If you’re like us and you want to not only reduce the amount of synthetically manufactured chemicals in your home, but also reduce your waste, swapping out cleaning products is a great way to begin. Historically, many everyday products have been used for cleaning: wood ash, vinegar, salt, lemons, and some more obscure ones like milk, tea leaves and even stale urine have played a part in the history of household cleaning.
This is because the things we consider “dirt” are simply a chemical compound that’s stuck somewhere we’d rather it wasn’t. To remove them, we need to use a substance that will break down their chemical structure so they can be washed away. Often those substances need to be alkaline or acidic, which is why vinegar (acidic) and wood ash (which produces lye, a strong alkaline) have worked so well as cleaning agents over the years.
And then there’s citrus oil. The oil in the skin of citrus fruits (notably in lemons and oranges) have the ability to break down grease, and as such, make a great addition to cleaning products. Which is why, after we’ve found uses for all the lemons we get given each year, we use them in this zero-waste cleaning spray.
Lemon carcasses or skins
1. Add lemon carcasses or lemon peel to a large jar.
2. Cover with white vinegar. If you don’t have enough lemons bits to fill the jar, just add what you have, cover with vinegar, and top up with both when you have more.
3. Leave sealed in a dark, cool spot for a month or so. Give it a daily shake for the first week, and then once a week after that.
4. Strain through a clean teatowel into a clean bowl or jar.
5. Pour into a spray bottle (one with a filter at the end of the spray tube is handy to stop and rogue bits of lemon clogging it up) and keep in the cupboard.
6. Use as a spray’n’wipe surface cleaner.
- Washing your lemons before adding the skin/carcass to the vinegar is a good idea but not imperative.
- You can add some orange, lime or grapefruit bits to this too – they all have similar properties.
- Make sure there’s not too much juice left in carcasses when you add them to the jar – this can dilute the vinegar and means it won’t be as effective at cleaning.
- Some people dilute this solution 1:1 before spraying on surfaces. We never have, and find it works better as an undiluted solution.
- You can compost the lemon carcasses after being strained, but allow them to dry out a bit in the sun first, as the acetic acid of the vinegar can easily imbalance the pH of your compost heap and be harmful to worms. If you have a hot compost heap, this will be less of an issue.
Permaculture Principle 2: Catch & store energy; 3: Obtain a yield; 6: Produce no waste; 9: Use small and slow solutions; 10: Use and value diversity; 11: Use edges and value the marginal.
If you’re looking for other things to do with an abundance of citrus, take a look at these recipes…