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I have a water based solution (95% water, the rest are salts) to which I want to add a lemon fragrance. I bought "water based lemon essence", but upon putting a mere drop in about 500 mL, the solution turned from crystal clear to milky off-white.

I researched and found that lemon essence is apparently one of many essential oils (citral, citronellal, cintronellol). None of which are water-soluble. That's why the result is an emulsion, and it's not translucent. (It mixed very well and it's very stable, that's not my problem)

I was wondering then if it's possible to give lemon fragrance to a water solution without turning it into a milky emulsion.

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    $\begingroup$ Try only one drop of lemon essence in one liter water. Not more. $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Feb 26, 2021 at 20:06

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Some hints are provided by Wikipedia:Lemon liqueur:

To produce the Lemon liqueur requires sugar, water, lemon zest, mixing in organic salutes liquor, and time to mature. Lemon zest is soaked in high proof neutral spirits to extract from it the lemon oil (an essential oil). The extraction is then diluted with simple syrup.

In other words, lemon zest is drawn into water by mixing in water-soluble organic compounds, in this case sugar and (ethyl) alcohol. If you want it to be nonalcoholic, maybe just the sugar will do.

During late autumn I make a cranberry jam by boiling the cranberries with oranges, sugar and water. In the presence of the sugar and organic material from the oranges and cranberries and with the application of heat, orange zest is extracted into the jam. The jam is too dark and thick to see whether the zest remains in solution when the jam is cooled, but the extraction of the zest is evident by taste.

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