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Everyday Cheapskate: How to Use Citric Acid to Clean, Descale and Restore Just About Anything

Mary Hunt on

Over the past month or so, I've been on a tear to discover all I can about citric acid. What I've learned, tested and tried is nothing short of amazing. So get ready as I lay out the case for adding citric acid to the list of cheap products we can use to keep our homes sparkling clean.


Citric acid, also known as "sour salt," is a colorless, weak, organic acid. I know, it sounds like a poisonous substance, but it's a low-level acid that's both safe and strong enough to break down soap scum and dirt. This acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits such as lemons, limes and pineapple. Mixed with water, citric acid powder makes a homemade miracle solution for most of your tough stains. It is an excellent all-purpose cleaner powerful enough to kill mold, remove soap scum and even tackle rust. It's not dangerous or toxic, although, as with lemon juice, you don't want to get it in your eyes.

When added to commercial cleaning products, citric acid can help remove hard water buildup on glass. Use it to remove coffee and tea stains, yellowing/browning discolorations, hard water marks, urine stains and much more.


The most basic source is to squeeze the juice from a lemon, as it contains 5% to 8% citric acid. But that is neither economical nor convenient. A much easier and more reliable version of citric acid for the uses that follow is its refined powder form. You will find citric acid in most supermarkets and at Target and Walmart with the canning supplies. Citric acid is also readily available online.



-- Make all-purpose cleaner

To make an easy peasy, tough-as-nails, homemade cleaning solution, boil 2 cups of water and then mix in 2 tablespoons of the powder. Let this citric acid all-purpose cleaner cool, and then apply it to a clean cloth and wipe down any dirty surfaces. If there's any left, pour it down the toilet to disinfect.

-- De-gunk the dishwasher


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