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What is Citric Acid?

What is Citric Acid?

Introduction to Citric Acid

Citric acid, with the chemical formula C6H8O7, is a weak organic acid found abundantly in citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits. Its sour taste and preservative properties have made it a valuable ingredient in various industries, ranging from food and beverages to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Function and Uses

The primary function of citric acid lies in its acidity, which imparts a tangy flavor to foods and beverages. In addition to enhancing taste, it serves as a preservative, chelating agent, and pH regulator in many products. Its acidic properties also make it a valuable ingredient in household cleaning agents and personal care products.



Citric acid finds extensive use across diverse industries, including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cleaning, and agriculture.

  • Food and Beverage Industry: In this sector, citric acid acts as a flavor enhancer, acidulant, and preservative. It is commonly used in carbonated drinks, fruit juices, candies, jams, and dairy products.
  • Pharmaceutical Industry: Citric acid serves as an excipient in pharmaceutical formulations, contributing to drug stability and palatability. It is utilized in effervescent tablets, syrups, and as an acidulant in vitamin supplements.
  • Cosmetics Industry: Due to its acidic nature, citric acid is employed in skincare products such as exfoliants, pH adjusters, and as a chelating agent in metal ion sequestration.
  • Cleaning Industry: Citric acid's chelating and descaling properties make it a key component in household and industrial cleaners, especially for removing hard water stains and rust.
  • Agriculture: In agriculture, citric acid is utilized as a foliar spray to enhance nutrient uptake in plants, and as a chelating agent in soil remediation.

Product Examples

  • Food and Beverage: Examples include carbonated beverages, fruit-flavored candies, jams, and canned fruits.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Effervescent tablets, liquid medications, and vitamin supplements.
  • Cosmetics: Facial cleansers, exfoliating scrubs, and anti-aging serums.
  • Cleaning Products: Dishwasher detergents, toilet bowl cleaners, and descaling agents.
  • Agricultural Products: Foliar sprays, soil conditioners, and fertilizers.


Citric acid is predominantly produced through fermentation using various strains of the fungus Aspergillus niger. Additionally, it can be extracted from citrus fruits, particularly lemons and limes, albeit on a smaller scale.



Citric acid appears as a white, crystalline powder with a tart taste. It is highly soluble in water and forms stable salts known as citrates. As a weak acid, it exhibits pH-buffering properties, maintaining acidic conditions in food and beverage products. Furthermore, it readily forms complexes with metal ions, making it effective in chelation processes and removing mineral deposits.


In conclusion, citric acid stands as a multifunctional compound with widespread applications in various industries. Its versatility as a flavoring agent, preservative, chelating agent, and pH regulator makes it indispensable in food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cleaning, and agriculture. Understanding its properties and functions underscores its significance in modern manufacturing and everyday life.

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