Uses of Citric Acid

Lemonade and Watermelon
Young woman drinking a glass of lemonade. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Citric acid is a naturally occurring acid found primarily in several varieties of fruits and vegetables, with citrus fruits such as lemons and limes containing the highest amounts. This organic acid has many uses, including as a food additive/preservative, ingredient in cosmetic products and as a powerful cleaning agent. Citric acid can be purchased as a white crystalline powder.

Food Additive

Citric acid can be found in many different processed foods and soft drinks. It is an effective organic preservative that can be found on food/drink labels as “E330.” Citric acid also has a pleasant citrus flavor that works well in soft drinks.

Water Softener

Citric acid’s chemical properties as a weak organic acid make it a powerful water softener. It works by breaking down the trace amounts of metal found in water, making it an ideal all-natural choice for treating hard water.

Household Cleaner

Many all-natural household cleaners, such as kitchen and bathroom sprays, contain a small percentage of citric acid to help clean hard water stains and kitchen messes. The citrusy smell of the acid is pleasant, so it works well as both a cleaner and a deodorizer. A common household use of lemon juice is to use it to clean hard water and mineral deposits from shower doors, sinks and toilets.

Bath Bombs

You can make your own bath bombs—fizzy, effervescent bath soap/salt—by using citric acid. The citric acid is completely safe to use in the bathtub. The “Alka Seltzer-like” fizzy effect is caused by the citric acid reacting with the water and other ingredients of the bomb, such as baking soda, witch hazel and fragrances.

Carpet Cleaner

Applying a 10 percent pharmaceutical-grade citric acid to discolored carpeting can help to remove stains, according to the CarpetBuyersHandbook.com. In fact, many carpet cleaning companies use this very solution for cleaning carpets in homes and businesses.

Cosmetics

Citric acid is a relatively common ingredient used in cosmetics products to balance the pH levels. According to CosmeticsDatabase.com, small amounts of citric acid can be found in shampoos, body wash, face cleansers, nail polish, hand soap and other cosmetics products. Some people may be sensitive to citric acid, so use caution when applying a cosmetic product containing the acid.

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