Use A Citric Acid Cleaner on These 6 Household Items

How Do You Use Citric Acid Around Your Home?

Making and using your own cleaning supplies is becoming quite popular. One of the most common homemade cleaning supplies is citric acid.I’d love for you to tell me how you use this product around your home for laundry, cleaning or stain removal? You can also share your recipes for homemade cleaning solutions which feature this product here.


Cleaning Uses

Because citric acid kills bacteria, some fungi, and mildew, it’s great for general sanitizing, disinfecting, and cleaning. It’s also effective at removing soap scum, hard water stains, calcium deposits, lime, and rust. Also, it serves as a preservative in many cleaning solutions. Because lemon juice contains 5 percent to 8 percent citric acid, it’s often used in green cleaning.

Citric acid is used in several cleaning products, such as auto cleaning products (e.g., wheel and radiator cleaners), metal cleaners, oven cleaners, dishwasher cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, soap-scum removers, bathroom cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, carpet cleaners, dish soaps, laundry detergents, air fresheners, window cleaners, stain removers, and dishwasher rinse aids.

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to clean showerheads and faucet aerators

Keep that showerhead submerged. Olive jars do that
Keep that showerhead submerged. Olive jars do that well. Sandra Gutierrez

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that low water pressure can be counted as one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Having just a single thread of water to clean yourself (or that pan with burnt lasagna ends stuck on the sides) cannot be defined as anything but a nightmare.

Low water pressure depends on a lot of factors—some of which are out of your control—but one you can definitely do something about is clogged showerheads or faucet aerators (the same thing, but in your kitchen sink).

The method is similar to that of the electric kettle. Just unscrew your showerhead or aerator (or both, if you want to multitask), and submerge it in a solution of one tablespoon of citric acid per 4 ½ cups of boiling water. Showerheads are hollow and will float, most likely with the holes facing up—which clearly defeats the purpose. Use anything heavy and heat-resistant to keep it submerged. I used a jar of olives, but I’m sure you can come up with something better.

Once your showerhead is securely submerged, leave it soaking for 15 minutes before rinsing with cold water. If there’s any residue still sticking to the piece at this point, you should be able to easily scrub it away using a small brush.

Screw it back in place and enjoy your (at least slightly) improved water pressure.

What cleans better? Vinegar or citric acid?

Citric acid and vinegar are both weak acids, although citric acid is a little more effective at removing mineral buildup and hard water stains. Both are excellent household cleaners.

Citric acid is a tricarboxylic acid and vinegar contains acetic acid. Either acid is an effective cleaner for mineral buildup, calcium deposits and rust stains. I prefer citric acid as it’s an easy to store powder that is always in my pantry. Additionally, some people don’t like the smell of vinegar.

Full strength vinegar can certainly be substituted for the citric acid cleaning solution for these applications, if required.

Toilet bowl

Citric acid will banish brown limescale marks from your toilet bowl.

The reason why these marks are brown is that they are coloured by other deposits in the water such as iron.

Dri-Pak recommends pouring a bucket of hot water down the toilet, waiting for it to drain, and then pouring in another bucket of hot water.

Alternatively, plunge the bowl with a toilet brush until most of the water has gone and then pour in a bucket of hot water.

Add half a packet of citric acid and leave it overnight while it fizzes away.

The hot water should help activate the reaction between the alkaline limescale and the citric acid.

Repeat the process if necessary or use a stiff toilet brush to remove the loosened limescale.

DON’T MISS… Best eco cleaning products 2021  [INFORMER] How to get rid of limescale in kettle with vinegar  [INSIGHT] Mrs Hinch fan shares hack to remove limescale from toilet with ease  [EXPLAINER]

Citric acid is actually more powerful than lemon juice

This table shows that citric acid is actually more effective at reducing the acidity of tomato products to be canned, than the standard 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. This is NOT to say that you should use citric acid instead of lemon juice: it’s just to show that yes, citric acid is as safe if not more so even than the lemon juice treatment.

Source: Roxie Rodgers Dinstel. Canning Tomatoes an

Source: Roxie Rodgers Dinstel. Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products. University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension Service. FNH-00171. May 2011. [CLICK FOR FULL SIZE]

Washing machine

Limescale builds up within washing machines, wasting electricity and reducing the service life of your machine.

Run an empty hot wash with 250g of citric acid to remove any existing limescale.

Dri-Pak recommends repeating this every other month to soften your water, and use soda crystals or borax substitute in your regular wash.

You can also use dissolved citric acid in the place of laundry softener.

Citric Acid in the Bathroom

  • Descale faucets and shower heads: dissolve approximately 1½ tablespoons of citric acid powder in a ¼ liter of water and spray onto the affected areas, or place the hardware directly into the solution. Afterwards, wipe off and rinse well. 
  • Citric acid toilet bowl cleaner: add approximately three tablespoons of powder to the toilet bowl and leave it for a few hours, scrubbing and flushing the toilet when finished. If you don’t have citric acid at home but want clean your toilet naturally, check out our other two natural homemade toilet bowl cleaner.

Does Citric Acid Cleaner Work?

We live in a world where finding out what people think about a product is easier than ever. If you want to know whether a product lives up to its promises, one of the best ways to find out is by checking reviews. If you search for some of the popular traditional, all-purpose cleaners, they get high user ratings. These are tried and true products that are best sellers because they work. Nielsen found that consumers say product efficacy influences their purchase of household cleaning products most. If it doesn’t work, they won’t buy it, even if it’s cheaper. So how do safer, non-toxic cleaning products fare? They get equally high ratings, some even better than their harsher counterparts. But you don’t have to look further than your store shelves to know if citric acid cleaners and similar products work. A good gauge of product effectiveness is to look at where it’s located on your store cleaning aisle. Best sellers are almost always located in the “Bull’s-Eye Zone”, the second and third shelves from the top. This is where consumers’ eyes go first. Manufacturers pay for this prime placement, so you’ll often find conventional cleaners taking up the most space in this zone, but look at where the alternative, safer cleaning products are located. Because there are so many these days to meet consumer demand for better-for-you products, they often take up their own section. What products in this section are front and center? These are the ones that not only sell the most but are often pricier than similar products on the shelf just below.Another thing to notice is the longevity of those items remaining in your store. Those that don’t sell are the ones that consumers likely don’t think work or cost more than they’re willing to pay. They won’t last long. There’s too much competition for that sacred real estate.Of course, there’s always the option to just give products a try. There are plenty of non-toxic, citric acid cleaners that are affordable, with prices comparable to conventional cleaners. Many stores will accept returns if you don’t like a product. With so much toxicity on the line, it’s worth the small investment to experiment with different products.Keep in mind that you really don’t need harsh disinfectants to clean most surfaces in your home. According to LiveScience and many other sources, disinfecting is only needed in certain circumstances, as over-disinfecting can actually cause more harm than good in humans. Cleaning up raw chicken juices or after someone with the flu may warrant disinfecting, but most household dirt and grime are effectively cleaned without the use of harsh antibacterial ingredients. The FDA warns that products containing triclosan, the main ingredient in many antibacterial cleansers, may disrupt hormones and contribute to bacteria-resistant antibiotics. They say antibacterial chemicals “aren’t necessary to get your house clean.”Try citric acid-based cleaners in your home and see for yourself how they get the job done. You may be surprised at how these safer cleansers are just as effective as the toxic cleaners you’ve always used. They don’t have to cost more, either. Some of the most powerful, safer cleaners cost the same or less than conventional brands.


What are potential effects of citric acid on the body to be aware of? It’s possible that it can be harmful if swallowed in large amounts. It may also cause skin irritation and allergic skin reactions, eye irritation, or potentially serious eye damage, nose and throat irritation. Can you be allergic to citric acid? Yes — rarely people will suffer from an allergy or asthma symptoms and breathing difficulty when they come into contact with the acid.

Can you possibly die from having too much citric acid? This acid is generally considered non-toxic. Most people would need to consume a very high dose of it to suffer serious side effects — much more than is found in most foods. However, there’s more concern regarding citric acid supplements and citrate medications. Serious side effects of taking too much citrate include numbness or tingly feeling, swelling or rapid weight gain, muscle twitching or cramps, fast or slow heart rate, confusion, or mood changes, bloody or tarry stools, severe stomach pain, ongoing diarrhea, or seizures. (16)

Should you avoid citric acid if you have heartburn or acid reflux symptoms? Acid reflux/heartburn is caused by acidic digestive juices creeping up from the stomach and entering back into the esophagus and can be due to low stomach acid, poor digestion, inflammation and other causes. To help manage acid reflux, you’ll want to cut back on oily, meaty foods, fast foods, processed cheeses, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine.

Spicy foods and acidic foods, like tomatoes, tomato products, onions, citrus fruits and citrus juice, may also make heartburn symptoms worse. While acidic foods aren’t usually the cause of heartburn, it might be best to avoid them until you’ve addressed other underlying issues. People who have peptic ulcers or other GI sensitivities may also experience irritation from citric acid, so they will want to limit their intake.

Final Thoughts

  • Citric acid is found in foods like citrus fruits (especially lemons and limes), plus a variety of packaged/processed foods, especially those that have an acidic or sour taste. Foods with citric acid include pre-packaged fruits and veggies, canned or jarred foods, hummus, salsa, chicken stock, some yogurts and cheeses, baked goods and desserts, soft drinks, beer and wine.
  • Citric acid uses include adding sour/bitter flavor to foods and drinks; acting as a preservative, emulsifier, pH balancer, fragrance and solvent for cleaning; and degreasing.
  • It comes in dried powder form, liquid form, or as a supplement or medication called citrate.
  • What can replace citric acid in recipes? When cooking, use fresh lemon juice mixed with water or a tiny bit of vinegar to get the same acidic effect and flavor.
  • Benefits of this acid include antioxidant, alkalizing and anti-inflammatory effects; improving skin health; fighting kidney stones; and improving endothelial functions.
  • In some cases, is citric acid bad for you or harmful? It is mostly harmless, but when found in packaged foods it’s often made from GMO ingredients and may be linked to mold and allergies. It can be irritating to the skin or digestive system and can interact with medications when taken in supplement form.


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