June 24, 2024
Citric Acid

Citric Acid: Applications and Uses of this Versatile Organic Acid

Citric acid is a weak organic acid found naturally in citrus fruits. It has the chemical formula C6H8O7 and its most common industrial form is a white, crystalline powder. Citric acid has a wide variety of uses from food preservation to cleaning products due to its properties as an acidulant, preservative and chelating agent. In this article, we will explore the various applications and uses of citric acid across different industries.

Chemical Properties and Production

Citric acid is an α-hydroxy acid and is produced through the natural fermentation of carbohydrates like molasses or glucose. Commercially, it is most often produced by a process of fermentation using the fungus Aspergillus niger. Citric acid has a sour taste and is quite soluble in water. Its primary use stems from its ability to act as an acidulant, increasing the acidity of foods and beverages. It also has properties that allow it to sequester ions like calcium, neutralizing their adverse effects.

Food and Beverage Industry

One of the largest end uses of citric acid is in the food and beverage industry where its uses include:
– Flavoring agent and acidulant in soft drinks, juices, and wine to enhance flavor and balance sweetness. Citric Acid imparts a tart and tangy flavor.
– Preservative by lowering pH and preventing microbial growth in foods, sauces, jams and jellies.
– Sequestrant to prevent metallic off-flavors and bitterness from chemicals like copper. This allows extended shelf life.
– Use in bakery products as a browning agent and leavening acid in recipes like biscuits and cakes.
– Present in many dairy products to provide a sour taste without using lactic acid which can curdle milk.
– Aid in increasing the shelflife and preventing discoloration of fruits through its antioxidative properties.

Pharmaceutical IndustryIn the pharmaceutical industry, citric acid finds application as an excipient and neutralizing agent:
– Acts as a pH buffer, taste-masking agent and solubilizing agent in tablets, syrups and effervescent formulations.
– Used as an acidulant and sequestrant in lyophilized injections and infusions. Prevents precipitation of heavy metals.
– Important active ingredient in chewable effervescent dietary supplements for its antioxidant effects.
– Common acid component in antacids and antiflatulents to counteract excess stomach acidity.

Household Cleaning Products

Many household cleaning products contain citric acid due to the following advantages:
– Strongchelating ability removes mineral deposits like limescale from surfaces, sinks and bathtubs.
– Acts as a natural descaling agent in dishwasher detergents and rust removers.
– Acid-based cleaners utilize its acidic power to break grease and grime.
– Present in drain cleaners to dissolve hair, soap scum and food residues blocking drains.
– Environment-friendly alternative to harsh chemical acids in many natural cleaners.

Industrial Applications

Some key industrial uses of citric acid include:
– Metal plating – Complexing agent that improves brightness and quality of electroplated chromium, nickel and zinc coatings.
– Leather tanning – Helps improve handle and finish of leather as a biodegradable alternative to other mineral and chromate salts.
– Concrete production – Retards setting time and improves fluidity as an additive in ready mix concrete.
– Water treatment – Removes calcium from cooling towers, boilers and reduces scaling potential.
– Textiles – Used as a sequestering agent in dyeing and printing of fabrics to bind metal ions.


In conclusion, citric acid’s unique chemical properties have enabled it to find applications across many industries ranging from food to pharmaceuticals, household cleaners and industrial uses. Its versatility as both an acidulant and chelating agent make it ideal for applications where pH adjustment, preservation or removal of mineral deposits is needed. With growing demand, commercial production of citric acid worldwide continues to expand every year.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it