Citrus Power: All the Ways That Lemons Can Clean Your House

You might be surprised at some of the things that lemons can help clean.

Dan Avery Former Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal finance, government and policy, consumer affairs
Dan Avery
3 min read
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If you're looking for non-toxic, natural alternatives to your usual household cleaning products, consider the simple lemon. Not only do lemons contain powerful antibacterial properties, they'll also give your home a fresh scent without using any chemicals or artificial fragrances. 

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The citric acid in lemons kills germs and removes mold, while the oil in lemon peels can cut through grease and other substances. If you have access to a supply of lemons, give these household cleaning hacks a try.

For more home tips, learn the secret ingredient for cleaning scorched cast-iron cookware or check out simple hacks for lowering your electric, gas and water bills this fall.

1. Clean your windows

To get streaks off windows and other glass surfaces, squeeze about two tablespoons of lemon juice into an empty spray bottle. Add about a  tablespoon of white vinegar and a cup of hot (but not boiling) water.

Shake the mixture well and apply to whatever needs cleaning.

2. Freshen up your garbage disposal

If there's a funky smell coming from your kitchen sink, try throwing a few lemon wedges or peels into the disposal and chase them with some cold water.

For particularly potent odors, add some baking soda to the mix.

3. Get stains out of sheets and pillowcases

Has a set-in stain ruined your linens? Treat them with a mixture of lemon juice and salt and let sit for 30 minutes.

Rinse with warm water and vinegar and then let it dry in the sun. Repeat as needed. (This technique is also good for sweat stains on shirts.) 

If your white sheets have gotten dingy, you can also use lemons to restore their brightness.

Fill a large pot with water and add some lemon slices, then bring it to a boil. After you turn off the heat, add in the sheets and let it soak for a good hour. 

Then launder your linens as you normally would.

4. Clean chrome faucets and fixtures

Even if they're not dirty, chrome fixtures can lose their luster due to hard water stains, limescale and soap scum.

To bring back their brightness, cut a lemon in half and run it over the faucet, handles, drain and any other metal surfaces.

When you're done, rinse and dry thoroughly.

5. Polish brass and copper

Coat half a lemon with coarse salt, then rub it over tarnished pots, cabinet pulls and other metal items. (Make sure they're not varnished, though.)

When you're done, wipe it down with a damp cloth, followed by a pat down with a soft, dry cloth.

You can also give wood furniture new life with a two-to-one solution of olive oil and lemon juice.

6. Kill weeds in your garden or yard

If you're not thrilled at the idea of keeping harsh chemicals in reach of children or pets, a little lemon juice can serve as a functional weed killer.

Be careful how much you use and where you apply it, as the acidity in the lemons can damage plants you want to save and even change the pH of the soil.

7. Remove stains from your plastic containers

If you've ever put spaghetti in a plastic container, you know how easily tomato sauce can leave an unappealing tinge. 

Rather than throw it out, fill the container to the top with lemon juice and let it sit for a few hours. Pour the juice out, then scrub the item thoroughly to get rid of the stain.

Read more: Stop Your Food From Exploding in the Microwave