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20 Fresh Ways to Clean with Lemon

Goodbye, harsh chemical cleaning products! Surprisingly versatile cleaners, lemons leave the house sparkling and spotless (and smelling nice, to boot!)

By Amanda Tarlton, Freelance Writer

Five lemons laying beside a blue sponge, brush and spray bottle. One of the lemons is sliced in half, revealing its middle to the viewer

Shutterstock / Ahanov Michael


When life gives you lemons, clean with them! That's our mantra when it comes to keeping our homes fresh and shining. In addition to being delicious, lemons can clean a surprising number of places in the house, replacing several commercial cleaning products (and nixing the harsh chemicals they can contain). Read on for a roundup of just about every household nook and cranny you can tidy up with lemon.


1. Clean the microwave.
Remove crusty, caked-on gunk by microwaving a bowl of water and fresh lemon juice (or rinds) for 3 to 5 minutes or until boiling. Wait another 5 minutes before opening the door; this allows the steam to do its work on the walls. Finally, remove the lemon water and wipe down the inside walls of the microwave.


2. Refresh wooden cutting boards.
Is your wooden cutting board stained or smelling like garlic? Sprinkle some salt on it, then scrub with the cut side of half a lemon. Rinse, then repeat if needed. Your board will be refreshed and ready to use.


3. Deodorize your drain.
Run a few lemon rinds through the garbage disposal to eliminate sink stink.


4. Polish furniture.
Make your own natural furniture polish by combining 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Apply with a cloth to wood tables and chairs. (Note: Not all finishes are created equal, so before committing to the whole piece, try the DIY polish on a small, out-of-the-way section to confirm that it won't stain.)


5. Remove stubborn stains from containers.
To get rid of the residue last week's spaghetti sauce left on your Tupperware, rub lemon juice on the stains. Let sit for 15 minutes before rinsing.


6. Freshen your fridge.
Icky odors every time you open the doors? Cut a lemon in half and place it inside the refrigerator. Leave it in there for about 30 minutes. That'll do the trick! (Get tips to maximize your fridge space, here.)


7. Clean a cheese grater.
Save sponges from getting shredded by wiping graters with a lemon before washing. It'll loosen up any debris stuck in the small crevices.


8. Give the dishwasher a boost.
Fill a dishwasher-safe container with a cup of lemon juice (or toss in a few lemon wedges), set on the top rack, and run the load as normal for perfectly clean, shiny plates.


9. Brighten up faucets.
Remove hard water buildup or mineral deposits from your faucets by spritzing lemon juice on the affected area. Wait 10-15 minutes before wiping off. (Got a grungy showerhead? A Ziploc bag can help with that.)


10. Make your pots gleam.
Sprinkle some coarse salt on the cut side of a lemon and rub all over any copper, aluminum or brass kitchenware. Rinse well and dry. This'll remove tarnished spots in a jiff.


11. Use as an air freshener.
For pleasant aromas all throughout the house, fill a pot with water, lemon rinds and your favorite combination of herbs, spices or extracts. Bring to a boil, then let simmer on the stove for an hour. We love to do this before guests come over.


12. Wipe the floors clean.
Instead of using harsh chemicals to clean floorboards, scrub them with a mixture of 1 part lemon juice, 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water. The vinegar smell might bug you at first, but it will fade. This solution is ideal for people with kids and/or pets, since crawling on a dirty floor or a floor cleaned with chemicals isn't healthy.


13. Clean grill grates.
Turn the grill on high, then rub with the cut side of half a lemon. (Careful! It will get hot, so work quickly. Sometimes we use a sturdy pair of heat-safe tongs for the job.) For extra abrasiveness, dip the lemon in salt first.


14. Keep insects out.
Prevent potential pest problems by squeezing lemon juice along windowsills or doors. It'll deter them from even trying to break in.


15. Restore your grout.
The natural acidity in lemons is perfect for tackling any dirt or discoloration in grout. Spray lemon juice on the target area and let sit for at least 10 minutes before scrubbing.


16. Degrease pans.
Adding just a teaspoon of lemon juice to your soapy dishwater helps tackle extra-greasy dishes (and it smells nice for the person who's washing the dishes).


17. Remove rust.
Make a paste with lemon juice and salt to brighten up items that've been touched by rust.


18. Wipe down counters.
Use lemon juice on countertops! The citric acid will lift tough stains and act as a natural disinfectant. (Though this treatment is safe for most surfaces, we recommend testing it first on a small, hidden section before taking it to the entire countertop.)


19. Clean the oven.
Buildup begone! Fill an oven-safe baking dish with water and lemon juice, then bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees. After the oven has cooled, remove the dish and sponge any remaining grime from the oven's interior.


20. Wash the windows.
Skip the chemicals! Instead, combine water and lemon juice in a spray bottle to clean glass windows, mirrors and doors. (Using newspaper rather than paper towels is another excellent and economical trick for creating a streak-free shine!)

We love lemons for their sweet scent and antiseptic properties, so save those leftover rinds and juice. A cleaner home is just a peel away.


Feeling inspired to give your cleaning routine an eco-friendly overhaul? Baking soda is another power cleaner; find 50 ideas for it here.