I noticed a pack of "Mysterious Citric Acid" while out shopping so I picked it up to see what the big deal was. Several palates of the stuff had just arrived at a local outlet store. I figured that some chemical manufacturer had surplus so they quickly printed up some very promising looking packages.

Vinegar is often touted as a household cleaner, by it self at some dilution, or combined with various other household ingredients. I am wondering if the chemistry behind the use of a citric acid solution (when titrated properly, say for example to the same pH?) is the same as that of an acetic acid solution as far as household cleaning activities are concerned, or if they work differently or one is preferred over the other in some cases.

"Mysterious Citric Acid" household cleaner

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"Mysterious Citric Acid" household cleaner "Mysterious Citric Acid" household cleaner

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    $\begingroup$ Citrate chelates ionic calcium, accelerating dissolution of carbonate deposits. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 10:10
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    $\begingroup$ Consider the more extreme case - should you compare cleaning properties at the same pH for acetic and hydrochloric acid ? E.g. at pH 2.5 ? The former would be much better, having much bigger neutralization capacity. // Consider also citrate and acetate complexes with iron as rust removers on Wikipedia. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ I like citric acid for household cleaning. I use it to descale my electric cattle the washing machine, the sink, the floors, the faucets, the everything. It smells a lot nicer than vinegar, and it usually does the job pretty well. Only thing left to wonder is: Whats so mysterious about it?! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ Citric acid chelates not only calcium, but many other metals, including manganese and iron found in some water supplies, which leave stains in kettles and on fixtures. It's also used in soil remediation: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/896/1/012023/pdf . It might not be the most powerful chelating chemical, but it's comparatively safe and inexpensive. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose I should have chosen my words more carefully. By dissolution I meant bringing a solid into solution. By accelerate I did not mean that the forward step of the reaction occurred faster, but rather that the product in solution is stabilized, inhibiting the reverse reaction (carbonate deposition). $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 7:07


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