Is Citric Acid an Eco Friendly Cleaner?

I’ve been trying something new in my dishwasher lately because my dishes just weren’t looking clean. It was getting frustrating always having glasses and cups look cloudy even when they were clean. I came across an article that mentioned using citric acid along with your regular dishwasher detergent gets great results.

So I tell my husband about it, and he recognizes it right away. Turns out they used citric acid to keep the glasses for the tasting room shiny at the winery he used to work at.

I bought a bag of citric acid through Amazon, and I have to say, I’m impressed. My dishes look better and feel nicer too, that literally squeaky clean feeling. Citric acid doesn’t remove food bits or anything like that if your dishes were a bit too dirty for the dishwasher to handle, but if you’re getting residue, it works great.

Still, my one question remaining was whether or not it’s really eco friendly. I hope we all know that natural doesn’t always equal the most environmentally friendly products.

I did some looking around. The EPA considers citric acid GRAS (PDF) or “generally recognized as safe.” Obviously, that’s a really good sign. It’s not something you’d want to get in your eyes; it’s still acid after all, but it’s pretty safe stuff.

Despite the name, citric acid is not necessarily produced from citrus. Matter of fact, that’s the expensive way to do it, so it really doesn’t happen much. It has been long known that you can get citric acid from a fermentation process with the mold Aspergillus niger. The production may involve corn, so you may want to check on that if you’re trying to avoid corn-based products.

Some say you shouldn’t put your silverware into the dishwasher when you use citric acid. This may depend on the type of silverware you have, so it’s something to be aware of. It may be problematic for silverware with actual silver, but may not be so bad for your typical stainless steel variety. If it’s enameled or anything like that, you may be looking at problems with citric acid and silverware (search for citric to see the parts I found most interesting).

Citric acid can have an impact on wildlife, but for the most part it doesn’t seem to be too bad. It’s used to help control the coqui frog in Hawaii, for example. It may, however, be associated with brown tide blooms.

Overall, I’m pleased with what I’ve found out about citric acid. As with anything else, it has its problems, but they don’t so far appear to be as much of a problem as other cleaners. It cleans a lot, too. It did an amazing job on the soap scum on my bathtub. Stuff that I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed in the past with baking soda and vinegar came off easily after a soak with citric acid.

One reply

  1. Bret says:

    Thanks for sharing this. We’ve got some SERIOUS stains on our boat from leaving it uncovered in the off-season, and have been trying to find a biodegradable cleansing agent we could use to help scrub it off. Baking soda does the trick OK, but requires tons of elbow grease and multiple applications. Sounds like we might want to give citric acid a try!

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