12 Surprising Ways To Clean with Citric Acid

From a dirty dishwasher to lackluster laundry, these 12 surprising ways to can clean with citric acid will help you tick off your to-do list without the nasty toxins. Citric acid is a must for those switching to natural cleaning products and this guide shares why.

small glass bowl of citric acid with wooden spoon and lemons

What is Citric Acid?

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Citric acid is a weak, organic acid that is naturally derived from citrus fruits. From beauty products to medicine, soft drinks to wine, citric acid is a hero ingredient across households for its harmless yet helpful ways. Best of all, it is a safe, natural alternative to the toxic cleaning products that pollute our homes.

There are many ways to clean with citric acid as it can safely remove bacteria, mold, and mildew. It is also a great natural bleach alternative thanks to its whitening, de-greasing, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

How Does It Work?

When it comes to finding ways to clean with citric acid, it’s important to understand how it works. Here’s the science – most cleaning products are based on either an Acid or an Alkali. For example:

  • Acids – White Vinegar, Citric Acid
  • Alkalis – Soda Crystals, Bicarbonate of Soda, Liquid Soap.

Both are great for cleaning generally as bacteria struggles to survive when in contact with either an acid or alkali. As it is a more weak acid than vinegar, citric acid is less aggressive and corrosive which means it can safely come in to contact with more surfaces around the home. Citric acid can be found in most supermarkets and is sold in crystal or liquid form and can be used on its own or mixed with other ingredients (usually water.)

spray bottle with citric acid spray and yellow cloth on kitchen surface

How to Use Citric Acid Safely

While citric acid is a natural cleaning product, there are still safety measures to consider when using it. One of the most important is to never mix citric acid and bleach. This is because it can create chlorine gas which is extremely harmful.

Citric acid is also safe for skin however, be cautious. If you have sensitive skin you could always wear gloves to avoid potential irritation. For storage, keep citric acid well labelled or in its original container and keep in a dry place where little ones can’t reach. It has a shelf life of around 3 years from opening so do not use after this date as it will be less effective.

Benefits of Cleaning with Citric Acid

There are many benefits of using citric acid, both for your health and home. The main benefits of citric acid include:

  • Natural disinfectant
  • Removes soap scum, hard water stains and limescale build up
  • Can remove tough stains and brighten whites without the need of bleach
  • Can remove calcium deposits and rust
  • Makes a great natural preservative in cleaning products
  • Kills bacteria, mold and mildew
  • Weaker and less acidic than vinegar so can be used on a larger variety of surfaces
sliced lemons on wooden board with dish of citric acid

12 Surprising Ways to Clean with Citric Acid

1. Dishwasher  

Citric acid is one of the best homemade dishwasher rinse aid solutions. This is because it can clean hard water spots on your dishes as well as leave your dishwasher sparkling. In fact, dishwasher appliance companies like GE actually suggest using citric acid for cleaning and stains inside the dishwasher.  

To use, just add citric acid to the detergent compartment in the dishwasher and do a normal cleaning cycle. Do a second run if needed as occasionally small clumps of citric acid can be left behind.

2. Humidifiers

Humidifiers are prone to hard water build up in the water tanks which can be tricky to clean. As they are used for the air in your home it’s also not the healthiest to use chemicals to clean them. Instead, add citric acid to the water tank with water, let it sit and scrape away the residue. It will work wonders on any build up without the need for chemicals or scrubbing.

Alongside humidifiers, citric acid can also work well to clean essential oil diffusers as it is water-soluble. Always check your manufacturer’s instructions before using citric acid to clean your device.

3. Coffee Maker

Do you struggle to remove the stains on your coffee maker? Citric acid is the solution you’ve been looking for. For best results fill the water reservoir with one cup water and one cup of citric acid. Then run the coffee machine as usual and the lime build up will be flushed out. Run the coffee maker a second time with just water to rinse any residue – you may need to repeat this step depending on your machine. Now enjoy tastier coffee in your clean coffee maker.

4. Electric Kettle

On the topic of hot drinks, electric kettles are also prone to limescale build up. While there are kettle cleaners on the market, save money and time by using citric acid to clean your kettle.It will depend on the model and how bad the limescale is, but usually a tablespoon or two of citric acid is all you need.

Start by filling your kettle halfway and bring it to a boil. Once the water boils add 1 to 2 tablespoons of citric acid, leave for 15-20 minutes then pour out the water. Using a sponge or cloth scrub away the residue. Rinse and use your kettle as normal.  

flatlay of scrub brush with soap and citric acid

5. Toilet

Not only is citric acid great for leaving your toilet sparkling white, but it’s also safe on your pipes, unlike many other harsh cleaning products. You can either sprinkle on the citric acid directly or use my popular homemade toilet bomb fizzies.

Both methods are super easy – you just leave the loo fizzing away then use a toilet brush to remove any loose limescale debris. Finish off with this DIY air freshener spray for a bathroom that looks and smells beautiful, all without a toxic chemical in sight.  

6. Inside the Oven 

As citric acid is a natural de-greaser it works really well on stubborn grease inside your oven. To create a DIY citric acid cleaning solution, mix 2-3 heaped tablespoons of citric acid with hot water in a 160z spray bottle. Shake to dissolve then spray on the inside of your oven, leave for 10 minutes and wipe off.

Or, you can add the citric acid cleaning solution to an oven proof dish and place on the middle rack at 500F. Leave the dish for 30 minutes to one hour (keeping an eye it doesn’t go dry) and the steam will loosen any grease or burnt food debris ready for you to wipe away.  

You can also remove your oven racks and soak them in a citric acid solution. This will help remove any burnt on food or fat splatters.

7. Windows and Mirrors

While I love using my DIY glass cleaner, citric acid is also ideal for cleaning windows and mirrors as it removes hard water stains with ease. Simply add two tablespoons of citric acid and one cup hot water to a spray bottle. Shake to dissolve then use like you would any other glass cleaner. Not only does this citric acid cleaning solution remove hard water stains, it will clear up streaks, scum and mildew too.

8. Shower and Faucet Heads

The chemicals in shower cleaners are not only damaging to your health, but the environment too when they’re washed down the drain. Replace your usual limescale remover with citric acid for a homemade shower head cleaner that outshines the store bought equivalent.

For best results, remove the showerhead and soak it in a bowl of hot water with citric acid. Leave to soak for around 10 mins then wipe with a cloth. I also recommend using my DIY daily shower spray to avoid build up.

hand using blue cloth to clean faucet

9. Stainless Steel

If you struggle to clean your stainless steel appliances, citric acid could be the cleaning solution you’re looking for. Mix one tablespoon of acid with one cup water and spray onto appliances. Let the solution sit for a few minutes then wipe away with a wet cloth. For extra shine you could also dry the stainless steel with a microfiber cloth.

10. Washing Machine

In the same way it removes build up in your dishwasher, citric acid is also an effective washing machine cleaner as it removes soap scum, limescale and odors from inside the washer. For best results add one cup of citric acid crystals directly to the drum then run a full wash cycle on the hottest setting.

To finish, run a final rinse cycle before adding any clothes to the machine. I also recommend using a DIY Natural Laundry Detergent as this will help prevent future build up.

11. Whiten Laundry   

Have you noticed your white laundry is going yellow? There is some science behind this frustrating phenomenon that citric acid can help solve. Iron is dissolved in groundwater and it oxidizes when in contact with the air. This means, iron particles are floating around your laundry water which leaves both rust stains and yellowing.

As citric acid softens hard water it removes the iron which helps keep your whites white. You can also mix ¼ cup of citric acid with ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide and add to each laundry load to whiten any stains without the need of harsh chemicals which weaken the fabric fibers.

12. Grout

One of the most common places you’ll find soap scum, mold and mildew is the grout in your bathroom, meaning its an excellent place for citric acid to work its cleaning magic. If you don’t have time to make my DIY Grout Cleaner then a citric acid solution is the next best thing. Mix 2-3 heaped tablespoons of citric acid with hot water in a 160z spray bottle, spray over the grout leave for 10 minutes then wipe off.

Citric acid is also safe to use on your tiles and works particularly well at cutting through hard water stains and soap build up.

More Cleaning Posts You Might Like

Are there any ways to clean with citric acid I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below or if you’ve given some of these tips a try. You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

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