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Unusual uses for coffee machine cleaner or delimer/descaler Answered

Some people can't be without coffee, and some love to keep thei machines as clean as possible.
Teste is all and if is not right the day already starts bad...

But what is that stuff really?
It needs to be food safe, shall not damage or corrode and part of the machine and of course can't be harful or even toxic.
The main ingredient is an acid.
Some acids are considered to be very corrosive on almost anything, others can set set organic material on fire and some even etch glass.
Limestone, coffee staind and build up as well as most minerals that might build up in your machine magically disappear with just some added water and time.

Our candidate is named Citric Acid!
Very weak on things we thing about when comes to strong acids but quite powerful on the offending stuff in our kettles and coffee machines.

Knowing that means we could abandone quite a lot of expensive and specialised cleaning produduct for a fully natural and harmless alternative.
Calcium deposits in the bath clean up really nice and quick with it - but read the warnings and dangers below!
Same for long abused toilets as mentioned in my topic about it.
Stainless steel cooking pots or pans are still a favourite for some people, the pain of cleaning them once something really burnt on badly not so much.
Vinegar is a prefered choice here, if you stand the smell when heating it up.
Citric acid can not only provide the same cleaning strength but also deal with the things vinegar can't.
In some cases stainless steel can develop rusty pits or discoloration from overheating (not trying to make it glow!).
And where vinegar just cleans off the burnt in food, citric acid also clean the steel itself.
Up to a degree even badly discolored things come back to a silvery look if you give it some time to work.

Ever had some rusty parts and tried vinegar to get them back to bare steel?
Coke can add some slight protection by passivating the steel, but like on stainless steel citric acid can do more.
Unless highly concentrated and hot it won't really affect and good steel quickly.
On the other hand it is really aggressive on impurities, rust and certain hard to clean off residues.

Words of warning, wisdom and advise!
A little bit of hydrochloic acid in your stomach is not only required but also harmless.
You wouldn't want in a concentrated form anywhere on your in you though....
The same logic is true with citric acid - you can make some nice artificial lemonade with it to enjoy on a hot summers day.
But highly conecentrate or even heated up the story is quite different!
Proper protection should be as obvious as proper handling.
And mishaps should be dealt with lots of water or baking soda right away.
I stress this out as my last example will highlight the dangers of citric acid that are not reall known to the public.
And if it is that dangerous for some things or even just one that you should not take the risk with living tissue when dealing with higher concentrations or temperatures.

Side effect that could possibly be lethal!
Shiny things are nice and even nicer if clean and sparkling.
Chrome plating or using chrome even is plastic coatings is still common.
A lot of tap and bathware is chrome plated, same for a lot of things we have in our households or tool boxes.
As tempting as it might be to use citric acid to clean something that just might contain chrome you should not try it!
Chrome is almost all of its salt forms is highly toxic, same for most if not all byproducts of chemical reactions involving chrome.
Cirtic acid is extremely aggressive on chrome!
The tell tale sign is a discoloration of your solution into a greenish-yellow tint!
Another a distinct and really unpleasant smell!
Some steels include chrome too, so if you notice a bad smell when cleaning then rinse all properly and using other ways of cleaning the item!
Corroded chrome plated parts might benefit from a treatment though despite the risk.
Unlike sanding the chrome down and contaminating everything with fine and toxic dust you only need to deal with liquids and breathing protection - doing it outside or in really well ventilated areas is a must do anyways here.
Dsiposal of anything that caused a bad smell or yellow-greenish discolartion should be done in a sealed container at your local waste disposal center.
Please lable it and and also mention it contains chrome dissolved in citric acid!
If you placed chrome plated parts into a solution of citric acid by accident and only realise once the smell interrupted your movie session then first go outside!!!
This means preferably every living being in the house!
If you have use brething protection in the form of carbon filters but either way try to vent the house first by trying to open what you can from the outside.
The removal of the metal and taking the container outside should be done as quickly and safely as possible.
Unless you are prepared and know what you so stay outside, call the fire brigade and state what happend!
A severe reaction with chrome is nothing you should risk your health for!
Never, ever dispose of anything that cause a bad smell or discoloration through drain!
Bring to a disposal center and keep possible poisons of of the enviroment!


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Jack A Lopez
Jack A Lopez

2 years ago

I think there might be some useful advice here, and also in your previous post about toilet cleaning, if only I could sort of interpret it in the context of what chemicals are available in my local market.

I do not think my local stores sell, "coffee machine cleaner," although it might be the case they do, but I just have not seen it.

However, it turns out there are some eBay sellers, not too far away, who sell pure, food grade, anhydrous, citric acid.

By the way, the local stores here do sell something called, "white vinegar", which is a 5%, by weight, solution of acetic acid in water.

I think "white vinegar" is the usual go-to acid, people in my town use to clean their coffee machines. That is for people who actually bother to clean them. I find dirty coffee machines, in dumpsters, pretty regularly, which suggests to me that there are people, living near me, who prefer to just buy a new coffee maker, rather than clean their old one.

Interestingly, the prices I found for anhydrous citric acid, are about the same, or cheaper, including shipping, than buying white vinegar locally. The math is a little funny, because I have to either do the comparison on a basis of USD per mol of acid, or USD per mol of loose protons. The acetic acid has only one loose proton, at pKa = 4.756, whereas the citric has three, at pKa1=3.13, pKa2=4.76, pKa3=6.40.

Also I am expecting citric acid, as a dry powder, should be easier to store, and take up less space and mass, than those gallon (3.78L) sized bottles of white vinegar.