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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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