Citric acid (CA) was evaluated in terms of its efficiency as a biodegradable chelating agent, in removing zinc (Zn) from heavily contaminated soil, using a soil washing process. To determine preliminary ranges of variables in the washing process, single factor experiments were carried out with different CA concentrations, pH levels and washing times. Optimization of batch washing conditions followed using a response surface methodology (RSM) based central composite design (CCD) approach. CCD predicted values and experimental results showed strong agreement, with an R2 value of 0.966. Maximum removal of 92.8% occurred with a CA concentration of 167.6 mM, pH of 4.43, and washing time of 30 min as optimal variable values. A leaching column experiment followed, to examine the efficiency of the optimum conditions established by the CCD model. A comparison of two soil washing techniques indicated that the removal efficiency rate of the column experiment (85.8%) closely matching that of the batch experiment (92.8%). The methodology supporting the research experimentation for optimizing Zn removal may be useful in the design of protocols for practical engineering soil decontamination applications.