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Sodium Citrate vs. Citric Acid: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 8, 2024
Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid, used as a buffer and food additive, while citric acid is a weak organic acid, naturally found in citrus fruits.

Key Differences

Sodium citrate, a sodium salt derived from citric acid, is commonly used as a buffering agent in foods, pharmaceuticals, and beverages. It has a salty, slightly tart flavor. Citric acid, a natural organic acid found in citrus fruits, is known for its sour taste and is widely used as a flavor enhancer and preservative in foods.
Chemically, sodium citrate is more alkaline compared to citric acid. It is often used to regulate acidity in food products and can also act as an anticoagulant in blood samples. Citric acid plays a pivotal role in the citric acid cycle in cellular metabolism and is a natural preservative due to its acidity.
In the food industry, sodium citrate is utilized for its ability to control the pH level and improve texture, particularly in dairy products. Citric acid is frequently used to add a tangy flavor to beverages and candies, and as an acidulant in various food products.
Sodium citrate has applications in medicine, particularly in kidney health, by helping prevent certain types of kidney stones. In contrast, citric acid is often used in cleaning products for its ability to remove minerals and rust, due to its chelating properties.
As a sodium salt, sodium citrate can contribute to the sodium content in foods, which is a consideration for sodium-restricted diets. Citric acid, being a weak organic acid, is often preferred for its natural occurrence and flavor profile in food and beverage formulations.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Nature

Sodium salt of citric acid
Weak organic acid


Salty, slightly tart
Sour, tangy

PH Level

More alkaline

Primary Use

Buffering agent, pH control, anticoagulant
Flavor enhancer, preservative, acidulant


Food industry, medicine
Food industry, cleaning products, metabolism

Sodium Citrate and Citric Acid Definitions

Sodium Citrate

The sodium salt form of citric acid, used as a food additive.
Sodium citrate is added to soda to regulate acidity.

Citric Acid

Involved in the citric acid cycle in cellular respiration.
Citric acid is key in energy production in cells.

Sodium Citrate

Acts as an anticoagulant in blood collection tubes.
Blood samples for coagulation tests contain sodium citrate.

Citric Acid

Commonly used in cleaning agents for its chelating properties.
Citric acid effectively removes limescale from kettles.

Sodium Citrate

Enhances texture and flavor in dairy products.
Cheese sauces often contain sodium citrate for smoothness.

Citric Acid

A natural acid found in citrus fruits, used as a preservative.
Citric acid is added to jams to increase their shelf life.

Sodium Citrate

Utilized in medicine to prevent kidney stones.
Sodium citrate solutions are prescribed for kidney health.

Citric Acid

Acts as a pH adjuster in cosmetics and personal care products.
Citric acid is used in shampoos to balance pH levels.

Sodium Citrate

A buffering agent that stabilizes pH levels in foods and drinks.
Sodium citrate is used in ice cream to prevent crystallization.

Citric Acid

Used to add a sour taste to foods and beverages.
Citric acid gives lemonade its tart flavor.


What is sodium citrate?

A sodium salt derivative of citric acid.

Can sodium citrate help with kidney stones?

It can prevent certain types of kidney stones.

What is citric acid?

A weak organic acid found in citrus fruits.

Can citric acid be used in cleaning?

Yes, for its mineral-removing properties.

Does citric acid affect pH levels?

Yes, it’s used to increase acidity.

How is sodium citrate used in foods?

As a buffer, pH stabilizer, and flavor enhancer.

What are the main uses of citric acid?

As a flavoring agent, preservative, and acidulant.

Is sodium citrate natural?

It’s synthetically derived from citric acid.

What foods contain citric acid naturally?

Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.

Can citric acid be used in baking?

Yes, as a sourdough ingredient.

Does sodium citrate have side effects?

In excess, it may affect sodium levels.

Is sodium citrate safe to consume?

Yes, within regulated limits in food.

Is citric acid a preservative?

Yes, it preserves by lowering pH.

Does sodium citrate have a sour taste?

It’s more salty than sour.

Is sodium citrate used in medicine?

Yes, particularly in kidney health.

What are the benefits of citric acid in skincare?

It balances pH and acts as an antioxidant.

Is citric acid harmful to consume?

It’s safe in regulated food-grade quantities.

Why is citric acid used in canned goods?

To preserve and enhance flavor.

Does sodium citrate affect blood coagulation?

It's used as an anticoagulant in blood tests.

Can sodium citrate improve food texture?

Yes, especially in dairy products.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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