Chemistry Blog



May 18

What’s in Lemi Shine? – UPDATED

by azmanam | Categories: lab technique | (257257 Views)


Lemi Shine is magical.  We must have the hardest water ever. Any harder and I’d be able to walk on it. Our dishes had the grossest white film on it that just kept getting thicker and grittier and grosser.  I thought we were going to have to wash dishes by hand or buy new dishes.  Then we tried adding Lemi Shine.  No joke, after 2 or 3 cycles, the dishes look like new.  I wish I had before and after pictures.  Imagine an opaque drinking glass next to a crystal clear drinking glass. Actually, the picture on the bottle could have been taken in our kitchen.

So I wanted to know what voodoo powder is in Lemi Shine that allows for such magical transformations to happen.  Looking on the innertubes, people making home-made dishwasing detergent often have a line like ‘add Lemi Shine or lemon Kool-Aid packets.’ So that’s weird. The label on the bottle says it contains ‘natural fruit acids and citric oils.’ Ok, so maybe the lemon Kool-Aid isn’t so weird. Here’s a list of natural fruit acids.

So I turned to the MSDS in hopes that it would divulge the ingredient list.  The Lemi Shine MSDS was really easy to find, but the composition section reads:

Well, thanks.  That could not be less informative.  So my bottle contains between 61-105% of something? (maybe the rest is chemical free. oooooh!) The only actual quantitative information the MSDS provides is a pH of 3 and some LD50 data: Compound1: 3000 mg/kg (rat, oral); Compound2: 2840 mg/kg (rat, oral), 5000 mg/kg (rabbit, dermal – what did that experiment look like?)

So I guess since I’m a chemist, I should bring some into lab and figure it out myself, eh? So I did.

I asked around on Twitter what spec (practically, not ideally) would people use if they had an unknown colorless solid and wanted to figure out it’s composition. Got lots of great suggestions and promptly put them to use. I also posted my results in real time on Twitter so everyone could play along (#WhatsInLemiShine).  I started with appearance. It’s a colorless solid with a strong lemon odor.  The free-flowing granules are rather large, imho.  Having used several bottles in my dishwasher already, I know it’s not very hygroscopic. No, I did not taste the Lemi Shine (though I’m sure it’d be quite harmless)

Then I ran solubility tests.  You’ll be relieved to know it’s soluble in water. Here’s the rest of the solubility data:

@BranVanChemist asked what the pH was. The pH of a solution of 26mg of Lemi Shine in 1mL water is approximately 2:


About this time, @DrBodwin suggested I run a GC/MS on the filtrate from the dichloromethane solubility test.  The entire granule may not have dissolved, but maybe some trace organics did.  Also about this time, I noticed the ethyl acetate getting cloudy just above the granules.  So I prepped GC/MS samples of the Lemi Shine completely dissolved in methanol, and the filtrate from the dichloromethane and ethyl acetate solubility tests.

While those were running (I <3 auto-samplers), I ran an IR and took a mp.  The Lemi Shine melted at 150-153 degC. Here’s the IR:

Not the most inspiring IR, but reminds me of the ‘hairy beard’ effect a la Jon Chui’s pictorial guide to IR.  Then the GC/MS results started coming in. The dichloromethane GC/MS showed no peaks, so really nothing must have been soluble in dichloromethane.  The methanol GC/MS was inconclusive. There were several low-concentration components, but nothing that screamed major component. The ethyl acetate GC/MS also showed a few peaks; however, not the same peaks as from the methanol GC/MS.  My guess is this is the citric oils, probably for fragrance? Though I haven’t yet conclusively identified any of the components of this GC/MS. A note about the ethyl acetate GC/MS.  I can only include 4 MS on the print out.  Peak 1A and the unlabeled peak to its right have the same MS.  Similarly, peak 2A and the unlabeled peak to its right have the same MS.  Methanol on left, ethyl acetate on right:

I had a guess going into the GC/MS based on online discussions, but my guess was not confirmed through GC/MS.  Sources (read: wikipedia) said my guess decomposes above 175 degC, so that may explain why it didn’t show up on GC/MS.  An LC/MS would perhaps give me more information, but we don’t have a walk-up LC/MS.

Since it wasn’t soluble in CDCl3, but it was soluble in DMSO, I next went for HNMR. I was warned the NMR could be quite complex depending on how many components there are in Lemi Shine.  Surprisingly, the NMR was quite clean.  So if there is a mixture of components, this tells me there is one major component.  I did also take an NMR of the filtrate from the CDCl3 solubility test.  Just some water in the spectrum, no other components.  Like dichloromethane, Lemi Shine really is completely insoluble in CDCl3.  I would have expected some of the citrus oils to be soluble in CDCl3, though, so that’s perhaps a bit unusual. DMSO on left, CDCl3 on right:

@stuartcantrill noted that the residual proteosolvent peak for DMSO (which appears around 2.5 ppm) should have 5 lines, not four.  But I think the apparent quartet is a real signal from the Lemi Shine, not the solvent peak. They just happen to appear in the same area and thus overlap.  It really is noteworthy how clean the DMSO NMR is.  Chemists often lament the trace residual ethyl acetate or dichloromethane contaminating their NMR spectra during synthesis.  The flat baseline indicates Lemi Shine has one major component and if there’s anything else, it really must be closer to 1%.

@JessTheChemist asked for a CNMR, which I was able to obtain in only ~20 min on our not-very-strong NMR.  The baseline’s noisy, but again, this indicates only one major component.  This time, the DMSO solvent peak is quite visible:

The HNMR and CNMR confirmed my initial guess as to the identity of the major component of Lemi Shine. I’ll summarize the data here, then I’ll hide my guess below if you want to comb through the data and decide for yourself first.

Measurement Result
appearance large, colorless granules with lemon odor
solubility results
pH ~2 (26 mg in 1 mL water)
melting point 150-153 degC
IR results
GC/MS results
HNMR results
CNMR results

Here’s my guess based on the compiled data. It’s in white font so highlight it to read it: citric acid

***Here be spoilers***

Don’t read on if you still want to guess yourself

My guess is based on many online diy dishwashing detergent sites saying you can buy Lemi Shine or straight citric acid.  Also, Sigma-Aldrich’s entry for citric acid lists a mp of 153-159 degC, and has a reference NMR.  The NMR matches perfectly.

I posted all this to twitter, and there were high-fives and champagne all around. Now, I should have known this, but Lemi Shine has its own Twitter handle (@Lemishine) and they responded shortly after I posted my conclusion:

My first instinct was: they’re lying. And I told them so (nicely). But it bugged me for the rest of the night. If it’s really not citric acid, what is it?

A citrate salt like sodium citrate might still make sense.  Could explain GC/MS data. But would it give pH ~2? Certainly not sodium citrate tribasic. But maybe sodium citrate monobasic could turn my pH paper red.  But CNMR would look the same, too.  But integration in HNMR would be off. There’d only be a 2:1 ratio of acid:alcohol protons.  Not that broad singlet integration is an exact measurement, but I’d expect it to be a bit closer to 2:1 not 3:1.

Maybe they were just being cute. In 140 characters, I only said it was citric acid.  There are probably some trace fragrant oils or something to give the 1-5%, so perhaps I was wrong because I wasn’t technically right?

Someone on Twitter suggested polycitric acid (though I can’t find the original tweet anymore).  That could certainly make a lot of sense.  Only spectra I’d expect to be different would be peak heights in HNMR and/or CNMR.  Some protons are going to be lost in polymerization, and if it was polymerized through ester bonds, there’d presumably be some linker with protons and/or carbons of it’s own, yes?

So where does that leave us? What’s in Lemi Shine? I’m sticking with citric acid. If someone sees something else in my data, I’d love to know. On Twitter, we decided there need to be more live-Tweeting of chemistry and made the hashtag #RealTimeChem. @JessTheChemist is chronicling the real time chem stories via storify, so check it out there, too.  Today @sciencegeist is live-Tweeting his synthesis of the non-natural amino acid L-azidohomoalanine :)


Update (5/23):

Thank you all for your comments and follow up tests I should run.  I ran most of them! Here are my results:

Brandon suggests a ninhydrin test for the ammonium cation to see if Lemi Shine is an ammonium salt.  Ninhydrin is one of the chemicals used in forensic development of fingerprints and reacts with nitrogen to create a red/purple color. So I spotted Lemi Shine on a TLC plate and dipped it into a ninhydrin stain.  Even after heating, the TLC plate showed no evidence of nitrogen.

Stewie Griffin also suggested a test for the ammonium cation. He suggested the USP test.  Since I teach at an R7 school, I was quite surprised we actually had all the reagents necessary for the USP test. So I did as Stewie suggested and bubbled through the indicator solution – didn’t turn yellow.  I also added the cobalt reagent – didn’t give yellow precipitate. I’m confident with these two tests to say Lemi Shine is not an ammonium salt.

Trent Wallis suggested a quick, even microscale, titration for more accurate data. If I’m going to get some data, I’m going to try to get it right, so a ‘quick and dirty’ titration isn’t in my bones :) So I reached waaaaay back to remember how to do titrations. Something about a buret. Make sure the stopcock’s closed. Oh yeah, I guess I should standardize the NaOH. While I didn’t standardize in triplicate, I calculated my solution of NaOH to be 0.0942 M.

Then I titrated 0.2278 g Lemi Shine in 30 mL H2O with this 0.0942 M NaOH. After every 0.1 mL, I measured the pH and recorded it in Excel. After 19 mL, I realized this was very very tedious, so I measured the pH every 0.2 mL. At 33 mL NaOH, the pH started rising more rapidly, indicating I was approaching the endpoint, so I went back to measuring the pH every 0.1 mL. The endpoint came around 36.1 mL 0.0942 M NaOH. I finished out the 50 mL buret for completeness’s sake. Here’s my titration curve. Source data available upon request.

I found a titration curve someone else put together for citric acid. Note the similarities:


The exact pH of the Lemi Shine (0.2278 g in 30 mL H2O) before titration was 2.3. If we take the equivalence point to be 36.1 mL (0.0034 mol NaOH @ 0.0942 M), then the equivalent weight of the acid is (0.2278 g/0.0034 mol) = 66.99 g/mol. Assuming it’s a triprotic acid (based only on the titration data, an invalid assumption), that would give the molecular weight of the acid to be 200.97 g/mol. The molecular weight of citric acid is 192.124 g/mol. More on that discrepancy later.

Mitch said I should just taste it and be done. No.

TSvn suggested adding Lemi Shine to acetic anhydride in pyridine. If it’s citric acid, the solution should turn red. So I did. And it did! Further evidence for some sort of citric acid?

Shakeel suggested a flame test. Cool! Unfortunately, Lemi Shine doesn’t change the color of the flame.  On one trial the flame flickered green a bit, but I’ll chalk that one trial up to the copper wire I was using. I also ran a flame test on a standard solution of citric acid from the stockroom and on sodium citrate tribasic from the stockroom. The standard citric acid also did not change the flame color – except for one trial which flickered green like before.  The sodium citrate, though, turned bright yellow as expected. Potassium should turn violet, lithium should turn red, magnesium would be white, and calcium would be a red/orange (wikipedia)

Finally, fledarmus suggested getting an NMR of Lemi Shine, an NMR of a citric acid standard, then mix the NMR tubes together and see if the peaks match. So I did. And they do! The citric acid standard was the monohydrate, so the HDO peak shows up in the monohydrate NMR

Lemi Shine

Citric Acid Monohydrate

Lemi Shine + Citric Acid Monohydrate

Note how the AB system for the diastereotopic methylene protons completely overlap, with no shoulders or splitting, etc. I’m convinced it’s citric acid, not some salt of citric acid.

Now, about that pesky titration data. Let’s assume it’s citric acid. The molarity of 0.2278 g citric acid in 30 mL would be 0.03952 M. Different websites have different pKa values for citric acid, an average of 7 of them gives a pKa of 3.122. That’s a dissociation constant for citric acid of 0.0007553. Thus the pH of a 0.03952 M solution of citric acid would be… 2.3, exactly the pH I noted for my sample.

But if the endpoint is at 36.1 mL of 0.0942 M NaOH, that gives an equivalent weight of the acid to be 66.99, which would correspond to the molecular weight of a triprotic acid of 200.963 g/mol. This is 8.839 g/mol greater than citric acid (192.124 g/mol).

If we assume citric acid, we essentially have zero unknowns in our equations, so we can check the values against each other by asking ourselves GenChem questions. How many mL of 0.0942 M NaOH are required to completely react with 0.2278 g citric acid? With a 3:1 stoichiometry, the equivalence point should have occurred at 37.8 mL. That’s a difference of 1.7 mL – that’s a lot of mL.

So, if I’m pretty sure it’s not a citrate salt (the pH wouldn’t have been 2.3 for a citrate salt anyway), maybe it’s a hydrate of citric acid? If that were the case, then I wouldn’t really be titrating 0.2278 g citric aicd. For the monohydrate (MW = 210.14 g/mol), the mass fraction of citric acid is 91.43%. So a 0.2278 g sample of the monohydrate would really be 0.2083 g citric acid. How many mL NaOH would I need then? 34.5. Now I’m off by 1.6 mL in the other direction.

My endpoint was between the anhydrous and the monohydrate… what if it’s the hemihydrate? The mass fraction of the hemihydrate (MW = 201.133 g/mol) would be 95.52%, so a 0.2278 g sample would be 0.2176 g citric acid. How many mL NaOH would I need then? Why 36.07 mL! If the equivalent weight was 66.99, and the MW would be 200.96 g/mol, that’s 0.2 g/mol off the MW of the hemihydrate (201.133 g/mol).

So! My ultimate final guess is citric acid hemihydrate. I think I’m done testing Lemi Shine. So if someone else wants to run other tests, be my guess.  Just be sure to post your results here so we can know!


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  1. Brandon

    I would think they’re using a dihydrogen citric salt, perhaps a calcium or ammonium variety (to help solubilize whatever anions may be floating around). The SDBS version of ammonium dihydrogen citrate (in KBr) looks pretty close, especially in the 1600 region.

  2. Brandon

    For comparsion, citric acid under the same conditions. Only two peaks ~1650, no absorption around 2000.

  3. Brandon

    Oh, and a ninhydrin test would nail down the presence of an amine. I don’t know what you do if it was an inorganic cation though. Flame test? Maybe toss in some sodium phosphate to make an insoluble salt?

  4. Stewie Griffin

    If ammonium were present you could try the USP test for ammonium:

    Ammonium— Add 0.2 g of magnesium oxide to the solution under test. Pass a current of air through the mixture, and direct the gas that escapes to just beneath the surface of an indicator solution, prepared by mixing 1 mL of 0.1 M hydrochloric acid and 0.05 mL of methyl red TS 2. In the presence of ammonium, the color of the indicator solution is changed to yellow. After directing the gas into the indicator solution for a sufficient period of time, add 1 mL of freshly prepared sodium cobaltinitrite TS to the indicator solution. Upon the addition of the sodium cobaltinitrite TS, a yellow precipitate is formed when ammonium is present.

  5. Trent Wallis

    A quick titration (even microscale) against hydroxide or more accurate pH measurement would really nail down the molar mass per acidic proton. Could the complication be that it’s the monohydrate?

    Also, for a quick and nasty ammonium ion test just add hydroxide then heat gently and smell for ammonia. K will give a precipitate with cold perchlorate; Na is trickier, but uranyl zinc acetate is the reagent of choice.

  6. Mitch

    Just taste it and be done with it.

  7. Lev

    This is so cool ! I am a new reader, and a chemistry student – love to see chemistry in action! Great article, look forward to more.

    – Lev

  8. TSvn

    Try with this: add about 5 mg of you sample to a mixture of 1 ml of acetic anhydride and 3 ml of pyridine. A red colour should develops (if citric acid is present).

    Also, what kind of GCMS machine did you use? How did you programe look? What were the settings?

    As you can see here [ ] , citric acid can be easily detected when derivatised ( to trimethylsilyl derivates)

  9. dan

    The proton and carbon NMR spectra are of citric acid; students in my NMR course have assigned these for the past 10+ years. The apparent quartet you mention is an AB pattern for the diastereotopic methylene protons. Put a fork in this problem…you are done.

  10. andreew

    Citric acid makes sense. ESI-MS may be easy to do since it dissolves in ethanol or methanol. That should nail the MW.

  11. CHM

    Citric acid is also used to remove stains that form on fiber glass swimming pools. Pool warehouses sell the stuff for 5-10 times what you’d pay at Aldrich, but then you can’t buy it at Aldrich if you’re not a chemist.

    What a shame.

  12. Shakeel

    If you want to check to see if its a salt, do a flame test. A company is likely to use something obvious like sodium or potassium because they’d be cheap.

  13. Dangerous Bill

    All the Lemishine people said was that you won’t be getting any cigars from them. They didn’t say your were wrong. Even at $5 a bottle, Lemishine isn’t any more expensive than citric acid from a wine store. (Price is an additional clue here.)

    1. Dangerous Bill

      PS. That also means you can use it to clean your coffee maker. Do you have that much faith in your analysis?

  14. Ryan Kerick

    Ugh. Instruments folks, they are called instruments.

    I am interested in the chromatographic parameters. What column did you use and how was your ms setup?

    If you want I can try and find some LemiShine and try to get an LC-MS next time I’m on one at work. Generally I can do both ESI and APCI in positive and negative detection modes.

    Also scintillation vials are so win!

    1. azmanam

      Sounds great! Let us know if you do this and what the results are :)

  15. fledarmus

    Run an NMR of citric acid and an NMR of Lemishine. Then mix the two tubes and run an NMR of the mixture. If the NMRs are all identical, then the compound in solution is the same compound.

  16. Mitch

    Can someone get an EDAX of this stuff, so we can find out if they are using a salt?

  17. ZombieSymmetry

    Nice sleuthing!

    I’m curious though, why you ran the NMR in DMSO-d6 rather than D2O? Since Lemi Shine is designed for use in water, you know there would be no risk of an adverse reaction with the NMR solvent that could complicate the spectra. Plus, you wouldn’t have peaks appearing at the same place as the NMR solvent, and your acid protons would magically disappear. :-)

    1. azmanam

      Because by this point I suspected citric acid. I saw the Sigma-Aldrich NMR was run in DMSO, so for full comparison, I also ran in DMSO. :)

  18. Dangerous Bill

    No need to go rush out and buy citric acid to replace your Lemishine. The price of the food-grade acid is about the same as Lemishine off the grocery shelf. And it has that yummy lemon smell.

    1. Mary G

      Thank you. This brought me to the whole POINT, in my opinion!!!!

  19. demoninatutu

    Lovely, lovely demonstration of chemistry in applied time wasting ;-) Seriously though, I love this account.

  20. catina

    “I thought we were going to have to wash dishes by hand”

    You say that as if it’s a bad thing! I’ve never had a dishwasher (most houses in the UK don’t have them) – washing by hand is quick, uses less water and uses no electricity (obviously).

    Admittedly, I live in a household of only two people, so if you have a large family, I can understand that doing it by hand would be a huge hassle. If there’s only a couple of you, though? By hand is the way to go.

  21. Borek

    Azmanam and others, sorry about the citric acid titration curve not displaying – titration info site is protected against hot linking. To see the curve you have to visit (third plot form the top – refresh the page if it still displays titration info graphics from your cache).

    Feel free to copy the plot to chemistry-blog site and to serve it from here.

    1. azmanam

      Thanks, Borek! Link/image updated :)

  22. Nikki O

    The water in Clearwater is anything but clear…I’ve used Lemi-shine before–but wondered about the chems –human body not meant to absorb them…Year ago when I owned a hair salon we use to use Vinegar to clarify hairspray buildup off the hair…So I added a cup of white vinegar in rinse –it removed the cloud film and glasses and dishes are sparkling again.

    1. Jody

      Clearwater? I’m in Tampa and developed a solution that’s better than Lemi-Shine. Search for CitriClean of Florida :)

  23. Brian

    TSvn has a good point. We regularly derivatize large/polyfunctional acids and alcohols to get them volatile enough for GC/MS. Methyl ester derivatization of acids is pretty common too.

  24. thecyborg

    I cannot tell you how incredible everyone findings are. I have one real question? Can you consume Lemi Shine in small amounts?

  25. Rane Curl

    Mixed melting point tests should distinguish it from citric acid or its hydrates.

  26. Jody

    Azmanam – kudos to you. This post makes me want to be a chemist! I’m good at tinkering however. Lemi-Shine worked OK for me, but not great. So I developed a competitor & I think it works even better. Happy to send you a sample if you want to test it! Search for CitriClean of Florida.

  27. beverly

    So, do you have any suggestions for a homemade lemi shine?

  28. Lela

    I wanted to thank the original author and all his associates (those who suggested and performed tests) for this experiment. I’m nowhere near being a chemist but I enjoy science, DIY, and green living. These tests give me enough confidence to add this ingredient in my homemade cleaners.

  29. Suzie

    Over the five years we have lived in this particular house in Lanark County, I have used vinegar, rinse additives,etc with some good success.
    This last fall and winter however, proved very challenging without any of the above improving the film on our glasses. I came acrosse Lemi-Shine by accident and have been very pleased with the results.
    A Citric Acid base sounds pretty solid to me… I was a storeskeeper in Chemistry dept @ Queens. Anyway, I plan on keeping up with it. EXCELLENT PRODUCT.

  30. Christina Gonzalez

    I tried scrubbing a cookiesheet with baking soda and water, and when that wasn’t working well enough I sprinkled Lemi-Shine on it as well. It bubbled like crazy. I rinsed that off and did just Lemi-Shine and water, but it didn’t bubble at all. SO…does citric acid react with baking soda?

    1. Bonnie G

      Enjoyed the whole thread!
      Citric acid does react with baking soda making co2 and sodium citrate. Try mixing your Lemi-shine with baking soda.. as Christina Gonzales mentioned that she did get a reaction. :-)

  31. Sara

    I can tell you that with my amaaaaazing sniffer, there definitely is some sort of fragrance added to lemon shine. I have both lemon shine and citric acid and they don’t smell the same.

  32. appliance tec

    I see this problem with dishes several times a DAY! most of the problem is the dishwashing detergent left on glasses ever since they took the key ingredient out to help save our rivers and streams by the way dishwashing detergent is poison now LOL Im no chemist but read the box or bottle I tell cust to use vinegar instead of any so called detergents that simply do not work remember a dishwashers is more a rinser then washer it also works for your clothing its safe and good for you cheap etc you cant beat it!

    1. Jane

      Would you use vinegar along with detergent to wash clothes? How much vinegar for a dishwasher to wash dishes?

  33. Tina

    This is awesome. I’m a nurse and have been for 20 years so I don’t underatand 3/4 of what you said but I loved it! I’m with you and think it’s citric acid. HOWEVER, I’ve used citric acid in my dishwasher with DIY dishwasher soap and they still came out filmy. Even with a vinegar rinse. I’m still on the hunt! Keep up the awesome work!

    1. Megami

      Hi, I do baking soda+washing soda+sea salt pre-wash and lemi shine main wash and vinegar rinse.
      Once citric acid from amazon arrives I’m gonna test it out in main wash compartment. If it doesn’t shine like with lemi shine, I will add lemon essential oil in it and see how it turns out. Hope this helps.
      We have super hard water here in CA. In TX I only had to use the finish orange tablets (liquid) for main wash that’s it. With lemi wash (or citric acid I guess) u gotta use powder form main detergent for best result (so it states on the lemi shine container).

      1. Megami

        Sorry I meant “with lemi shine (or citric acid) in main compartment, u must use powder form detergent for pre-wash for best result” as stated on the lemi shine container. Anyway after I put the dish washing detergent (homemade) in pre-wash and lemi shine in main wash, vinegar in rinse compartment, it really worked. Hopefully it’ll work just as great with straight citric acid.

  34. Doc Martin

    Does anyone out there know what it will do to dishwasher/washing machine parts/pipes? (I know Lemi is strong enough to remove ceramic paints from coffee cups and enamels.)

  35. Daughterofsnape

    When I have run out of lemishine, I use citric acid that I got at Sprouts. It works the same. Not that this is a scientific statement or anything, but…. I’ve often wondered if it was dehydrated lemon juice.

  36. mamobe

    how about Borax, I’ve been thinking its mainly borax

  37. roger greene

    Stumbled on this site while investigating LemiShine. I
    Work with a product that treats all the water of a house
    With similar benefits all around in dealing with hard water scale.
    My interest in formulae is to see what concentrations will allow safe drinking if
    Water with citric acid

  38. Jen

    My son got into the LemiShine when he was 2 and I called the number on the container right away. They told me that it was fine to ingest and that’s it’s just citric acid. At least that’s how I remember the conversation… that was a few years ago now. I know I didn’t make a follow up call to poison control or anything.

  39. Karmah

    My guess is it contains phosphates of some kind. I’ve been doing extensive research on dishwasher detergent and why it doesn’t clean the dishes and leaves them cloudy and every where I look, it leads back to sodium phosphates. Phosphates became illegal to put in dishwasher detergent and laundry detergents with the exception of industrial use.

    So, if you want a dishwasher detergent that REALLY works, either go to a restaurant supply and buy some industrial dishwasher detergent or go online and buy some Sodium Tripolyphosphate and add it to your current dishwasher detergent.

    However, I must say – I used to have soft water, but my softener broke and I haven’t had the finances to either get it fixed or buy another one. Ever since then, my dishes come out still dirty and VERY cloudy. I have tried every consumer brand under the sun and NOTHING worked! I even did the home-made thing and was sorely disappointed. I was so angry at having to re-wash all of my dishes by hand that for 2 years I just stopped using my dishwasher altogether. Then I was at WalMart a few months ago and Lemi-Shine had a sample pack for $2 and I thought what the hell! I haven’t tried this yet and if it doesn’t work, they guarantee my money back. I was FLOORED! First time and Lemi-Shine got my dishes clean and without leaving that nasty cloudy film!!! Lemi-Shine is the ONLY dishwasher detergent that woks for me. And I haven’t had to add any Sodium Tripolyphosphates! I just might use the Sodium Tripolyphosphate for my laundry!

  40. Ficus strangulensis


    I have a ‘liberated’ bottle of citric acid here at strangulensis Manor but, if I didn’t, I’d head for the cheap lemon juice store since buying citric acid sounds really expensive from a chemical supply house, drugstore, health food store of amazon.

    VERY interesting blog you have here, especially to this retired organic chemist who, at age 5, had decided he wanted to be a chemist or chemical engineer.

    Please keep up the great work!

    Y’r ol’ Bud,


  41. B Brown

    Hi Ficus

    My guess is that the toilet bowl cleaner was a basic – high pH – type rather than an acid one. I’ve seen the problem you describe and am fairly sure that is the cause. If it was a drain cleaner product rather than a bowl cleaner, some of those are pretty close to 100% sodium hydroxide.

    Some types of glass are more resistant to being attacked by bases than others. I remember in the lab, as a student and teacher, that the stoppers in glass reagent bottles would occasionally ‘solvent weld’ together with a basic solution in them.

    old chemist

  42. Valerie

    I read this article and every comment with great interest! I then siphoned off the vinegar I had put in the rinse dispenser of my dishwashing machine and replaced it with Lemishine Rinse Aid, VOILE! No more hard water residue/spots on my dishes!

    Now I am wondering if I could dillute citric acid in distilled water to achieve similiar results. I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea and perhaps even a suggestion on how much water:citric acid you might suggest I try?

    Thanks for all the hard work with your analysis! VERY HELPFUL!

  43. Paige

    I am a dialysis nurse. We clean our dialysis machine with citric acid twice a week. So I am pleased but not terribly surprised it is an awesome cleaner. I’d love to buy a bottle of the liquid :-)

  44. Louise van der Marel

    Hi there,

    Being just a housewife and no chemist, but looooove to know what I can use instead of Lemishine, because I can’t buy it here in Thailand.
    Dishwashers are only in the houses of foreigners, so super markets don’t sell much of the dishwasher stuff.
    maybe I can make it myself if I can’t buy something ready made.

    Thanks a lot.

    Louise van der Marel

    1. Ficus strangulensis

      The most readily available source of citric acid I know of is lemon juice sold in bottles here in usonia. Of course, it’d carry in unknown components to y’r wash. Perhaps a search of “lemon juice” would tell you what other components are in it.

    2. Richard

      A little late, but In Thailand, citric acid is “groat manow” (lime) or possibly “groat nam som” (lemon). Sometimes with “pong” at the end to indicate “powder”. The Indians use citric acid to make the Paneer cheese, so maybe you can find it at an Indian grocery or shop. In Hindi, I believe it’s called Nimbu ka Phool or Nimbu ka sat.

      กรด มะนาว ผง

  45. sana

    Please reply asap. I accidentally mixed bleach with the lemi shine. I ran a half cycle and drained it out. How bad is this and what should I do?…I can’t find anything about what happens or what you should do when you mix it. It just says don’t mix it!….

  46. Shawn

    I always assumed it was some sort of citric acid with some sort of scent added, but I never wanted to taste it to compare to the basic bulk citric acid (and Malic) that I have in my cabinet. (I like sour candies!)

  47. Laura

    Hi! I remember why I had to talk my way out of that course after skimming through all of your efforts here. Good gravy! Question: Do you think that the folks at Lemi-Shine were just word playing? Could it be that Lemi-Shine is citric acid, but they’re telling you “Close, but no cigar” because you didn’t mention the other ingredients that total up Lemi-Shine? If Lemi-Shine’s active ingredient is only citric acid and they admit to it, they would likely lose a lot of business. Honestly, I was doing a search on Lemi-Shine’s ingredients because I need citric acid to make dishwasher detergent, which I don’t have …or do I?. I was thinking that the Lemi-Shine in my cupboard probably is mostly citric acid…. Anyway, I’m going to test in my own way now since I can’t find the ingredients anywhere. I’m going to use straight citric acid in my dishwasher (after I buy some) and see what the dishes look like after they’re clean. If they’re as clean as when I use Lemi-Shine, I’ll conclude that Lemi-Shine’s active ingredient is citric acid. Even if it’s not and the citric acid works on my dishes, I’ll be switching my washing booster. I don’t like that I can’t find what I’m using on my dishes that I and my family eat off of (sometimes lick too). Isn’t there some sort of law that makes it so the consumer is privy to what exactly they’re buying?

  48. Conrad

    Came accross your blog here by accident. After seeing what Lemishine did to a few items in my dishwasher, I was looking for something less strong.

    It took all the print off 2 pyrex measuring cups as well as the finish on an enamel baking sheet.

    Strong stuff!

  49. Ficus strangulensis

    Hi, Conrad!

    Your experience with the pyrex container and enamel reminds me of my wife’s experience of using toilet bowl cleaner [hydrochloric acid?] to clean rust out of our old, iron bathtub. It removed the enamel so that the metal underneath could rust better.

    Y’r [new] ol’ Bud,


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