The dominant use of citric acid is as a flavoring and preservative in food and beverages, especially soft drinks. Within the European Union it is denoted by E number E330. Citrate salts of various metals are used to deliver those minerals in a biologically available form in many dietary supplements
Citric acid can be added to ice cream as an emulsifying agent to keep fats from separating, to caramel to prevent sucrose crystallization, or in recipes in place of fresh lemon juice. Citric acid is used with sodium bicarbonate in a wide range of effervescent formulae, both for ingestion (e.g., powders and tablets) and for personal care (cleaning of grease). Citric acid is also often used in cleaning products and sodas or fizzy drinks.
Citric acid sold in a dry powdered form is commonly sold in markets and groceries as "sour salt", due to its physical resemblance to table salt. It has use in culinary applications where an acid is needed for either its chemical properties or for its sour flavor, but a dry ingredient is needed and additional flavors are unwanted (e.g., instead of vinegar or lemon juice).
Cleaning and chelating agent[
Citric acid is an excellent chelating agent, binding metals. It is used to remove limescale from boilers and evaporators. It can be used to soften water, which makes it useful in soaps and laundry detergents. By chelating the metals in hard water, it lets these cleaners produce foam and work better without need for water softening. Citric acid is the active ingredient in some bathroom and kitchen cleaning solutions.. Citric acid can be used in shampoo to wash out wax and coloring from the hair.
Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals
Citric acid is widely used as a pH adjusting agent in creams and gels of all kinds. In this role, it is classified in most jurisdictions as a processing aid and so does not need to be listed on ingredient lists.
Citric acid is an alpha hydroxy acid and used as an active ingredient in chemical peels.
Other acidifiers used for ascorbic acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid; in their absence, a drug user will often substitute lemon juice or vinegar.
Citric acid is used as one of the active ingredients in the production of antiviral tissues.
Citric acid can be used as a lower-odor stop bath as part of the process for developing photographic film. Photographic developers are alkaline, so a mild acid is used to neutralize and stop their action quickly, but commonly used acetic acid leaves a strong vinegar odor in the darkroom.