaning uses of citric acid powder

Humidifiers

To descale your humidifier with citric acid, fill the base of the humidifier with 1 cup of citric acid cleaning solution and leave it to sit for an hour. The vinegar is a natural cleanser and it’ll help loosen any residue and disinfect the small unit. 

While that is sitting, clean the inside of the water reservoir by filling it with 2 cups of citric acid cleaning solution, seal it shut, and then shake it for several minutes to effectively agitate any grime. Hold the reservoir upside down and manually allow the solution to filter through the nozzle of the reservoir. 

Refill the reservoir with plain water, and repeat to rinse any loosened debris from the reservoir and the nozzle.

Once the base has been soaked, pour the solution out. Use a cloth to wipe down the interior of the base and then allow it to air dry.

Car wheel rim cleaner

To clean brake dust and other dirt from your car’s wheels, rub your citric acid cleaning solution on to the dirty area, leave it for a few minutes and then scrub. Repeat until the stain is gone. 

Swimming pool stain remover

For stains on your pool liner or stairs, use 1 cup of citric acid per 10000 gallons of water. Citric acid is a more gentle stain remover than muriatic acid. Let your chlorine level drop very low for the citric acid to be effective. Sprinkle the citric acid over the stained areas. Let it sit for 12 hours, brush and then bring your chlorine level back to normal.

Hot water heater

Pour the citric acid cleaning solution into the cold water port and wait about eight hours for the citric acid to dissolve the minerals at the bottom of the tank. Connect a hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the water heater and run the hose out into the sink to drain. It’s very satisfying to see all the deposits coming out of the hose.

Window cleaner

If you have hard water stains on your windows, citric acid is the way to go. Generously spray your solution onto the window, let sit for 5-10 minutes, then wipe down with paper towels. Repeat the process until all the dirt is removed and the window is shiny and sparkling clean.

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Is Citric acid bad for you?

Many people are concerned about using citric acid because it is manufactured with the aid of mold. However, the mold is carefully filtered out of the final product, leaving it safe to consume. The FDA saysthe ingredient is used in food with no limitations other than current good manufacturing practice.” 

Long-term or repeated consumption may cause erosion of tooth enamel. Over-ingestion may cause abdominal pain and sore throat.

There is a slight risk of respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, and a sore throat, especially in asthmatics, when using citric acid powder. Take precautions to avoid inhalation of the crystals. 

As it is a mild acid, it can cause eye irritation. Keep away from the eyes. If it comes in contact with eyes, remove any contact lenses and rinse eye(s) with water for several minutes.

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