Citric Acid Gets a Shaker




Introduction: Citric Acid Gets a Shaker

About: Architect/designer based between Chicago and SE Minnesota. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to peek in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyd...

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

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.

Step 2: Cleaning the Kettle

Before keeping citric acid in the shaker I had struggled with the persistent build up of spotting on our hot water kettles. The solution is so simple! (a quick search shows I'm not the first to post this tip on instructables, see here)

Our Kettles: We use them all the time! For coffee + tea, cooking and cleaning... We actually have two. One for the kitchen (better model) and one upstairs (one shown).

Cleaning: Really nothing to it!

  • Add a small amount of water (one finger, to borrow terminology)
  • Add two shakes of citric acid
  • Boil. Clean.

Yes, it's really that simple.

Step 3: Baked on Grease

The Challenge: Baked on grease has always been a pain. It starts as a brown and gradually becomes black heavy spots. I use aluminum sheet pans and baking pans all the time. They are so convenient for managing a working kitchen. They've also become wildly popular for serving in restaurants.

The Process: This one is a bit more elaborate. The key benefit is that it reduces the need to scrub aggressively.

  • Boil water with baking soda. (yes, also sold bulk but probably better at dollartree!)
  • Pour onto pan and drain back into sauce pan
  • Sprinkle on the citric acid +watch it bubble!
  • Scrub lightly
  • Repeat

In the photos you can see the difference I achieved in 3 passes. Not trying to win any awards for cleanliness around the kitchen (submitting for a creative approach for the cleanliness contest!). The regular cleaning is an easy way to prevent build up. It's easier when you just reuse the water from Cleaning the Kettle.

--I find a crazy number of uses around the kitchen for baking pans. The closest I could find on amazon are these aluminum baking pans. The overall dimensions are right but I think I'll have to start hitting estate sales to find more :)

--more on my approach to estate sales -

Step 4: Cooking With Citric Acid

Cooking and Canning each could have their own instructable. Here's an easy one to try the next time you're grilling or baking chicken. Simply add a dash of Citric Acid. It adds an acidic layer to the flavors. Similar to adding a splash of vinegar to vegetables after they are cooked.

Step 5: Final Notes

Thank you for reading!

Hope you've found this useful and may consider adding citric acid to your spice kit! Also appreciate any comments or suggested uses you may have for CA. Follow to find more as I start walking through my Swiss Army Shelves.

Any other tips or recipes are certainly welcome!

Cheers, Jeff

A note on citric acid. Please know that just like the acidity in soda can be bad for your teeth so can drinking too much citric acid. That's why I typically dilute and only go stronger when trying to protect against a cold. CA can also cause corrosion if exposed to certain metals (inc aluminum) for extended periods during soaking.


Recommendations from the comments:

  • nanaverm - add when making stock to leach calcium from bones and break down cartilage
  • kellybamboo - use 2tbs to clean the toilet. Add to the bowl and the sides.
  • jeremyR85 - suggests sulfamic acid as a more powerful cleaner that won't cause corrosion



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    31 Discussions

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

    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

    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?

    3 more answers

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

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

    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.

    2 more answers

    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 !

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    1 reply

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

    I MP

    2 months 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.

    1 reply

    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