Citric acid is often touted as a natural and effective cleaning agent for many household surfaces, including quartz countertops. But is citric acid actually safe to use on quartz? The short answer is yes, citric acid is generally considered safe for cleaning quartz countertops in moderation. However, there are some important caveats to keep in mind.
What is Citric Acid?
Citric acid is a weak organic acid found naturally in citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges. It is what gives these fruits their tart, sour taste. Commercially produced citric acid is commonly extracted from Aspergillus niger mold fermentation.
As an ingredient, citric acid has many uses:
- Food additive – Citric acid is commonly used as a preservative and flavor enhancer in a variety of foods and beverages. It helps regulate acidity and acts as an antioxidant.
- Cleanser – In cleaning products, citric acid helps remove dirt, odors, and stains. It often replaces harsher synthetic chemicals.
- Water softener – Citric acid can chelate metals like iron, manganese, and copper from hard water. This helps prevent mineral buildup.
- pH adjuster – Citric acid helps regulate the acidity of cosmetics, skincare, detergents, and other solutions.
The main benefits of citric acid cleaning solutions include:
- Natural and renewable – Made from citrus fruits
- Biodegradable and eco-friendly
- Generally non-toxic to humans
- Helps dissolve mineral deposits and soap scum
- Removes stains and odors from many surfaces
- Improves shine and polish on many materials
So in summary, citric acid is a versatile mild acid cleaner and brightener derived from citrus fruits. Let’s now look at whether it’s suitable for quartz countertops.
Is Citric Acid Safe for Quartz?
Yes, citric acid is considered safe to use on quartz countertops in moderation. Being a relatively mild acid, it generally will not etch or damage quartz surfaces when used correctly as directed.
However, there are some important factors to keep in mind:
Citric acid cleaning solutions are typically sold in concentrations of 5-15%. Higher concentrations increase the risk of etching the quartz surface. Most manufacturers recommend staying below 10% acidity for household use.
Leaving citric acid sitting on the quartz for extended periods can increase etching risks. It’s best to apply the cleaner, let it sit briefly to work, then thoroughly rinse it off. Don’t let it air dry.
Citric acid cleaners should not contain any gritty abrasives like salts or scrubbing grains. These can scratch and damage quartz. Opt for a smooth liquid formula without abrasives.
Frequency of Use
Frequent or overuse of citric acid can gradually etch quartz over time. Stick to occasional targeted cleaning rather than daily general upkeep. Spot test first.
Topical sealants can help protect quartz from acid damage. Ensure your countertops have been sealed with a high-end sealant. Reseal annually.
With proper care and moderation, citric acid is generally deemed harmless for quartz surfaces. But be cautious of cheap formulas with high acidity, added abrasives, or long contact periods to prevent etching.
How to Clean Quartz Countertops with Citric Acid
When used correctly, citric acid can be an effective cleaning agent for stubborn stains on quartz countertops. Here is a safe process:
1. Prepare the Citric Acid Solution
- Choose a commercial citric acid cleaner with 5-10% acidity concentration. Or DIY a solution of 1 part citric acid powder to 10 parts water.
- Do not use citric acid powder directly on the countertop. Always dilute in water first.
- Avoid cleaners with added abrasives like salts, scrubs, etc. Use a smooth liquid.
2. Clean the Surface
- First wipe down the area with water and a soft cloth to remove loose dirt.
- Apply the citric acid solution to the stained area. Use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth.
- Let sit for 1-2 minutes so the citric acid can work. Do not let it dry on the surface.
3. Rinse Thoroughly
- Rinse the area very thoroughly with clean water to remove all traces of citric acid.
- Wipe dry with a soft microfiber cloth. No streaks should remain.
- Repeat if needed for tough stains. But excessive repetition can damage the sealant.
4. Seal and Protect
- Reseal your quartz countertops with a quality sealant annually. This helps prevent etching.
- For daily cleaning, use only pH neutral quartz-safe cleaners. Avoid excessive acidic or alkaline cleaners.
5. Spot Test First
- Always do a spot test on an inconspicuous area to check for any adverse effects before widely applying a citric acid cleaner.
With this careful process, citric acid can be used to occasionally deep clean quartz surfaces without posing risks. Avoid overusing it.
Why Citric Acid Can Damage Quartz
Although moderate citric acid cleaning is considered safe, using citric acid improperly on quartz can indeed cause etching and erosion damage over time. Here’s why:
- Quartz contains natural minerals – While durable, quartz still contains some reactive minerals like silica that acids can degrade with excessive exposure.
- Citric acid dissolves minerals – Being an acid, citric acid works to dissolve alkaline mineral deposits. In excess, it can etch quartz.
- Quartz sealant breakdown – Repeated improper citric acid use breaks down the protective sealant, exposing the bare quartz underneath.
- Abrasives scratch – Citric cleaners with added abrasives like salts can scratch and damage the surface.
- High concentrations – High concentrations of citric acid above 10% are too strong for quartz.
- Leaving residue – Letting citric acid dry and crystallize on the surface can leave damaging etching marks.
Essentially, citric acid in excess can degrade quartz’s protective sealant and leach out its natural mineral content, causing permanent etching damage and an unsightly look over time. Moderation is key.
Signs of Citric Acid Damage on Quartz
How can you tell if your quartz countertops have become damaged from excessive citric acid exposure? Here are some telltale signs to look out for:
- Surface etching – Visible erosion marks, pits, divots, or faded matte spots.
- Rough texture – The quartz loses its smooth polished feel and becomes rough.
- Whitish haze – A cloudy white film appears on the surface.
- Water marks – Rinse water no longer sheets off and leaves mineral marks.
- Dull, uneven appearance – The surface develops a lackluster, blotchy look.
- Exposed natural stone – With deep damage, the engineered resin wears away exposing the quartz aggregates.
- Increased staining – Without its protective sealant, the quartz becomes more prone to absorbing stains.
- Cracks and scratches – Severely damaged quartz can begin to crack or scratch more easily.
If you notice any of these warning signs, immediately cease using citric acid cleaners on your quartz. The damage at this point is likely irreversible and the countertop may need replacement.
How to Remove Citric Acid Residue from Quartz
If citric acid solution is accidentally left to dry on quartz, it can leave behind a stubborn white hazy residue. To remove:
- First try wiping it off with a soft damp cloth. Rinse thoroughly.
- If needed, make a paste of baking soda and water and gently rub residue spots. Rinse.
- For tough spots, use a mildly alkaline cleaner like diluted dish soap or ammonia. Rinse thoroughly.
- If residue still persists, try a poultice made of pH neutral oxygen bleach powder. Let sit then rinse.
- For last resort, call in a professional stone restoration company. Re-sealing may be needed.
The key is to rinse citric acid thoroughly before it has a chance to dry on the surface. But if marks occur, tackle them ASAP to avoid permanent damage.
How to Etch Quartz Intentionally with Citric Acid
While ill-advised for countertops you wish to preserve, citric acid can also intentionally be used to etch decorative designs into quartz surfaces. This permanently alters the appearance of the stone:
- Tape off the area to be etched with painter’s tape and plastic sheeting.
- Coat the etched area with undiluted citric acid powder. Ensure entire area is covered.
- Let citric acid sit for 1-2 hours until bubbling/fizzing stops. Reapply if needed.
- Once etched pattern is achieved, rinse thoroughly and buff smooth.
- Consider applying a tone-matching topical paint to even out the etched area.
- Reseal the countertop to protect the etched design.
This technique allows creative home decorators to add unique etched patterns to plain quartz slabs. But use caution because the process is permanent and can damage the countertop if not performed carefully.
Pro Tips for Citric Acid on Quartz
To safely incorporate citric acid into your quartz cleaning routine, keep these professional tips in mind:
- Always spot test first on an inconspicuous area before full application.
- Limit use to once monthly for deep cleaning, not general purpose.
- Rinse rinse rinse! Never let citric acid residue dry on the surface.
- Invest in annual professional quartz resealing. A good sealant prevents acid damage.
- For daily cleaning, stick to pH neutral quartz-safe cleaners only.
- If etching occurs, stop using citric acid immediately and consult a countertop pro.
- Etching quartz on purpose? Hire a skilled fabricator for best artistic results.
- For etched designs, consider a topical tint to camouflage color variance.
With proper precautions, citric acid can be used occasionally to clean quartz. But moderation and care is crucial. When in doubt, call a quartz expert!
FAQ About Using Citric Acid on Quartz Countertops
Still have some questions about safely using citric acid on quartz surfaces? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Is it okay to use lemon juice on quartz countertops?
No. Lemon juice has a high natural acid content that can etch and damage quartz over time with repeated use. Treat lemon juice just like you would citric acid cleaner.
Can I use citric acid daily on my quartz?
No, citric acid should only be used occasionally on quartz. Daily use will gradually break down the protective sealant and etch the surface. Stick to pH neutral cleaners for regular maintenance.
What ratio of citric acid to water is safe for quartz?
A 10% solution of 1 part citric acid powder dissolved thoroughly into 10 parts water is generally considered the maximum safe concentration for quartz countertop cleaning.
Is citric acid safer for quartz than vinegar?
Yes. Vinegar is more acidic than citric acid and carries higher risks of etching quartz countertops. Citric acid is a safer occasional alternative.
Can citric acid strip the finish off quartz countertops?
If overused, yes citric acid can degrade the topical sealant finish on quartz countertops leading to etching and permanent damage over time. Use sparingly.
Will citric acid remove hard water stains from quartz?
Yes, being an acid, citric acid can help dissolve and remove alkaline hard water mineral deposits and stains from quartz surfaces. Rinse thoroughly after treatment.
Can I use baking soda and citric acid together to clean quartz?
No, avoid mixing citric acid and baking soda – an alkali and acid – together for cleaning quartz. The chemical reaction can bubble out of control damaging the surface.
The Bottom Line
Citric acid deserves its reputation as an effective natural cleaner, but also warrants caution on vulnerable surfaces like quartz countertops. When used properly in dilution and moderation, citric acid can safely remove stubborn stains without posing substantial risks of etching or erosion damage to quartz surfaces.
However, excessive or improper use of citric acid on quartz can indeed degrade the protective sealant and etch the surface over time leading to permanent damage. Limit citric acid to occasional deep cleaning sessions, always test small areas first, dilute sufficiently, rinse thoroughly, and reseal annually. With careful precautions, citric acid can be a quartz-safe cleaning option. But moderation is key.
Citric acid is generally considered safe for periodic use on quartz countertops. However, there are important usage precautions needed to avoid permanent damage to the surface:
- Dilute citric acid to 5-10% acidity or less
- Limit use only to occasional deep cleaning
- Rinse thoroughly and avoid letting residue dry
- Use smooth liquid cleaners without abrasives
- Have countertops professionally resealed annually
- Spot test on an inconspicuous area first
With proper care and restraint, citric acid can be an effective quartz cleaner. But frequent or excessive use risks etching or eroding quartz over time. When used moderately alongside pH neutral daily cleaners and routine resealing, citric acid can safely tackle stubborn stains on quartz countertops.