Everything You Wanted to Know About Citric Acid…and Have Been Waiting to Ask

We have been hearing a lot about citric acid in cleaning products. This may be because we are entering a postpandemic era, and everything, especially when it comes to cleaning, is being transformed. 

During the pandemic, we used lots of disinfectants and powerful cleaning agents to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. As we are discovering now, however, many of those very same products were either overused or unnecessarily used, potentially causing more harm than good. This is primarily because these products can be so detrimental to human health and the environment.

So now, in both residential and professional cleaning, the spotlight is shining on citric acid cleaners. 

As excited as we and our customers are about citric acid as a cleaning agent, they tell us they still have questions about it. So, just as we did in another post, let’s use a question-and-answer format to address some of these questions.

When was citric acid discovered?

The National Institutes of Health says Carl Wilhelm Scheele, a Swedish researcher, first identified citric acid in 1784. He referred to it as an odorless and colorless compound primarily derived from lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and limes. 

What industries use citric acid the most?

The food and beverage industry is the biggest user of citric acid. This is followed by the pharmaceutical industry, the dietary supplements industry, and the professional cleaning and disinfecting industry. To be more specific:

  • Citric acid is used as an additive in the food industry to boost flavor and preserve ingredients. 

  • The pharmaceutical and supplement industries have found it helps stabilize and preserve the active ingredients in their products, and it can be used to flavor medications. 

  • As to cleaning and disinfecting, according to Healthline Magazine, the National Institutes of Health reports, “citric acid is a useful cleaning agent and disinfectant against a variety of bacteria and viruses.” They also reported, “it’s viewed as a safer alternative to conventional disinfectant and cleaning products, such as quats [quaternary ammonium compounds] and chlorine bleach.”

So, it is safe to use?

Yes. Citric acid is recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When used for heavy-duty cleaning and disinfecting, it is also safe. For instance, the EPA Safer Choice Program has certified our All-Purpose Cleaner & Disinfectant. This means it is proven effective at eliminating a broad spectrum of pathogens but is safer for the user and the environment when compared to products used for the same or similar purpose. 

Can citric acid–based cleaners be used for disinfecting medical facilities?

Yes. Our LEXX® is an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant that uses citric acid as its base. 

What do “EPA-registered” and “hospital-grade” mean?

Excellent question. For a disinfectant to be EPA registered, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must evaluate the product. When used per the manufacturer’s instructions, the product must be able to kill (eliminate) the germs and bacteria listed on the label. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Hospital-grade” disinfectants fall into three categories:

  1. Low-Level, kills (or eliminates) a limited number of vegetative bacteria, some fungi, and viruses.

  2. Intermediate-Level Disinfectants can eliminate a broader range of pathogens, most viruses, and most fungi.

  3. High-Level Disinfectants are effective against a still wider range of pathogens, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and will kill or eliminate all pathogens on a surface if used properly. 

Further, we should know that hospital-grade disinfectants are primarily used in medical settings. They are tested against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. These germs cause very problematic nosocomial (healthcare facility acquired) infections, which can be extremely hard to treat. If the disinfectant can eliminate the pathogens that cause these diseases, it can be listed as “hospital grade.”

Well, that’s it for now.  If you have more questions about citric acid cleaners, disinfectants, or any of our products, please contact us here. 


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