Post updated March 2017
Whenever I tell people I make my own cleaning products, the first thing I get is the Huuuuh? face. As in, why on earth would you do that when you could run to the store and pick one up that’s already made for you?
Let me start by telling you right off the bat that if it wasn’t easy, I wouldn’t do it. I’ve got way too much going on to be bothered with complicated green cleaning recipes. The recipes I use are incredibly simple and nontoxic—in my book, this is key when you have a toddler who not only puts just about anything in her mouth but scales furniture when I turn my back.
The next thought that flickers across a person’s face is usually, How do you know it actually works? Most people don’t ask that out loud but you can totally see that they’re thinking it (my sister, however, absolutely asks it out loud). Once I explain the ingredients I use and their magical powers (which I’ll get to in a bit) the face is usually all Tell me your secrets!
Since I can never remember these magical recipes off the top of my head (I keep them on a card in my recipe box), I thought I’d lay them all out for you right here…
I was standing in my kitchen the other afternoon, washing dishes for what felt like the millionth time that day, when a warm breeze came through my window. I enjoyed every second of it and once it stopped, two things became incredibly clear.
One: I suddenly and desperately needed to clean the last hangers-on from the Great Purge of 2013 and continue with the organizing my life spree. And two: I had a physical need for everything in my world to smell as clean and as fresh as lemons.
Weird? Yes. If any of my friends told me this story my immediate response would be “Are you prego?” I’m not, but the story is true. Something about the warmth and the sunshine and the breeze reignited my cleaning fire and made me lemon obsessed. In fact, within days I went out and bought lemongrass essential oil to add to all of my DIY Green Cleaning Recipes.
Like a lot of the other ingredients I’ve been using, this one has a bunch of awesome qualities (it’s an antidepressant and is antibacterial, antimicrobial, insecticidal, fungicidal, antiseptic, deodorizing… the list goes on and on!). I also bought a big old bag of lemons and turned to the internet for ways to complete my mission.
I’ve put together a list of 20 of my favorite tips for cleaning with lemons…
- Fill a glass jar with lemon peels then fill the jar with white vinegar. Let this sit for 2 weeks, strain and use as a cleaner (via The Greening of Westford).
- Clean brass and copper by sprinkling salt on a lemon half and rubbing it on the metal, then rinsing thoroughly. (via Real Simple)
- Cut a lemon in half and use it to scrub the hard water stains on any fixture. (via Broccoli Cupcake)
- Clean your microwave and remove odors by placing 3/4 cup of water with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in the microwave. Heat to boiling. Don’t open the door for another 10 minutes. Then just wipe away food particles with a clean cloth and dry. (via Mother Nature Network)
- Dip the cut side of a lemon half in baking soda to tackle counter tops; wipe with a wet sponge and dry. Don’t use on delicate stone, like marble, or stainless steel (it may discolor). (via Real Simple)
- Mix 1/2 cup lemon juice (or sliced lemons) with one gallon of very hot water. Soak white clothes in the solution (don’t use for silk, it’s best for cotton and polyester). Let the clothes soak from an hour to overnight, depending on how badly it needs bleaching. Remove the clothing from the mix and pour the mix into the washing machine and wash as usual. It’s impossible to over-bleach using lemon juice. (via DIY Network)
- A dilute lemon juice rinse for your hair cuts soap residue and leaves hair softer and shinier. (via Mother Nature Network)
- To remove tough food stains from light wood and plastic cutting boards, slice a lemon in half, squeeze onto the soiled surface, rub, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing. (via Real Simple)
- Clean mineral buildup on tea kettles and coffee pots by boiling lemon slices in the pots. Allow the mixture to sit for an hour or two, and then rinse and dry. (via Mother Nature Network)
- To clean stubborn soap scum from shower doors, dip a halved lemon in baking soda and scrub. Rinse with water once you’re satisfied to remove any left over baking soda residue.
- To tackle grout stains add lemon juice to 1 or 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar (an acidic salt that acts as a natural bleaching agent) to make a paste. Apply with a toothbrush, then rinse. (via Real Simple)
- To clean windows and mirrors put a few tablespoons of lemon juice and water into a spray bottle. It works as well as a vinegar solution and smells better. (via Mother Nature Network)
- To get rid of unpleasant smells in your kitchen, heat the oven to 300 degrees F and place a whole lemon on the center rack. With the door slightly ajar, let the lemon “cook” for about 15 minutes; then turn off oven. Let the lemon cool before removing it. (via TLC)
- If your hands smell from chopping garlic or handling raw fish you can rub them with lemon juice, which will neutralize the odor. (via Real Simple)
- To remove dried-on food or detergent from the chrome inside your dishwasher by rubbing it with a piece of lemon. Rinse by wiping with a damp cloth, and then rub dry with a clean, dry cloth. (via TLC)
- To bleach tomato sauce and other acidic-food stains from dishwasher-safe items, rub lemon juice on the spots, let the items dry in the sun, then wash as usual. (via Real Simple)
- Scrub grills and grates with lemon juice and salt. (via Mother Nature Network)
- Make your wooden furniture gleam by mixing one part olive oil to one part lemon juice, then rub the liquid in with a soft rag. The same mix will also give sparkle to your wooden floors. (via Quick & Simple)
- Remove rust stains from cotton and polyesters by making a paste with lemon juice and cream of tartar. Rub the mixture into the stain, let the item sit for about a half hour, and then wash as normal (test before use). (via Mother Nature Network)
- When you run out of dish soap, slice a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on top, working the lemon half like you would a Brillo pad. Watch as the citric acid cuts, loosens and then dissolves grease, giving your pots and pans a shiny glow. (via iVillage)
Do you have any tips for DIY green cleaning with lemons? I’m always up for new cheap and easy ways to clean!