6 Surprising Ways to Use Citric Acid to Clean in Your Home

When searching for natural cleaners for your home, no doubt you come across a lot of ways to use white vinegar for cleaning.

It’s a versatile cleaner that’s cheap, has a great shelf life, and is safe to use around your family and pets.

But what do you use when white vinegar won’t do?


Citric Acid!

I cam across citric acid as an ingredient for bath bombs (it’s what makes them fizz) and found that it’s not only good for bath bombs, but has uses in cooking and cleaning. In fact, if you look at the labels on your foods and cleaning products you will often see citric acid as an ingredient towards the end of the list (you may see it listed as E330 in the EU).

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What is Citric Acid?

Like the name suggests it’s an acid made from citrus fruits. It’s a weak, odourless acid (but stronger than white vinegar) that is effective against mould, mildew, and bacteria yet safe to use around your family and pets.

(Keep it stored out of reach of your kids though. Even though citric acid is used in food, drinking a large concentration won’t be good for them).

It is also environmentally friendly so when it gets rinsed down the drain you can rest assured that you are not damaging the environment.

You can purchase citric acid in powder and liquid form. The powder version is cheap and readily available in Wilko’s-in a cardboard box, no less, making it a great plastic-free purchase.

Buying in bulk means you don’t have to buy as often and won’t use as much plastic packaging. Saves you money, too.

Click here to grab a big bottle of liquid citric acid.

Or Click here if you prefer to use the powder citric acid (which is great for making bath bombs, too).

How Do You Clean with Citric Acid?


If you read my article about using white vinegar to clean your home, you may have noticed that I don’t clean my toilet with white vinegar. Instead I use citric acid (and sodium bicarbonate) as it’s a stronger acid than white vinegar.

I used to be a hardcore bleach addict when it came to my bathroom. Unless it contained bleach, it couldn’t have been an effective cleaner.

The problem with bleach aside from the harmful fumes you breathe in, is that it’s overkill. Using bleach to clean is like attacking a fly with a cannon. When it comes to germs, soap (a detergent) is effective at removing germs which is typically enough in your home.

Bleach is a disinfectant so it kills the germs as opposed to just removing them.

So when it comes to my toilet, I realised that I don’t recall ever getting sick through my bum or bits, in fact, the dirtiest part of a toilet is where you flush. To me this means that I can clean my toilet without the fumes and just disinfect the flushing bit with some Hydrogen Peroxide.


What I have discovered is that using the citric acid has gotten toilets clean in ways that bleach can’t. Ever see a toilet with the horrible brown stains in the water? Yeah, citric acid can handle that.

Leave 100ml/g of citric acid to the toilet and leave overnight. Flush down the citric acid in the morning.

If it still needs a scrub, add about 150g of sodium bicarbonate as a non-scratching, scouring agent. Give any remaining residue a gentle scrub with a cloth.

Do not mix the citric acid with the sodium bicarbonate as they will cancel out each other’s cleaning benefits.

If you are doing just a normal weekly clean with no tough stains then leave 50ml/g of citric acid in the toilet whilst you clean the rest of the bathroom (20-30 minutes).

Give your toilet a wash with a cloth and you are done. Sparkling toilet.

Stain Remover

This was my absolute, most favourite discovery with citric acid.

I have been trying to reduce my single use plastic when it comes to laundry but for the life of me could not find an effective stain remover that was not in a plastic bottle. I tried a couple of sticks, but they failed miserably at helping Olivia and Penny’s food stains particularly chocolate.

I had a bottle from when I box dyed my hair that was squeezy but had a small opening so I could squirt my mix on just the stain and in true zero waste fashion I gave it a good wash and that bottle now is living it’s second life as my stain remover bottle.

The mix is 110ml of warm water to 10ml of citric acid (I use the liquid for this). Give the mix a good shake to mix and you’re ready.

Apply to the stain and gently rub the stain either with an old cloth or in my case (another repurpose) is an old toothbrush.

When you finish treating the stain rinse it with cold water. If you are not washing the clothes right away don’t skip this step as I have found on two of the girls’ shirts there was some bleaching happening. I haven’t noticed it happening on any other clothes so I’m not actually sure the citric acid was the reason, but for full disclosure, just be aware so if you have a nice top that you don’t want to take a chance on, don’t.

Cleaning Your Shower Head

Take your shower head and put it in a bowl. Fill the bowl with 100ml of citric acid and a litre of water. Then add a scoop of sodium bicarbonate. Let the mix work it’s magic for about an hour then remove the head from the bowl and give it a wipe with a cloth before running hot water through it for a 2-5 minutes.

You can substitute the citric acid with white vinegar in this case should you choose but citric acid is a bit stronger and a great product for removing limescale.

Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Cleaning your dishwasher is easy provided you have the right cleaner.

In this case fill the detergent cup with the powder form of citric acid and run a hot cycle. The citric acid will get in the nooks and crannies to clean out any build up and leave your dishwasher lovely and clean.

Cleaning Burnt Pans

If you find it got a little too hot in the kitchen and you burnt food to your pan, you can let it soak overnight and give it a scrub in the morning, or you can fill it with water and add 30g/ml of citric acid, bring it to a boil and let it simmer a few minutes. The burnt food should come right off. Once the pan has cooled, wash like normal.

An All-Purpose Cleaner

Since citric acid is a bit stronger than white vinegar (and it doesn’t smell) it also makes for a great all-purpose cleaner.

Add 45g/ml of citric acid to 500ml of warm water and give it a shake to mix. Add up to 1-2ml of your favourite essential oils, give it another shake and you are good to go.

I find that, for me, white vinegar is more cost effective, however if I need to clean something with stubborn stains, citric acid is a bit stronger and is my choice for things like toilets and shower heads.

When Not to Use Citric Acid

Even though Citric Acid is a versatile cleaner in your home there are several surfaces that do not react well to acid and should be avoided.

Do not use citric acid to clean:

Granite or Marble Worktops

Since both granite and marble are porous surfaces the acid can get inside and break them down.

Stone Floor Tiles

Acidic cleaning products can etch or cut into the stones.

Waxed Hardwood Floors and Furniture

I would avoid using this on your wood floors or furniture if they have any kind of wax or sealer on it as the acid can break down the coating and leave a cloudy appearance.

TVs and Other Electronic Screens

TVs and electronic screens; phones, laptops, tablets, etc. all come with oleophobic coating to reduce the amount of smudges and fingerprints showing up and using citric acid can break down that coating exposing layers that weren’t meant to be exposed.


Though I wouldn’t think to clean my jewellery with citric acid as I have my own Homemade Jewellery Cleaner, it is worth noting that acids can dissolve your pearls so don’t use it.

If you aren’t sure about a particular surface or fabric do a patch test in an inconspicuous spot first.

Get Cleaning

Being able to clean your home without putting your health or your family’s health at risk is the goal of any parent and because citric acid is so versatile you won’t have to buy and store multiple products either. You will also be saving money and reducing your family’s exposure to nasty commercial chemicals. What’s not to love?

Hopefully you enjoyed finding another safe, non-toxic way to clean around your home and I would love to hear how it goes.


You may also enjoy reading:

How I Saved £202 a Year Making My Own Cleaning Products

Save Money Using White Vinegar to Clean Your Home

My 4 Favourite Zero Waste Cleaning Tools

How to Save Money Using White Vinegar to Clean Your Home

I started using homemade white vinegar cleaners when I was living alone in California. I didn’t like the fumes from the shop bought cleaners and knowing the fumes were not only strong, but toxic, I decided I needed to find something else.

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That something else was distilled white vinegar. It’s acetic acid made from fermented corn or grain alcohol. Since the white vinegar is distilled, it also means that all the minerals have been removed from the product which is what makes it such an effective glass cleaner. (The minerals are the reason other cleaners leave streaks or spots behind on surfaces like glass).

White vinegar is not a disinfectant, but does kill about 80% of germs especially food borne bacterias, so it’s plenty to keep your home clean and you can disinfect worktops and high touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, and taps with 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Do not try to be clever and mix the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide though, as you will create a toxic acid with harmful fumes that you don’t want to be breathing.

Now there’s no denying white vinegar alone has a strong scent (in a stings your eyes kind of way) but once it is diluted with water and scented with some essential oils, it’s not as offensive to your nose.

I particularly like that not only is my house clean, but the vinegar deters creepy crawlies and if you have read any of my other articles you will already know my feelings towards spiders. I’m scared of them (scared enough that I can’t even get close enough to smoosh them) so I appreciate the fact that white vinegar deters them, so we just don’t have to ever cross paths in the first place. Win, win.

Another reason I like making my own cleaning products is that it saves me money. I can buy a 2 year supply of white vinegar for a quarter of the cost of all the other products I used to use.

So let’s get to it!

You Will Need:

A Spray Bottle

A dark glass bottle will keep your product freshest the longest as it helps prevent UV radiation from getting in and breaking down the vinegar and essential oils. It’s not required though if you keep your cleaners stored in a cool dark cupboard. I use a white vinegar window cleaning bottle I bought a few years ago at Wilko’s.

It’s not as glamourous or aesthetically pleasing for a photo, but in terms of being eco- friendly, it’s one less bottle going to landfill or shipped to a third world country to not be recycled.

If you reuse a bottle try to keep it like for like in terms of the former products to what you are making and be sure to give it a good wash first to remove any residue that can lead to unwanted fumes.

Cotton Cloths

Save money and reduce waste by using cotton cloths for cleaning.

If you want to be really eco-friendly and save even more money, you will repurpose some old towels or t-shirts for the job. Use pinking shears to cut them out and you won’t even have to spend time sewing edges!

White Vinegar

If you keep your white vinegar unopened it will last 2 years in a dark cupboard and 6 months from when you open it.

You may see the mother of vinegar develop in your vinegar at some point. It’s not dangerous and can be strained out if you need to. I’m generally too lazy for this and if I have some of the mother in the bottle when I’ve mixed it, I just rinse it out once I’ve got to the end of the bottle.

Distilled/Deionised Water (Optional)

If you are using this to clean your windows or mirrors, using distilled water keeps your cleaner free of minerals that leave streaks. If I have some I use it, but I have found that tap water works just fine.

If you notice streaks on your glass, you can use just straight white vinegar or just straight distilled water. I like the spider deterrent feature of the vinegar, but if the smell gets to you, distilled water does the exact same thing in that it leaves your windows and mirrors sparkly.

Essential Oils*

Essential oils in the recipes are optional, but can help mask the scent of the vinegar and leave your home smelling any way you like. Some scents that leave a clean smell would be citrus scents and pine scents, but feel free to use anything that makes you happy.

Your cleaning product doesn’t have to smell like a cleaning product.

Possible oils you can add:

               Grapefruit Seed Extract

               Lemon Essential Oil

               Orange Essential Oil

               Lemon Eucalyptus (It’s pretty strong but is also approved by the CDC as an effective mosquito deterrent if you want to make your own bug spray for anyone over the age of 3).

*If you are pregnant or have small children like myself, you want to do your due diligence in making sure you are using safe essential oils. I have purchased an aromatherapy textbook myself to look up contraindications (aka side effects) of essential oils. Shirley and Penny Price are highly knowledgeable in the aromatherapy field as well as Robert Tisserand, Salvador Battaglia, and Jan Kusmirek.

When I was pregnant I found Christina Anthis from The Hippy Homemaker. She takes the information from the experts and makes it easier to read and understand than the textbook style information I mentioned before.

All-Purpose Cleaner

I use this cleaning product for my laminate and porcelain worktops, windows, mirrors, shower screen, shower tiles and I also spray some onto a cloth to dust non-wood furniture and all my cabinets and cupboards.

I also make a mix of this and put it into my spray mop and use it to clean my laminate flooring. One week I use the mop and the next I get on my hands and knees with a cloth and spray bottle to clean it by hand so I can get to the nooks and crannies as well as give my baseboards a quick wipe.

Maintaining clean is so much easier than letting it build up and having to dedicate a whole day or weekend to getting things really clean again.

1 Part Distilled White Vinegar

1 Part Distilled Water (tap works, too)

Essential oils (keep your oils around 1% of your mix e.g. 1ml (approx. 20 drops) for every 100 ml of your cleaning product)

Use a funnel to pour the water and vinegar into the bottle. Add your essential oils to the bottle. Replace the spray top and give the bottle a good shake to mix everything together.

So simple.

I make mine in 500ml batches that lasts usually two weeks. I use 20 drops of essential oils and find that’s plenty of scent despite being less than the max allowed in the recipe.

Other Ways to Use White Vinegar

Fabric Softener

30 ml of white vinegar in you washer’s rinse compartment

Ha! How easy was that. The vinegar is a great replacement for fabric softener and will not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar.

Unlike shop bought softeners that reduce your towels’ ability to absorb moisture, white vinegar can be used on towels to reduce their crunchiness.

In addition to softening your clothes you are also giving your washer a clean, too.

Dishwasher Rinse Aid

Add White Vinegar to the rinse compartment of your dishwasher and your glassware should come out sparkling.

Kettle Descaler

Fill your kettle with a 50/50 mix of water and White vinegar.

Leave the mixture in the kettle for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

Boil your kettle.

Pour out the mix and give your kettle a rinse in warm water .

Get Armpit and Collar Stains out of Shirts

My mum did this all the time for me when I was in high school. For whatever reason I used to sweat profusely then and eventually needed a prescription to fix it.

She would pour white vinegar directly on the stain and then washed as normal. 


Carpet and Clothing Stain Remover

White Vinegar is perfect for getting the smell of pet urine out of carpet.

You can also use it for treating stains in your carpet.

First use a tea towel to soak up as much of the stain as you can. Soak the stain with white vinegar and let it sit for a couple minutes. Blot the stain with the towel. Rinse the stain with water. Repeat if necessary.

If it didn’t work make sure to wash the stain before trying another method so you don’t create toxic fumes, but typically vinegar is effective against red wine, tea, coffee, and ink.

Remove Rings from Unwaxed Wood

If you have a table surface where a careless family member or visitor didn’t use a coaster and left a stain, white vinegar can come to the rescue.

Use a 50/50 mix if vinegar and olive oil and rub the area with a soft cloth.

Before using white vinegar on wood, make sure to test an inconspicuous area first because acidic cleaners can ruin waxed finishes and leave a cloudy look.

When Not to Use White Vinegar

Even though I use white vinegar to clean almost everything in my house, there are some things you should not be cleaning with white vinegar.

Do not use white vinegar to clean:

Granite or Marble Worktops

Since both granite and marble are porous surfaces the acid can get inside and break them down.

Stone Floor Tiles

White vinegar is an acidic cleaner and the acid can cut into the stones.


Its acidity can also damage the internal parts of your iron, so you’ll want to read your user’s manual for how to properly clean it.

Waxed Hardwood Floors and Furniture

There are hardwood floor recipes with vinegar, but I have read that the vinegar can strip the finish from the wood, so I would avoid this if your wood has any kind of wax or sealer on it.

TVs and Other Electronic Screens

TVs and electronic screens; phones, laptops, tablets, etc. all come with oleophobic coating to reduce the amount of smudges and fingerprints showing up and using vinegar can break down that coating exposing layers that weren’t meant to be exposed.

Cast Iron and Aluminum Pans

The acidity of the vinegar can corrode cast iron and aluminium, so while you can clean them, do not let the vinegar soak on them for any length of time because you can damage your pans.

Broken Eggs

The vinegar can cause the eggs to coagulate and actually make trying to clean it harder


Though I wouldn’t clean jewellery with vinegar as I have my own Homemade Jewellry Cleaner, it is worth noting that vinegar can dissolve your pearls so don’t use it.

Save Time, Save Money, Breathe Easier

I hope you have found these ways to use white vinegar in your home useful.

It’s long shelf life and effectiveness makes it perfect for cleaning almost your whole house from top to bottom whilst saving you money.

You are protecting you, your family and pets from breathing in the toxic chemicals contained in many shop bought cleaners.

And it’s also worth mentioning that because you are the eco-friendly person you are, using fewer products means less waste and less toxic chemicals being washed down the drain.

Do you have any other uses for white vinegar? Let me know in the comments below.


In the meantime, check out:

My 4 Favourite Zero Waste Cleaning Products

6 Surprising Ways to Use Citric Acid to Clean Your Home (especially if you noticed I don’t clean my toilets with white vinegar).