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Picture of Citric Acid Gets a Shaker

Citric acid is convenient to have at hand for cooking, canning and cleaning.

It was during our first winter in Minnesota that citric acid earned it's place in a shaker on our shelves. The acid boost is good for immunity and digestive health. For me, a sore throat is always the first sign I'm getting sick and usually the virus moves from throat to the lungs.

In the past I've gargled salt and even added ACV (link to bulk) to tea. These steps helped but I was always looking for a more consistent way of comfortably making my throat less tolerable to bacteria. Adding just a couple shakes of citric acid to tea makes it taste a bit more sour but that's an easy taste to acquire.

Citric acid is also great for cleaning and I'll show you a couple examples from our kitchen.

Step 1: A Boost for Tea

Picture of A Boost for Tea

The Value: The real win with citric acid is that with each sip of tea you create an environment intolerable for bacteria and virus's. Added bonus is that citric acid helps against allergies. This is a great thing and far better than taking another zyrtec!!

My Approach: For years I'd gargled salt water and used a netty pot. The problem is that you can't gargle and netty throughout the day. Easier with citric acid. The steps are simple:

  • Make tea: caffeine-free if you're sick (we like sleepytime)
  • Add a shake of citric acid
  • Enjoy!

I like to dilute it pretty heavily if not using the CA to fight a sore throat. Typically one or two shakes in a water bottle. It also adds a slightly sour taste I've come to enjoy.

Don't have any citric acid? Load up with amazon's a bulk pack at $2.50/lb.

Note: Some of these are affiliate links, I will get a small commission if you buy through them (amazon:), at no additional cost to you. Thank you if you do buy through the links! If not, hopefully you will find the product details useful.

With regards to the medical usage, why not lemon juice? That contains vitamin C, lemon essential oil in minute amounts, and bioflavonoids as well as citric acid. Moreover it tastes pretty good and is fairly well-known as a folk usage for lemons. I'm kind of mystified... Good instructable, though. I didn't know citric acid could do all that.

jprussack (author)  HeadlessHorseman1 year ago

For me, the issue with lemon juice is the sugar content. I find that the bacteria get a boost from the sugar. That's the catch I see with any throat lozenge that isn't sugar free.

Bacterias strong enough to resist lemon juice will resist to citric acid, of course it depends on the ph. What I mean is if they can resist they deserves their sugar dose !

Is it wrong that I'm imagining a happy bacterium jumping up and down excited for a treat?

JeremyR851 year ago

Note that citric acid dissolves aluminium. You can use amidosulfonic acid (aka sulfamic acid). This is a stronger acid than citric acid, so read the safety instructions first! It costs only a few $/kg. See

All acids attack metals, this why there're called like this.

jprussack (author)  JeremyR851 year ago

Jeremy - appreciate the recommendation! Would you buy the liquid concentrate and dilute similar to bleach... from there use from a spray bottle?

I'd buy the granulate, it's usually cheaper than the concentrate. The powder which I got was slightly moist, so the salt shaker isn't usable. Since it's stronger than citric acid, as an old chemist I certainly wouldn't use a spray bottle. See the material safety data sheet at

JustNate11 year ago

I make black tea often in stainless pots or use a stainless tea ball. Also, I travel with stainless travel mugs and with time the tea stains get thick. I tried your method of adding a few shakes (tea spoon) of CA to a"finger" (half inch or so?) of water and boiling. No change observed whatsoever. What did I miss? How long should it boil? Higher concentration?

White vinegar is a friend as well. Bleach doesn't clean, it removes color that's it.

jprussack (author)  JustNate11 year ago

Agree with sleepy. bleech knocks out those tea and coffee stains!

bleech is your friend here.

Citric Acid, or sour salt as I learned to call it from dear ol' Mom, makes killer hot lemonade when used with some lemon zest. Zest about an eighth of a lemon with a rasp grater, put into your cup with sweetener of choice, add CA and hot water. It is super flavorful because the zest has all of the aromatic flavor while the CA gives it the sour punch, and you still can use the lemon juice for other things. Works well cold also but we tend to make bottles of lemonade syrup for the summer while I am the only one in our family that likes it hot in the winter.

GE recommends CA in you dish washer every so often to clean the inside...make sure it is empty of dishes and utenciles.

jprussack (author)  chefspenser1 year ago

Thanks chef!

Citric acid is brilliant for cleaning the toilet. Add about 2 tbs to the bowl and sprinkle some extra on stains up the side of the bowl. Leave to sit for a few hours then scrub off with the toilet brush. Hard stains come off easily.
jprussack (author)  kellybamboo1 year ago

Thanks Kelly!

nanaverm1 year ago

When boiling bones to make bone broth or soup, add citric acid (or vinegar or lemon juice) to leach calcium from the bones and help the cartilage dissolve faster. Store in fridge or freezer, and when ready to use, add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acid . Add enough so it doesn't bubble anymore.

jprussack (author)  nanaverm1 year ago

Great to know! I will start test on the next stock! --may not be till the fall :)

I MP1 year ago

I use cosmetic grade citric acid to derust metal tools, the cosmetic grade is cheaper than the food grade. I use steel shet pans due a personal aversion to any aluminium cookware, I own none, but the same method works on steel sheet pans.

jprussack (author)  I MP1 year ago

Thanks! I'd like to share a link but short of the 50lb bucket I can't find any under $2/lb. -also appreciate the note on sheet pans. What is it about the aluminum that puts you off? I find the weight easy to work with... also like who quick they cool

I MP jprussack1 year ago

The average price I am finding for food grade is $2.50 a pound on eBay with cosmetic running a little less. Quantities range from ounces up to 5 pounds. I normally buy it is 5 pound quantities since it lasts a long time as I use it.

Aluminum has a reputation for leaching into food unless anodized so I avoid it as cookware.I do not find residual heat a problem in my steel sheet pans and they do not have a reputation for leaching into food. The weight differential is not a selling point for me since I find steel more durable. I find all sizes of steel sheet pans at thrift stores but if you want new your local restaurant supply house has excellent prices.

I admit to being a bit of a kitchen Luddite since 90% of my cooking is done in cast iron cookware.

wesday1 year ago

We add a little CA to almost every dishwasher load! Lemi Shine anyone? CA is a lot cheaper! Makes your dishes sparkle, epsecially if you have hard water.

ToniRose1 year ago

When the airpots at work get those stains, we resort to filling to the brim with diluted bleach, which is not a great thing to leave sitting around a busy kitchen. This looks much safer. (We routinely use a more benign sanitizer, so that part is covered.)

jprussack (author)  ToniRose1 year ago

Thanks! Totally could use the cosmetic CA mentioned by I MP

Rodh641 year ago

In the workshop citric acid in water is used as the electrolyte solution when using electrolysis to remove rust off tools or other smaller ferrous objects.

jprussack (author)  Rodh641 year ago

Here's an instructables specifically using citric acid for rust, Also one for electrolysis for rust,

SeanB10 Rodh641 year ago

W-what's the anode? I don't want to add rust.

1Artsygirl1 year ago
I use aluminum sheet pans all the time. Here’s a tip for you.. check out auction sites that are selling used bakery equipment. I bought 13 pans for $40. recently. I also got baking racks that I use for shelving items in my workroom. With those auctions, You have to go to them to get the deal. Shipping charges will eat you up in costs....
We made a day of it and had lunch and visited a couple of local sites. Nice article!
I’m going to try it!
jprussack (author)  1Artsygirl1 year ago

Thanks for the note on the auction sites. Any that you recommend? I've browsed but never purchased (that's more closeouts than auction)

I never knew citric acid had so many uses! I have a big bag of it, I'm going to have to put some in a shaker so it's more accesable :)

jprussack (author)  Penolopy Bulnick1 year ago

Thanks Penolopy! So much more use when it's out of the bag!!