Clean Your Home with Trash

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cleaner ingredients
Scrap vinegar and dried orange peels

This winter, I hoarded orange peels compulsively. I found so many uses for them: a looseleaf chai blend, candied citrus peels, frozen zest, fire starters too apparently although I didn’t have much luck with those—or perhaps I did seeing as I didn’t burn down my kitchen.

I also used some peels to make a household cleaner.

A few bloggers I follow highly recommend a household cleaner made of orange peels steeped in distilled white vinegar. Citrus peels contain d-Limonene, a natural compound that breaks down oil. Many commercial cleaners contain it.

To make your own “Now with d-Limonene!” cleaner, simply submerge orange peels in vinegar inside a sealed jar for at least two weeks. Strain and use your cleaner around your home, either full-strength or diluted with water.

I loved the idea when I heard it. Then I thought, why not make it out of orange peels and homemade scrap vinegar! What could be more frugal? I basically made cleaner out of waste.

“Scrap what?” you may ask

To make scrap vinegar, place fruit peels in a jar, add a bit of sugar, pour water over top, stir daily several times and allow the mixture to ferment for about 10 days or so. You can read my post about scrap vinegar here.

I wanted to make citrus scrap vinegar this winter but didn’t get around to it. Fortunately Annie at the wonderful blog Kitchen Counter Culture did—a homemade citrus scrap vinegar beauty potion.

  • Orange peels, dried or fresh (I tested it both ways and both work)
  • Scrap vinegar

1. Fill a jar with citrus peels.

2. Pour in enough vinegar to cover the peels. Insert a weight to keep the peels submerged in the jar. A small jar within a jar works well.

ready to steep
Peels, scrap vinegar and a jar within a jar

3. Close jar with the lid. The lid will force down the jar or weight and keep the peels submerged.

4. Store jar with your other science experiments and wait a couple of weeks.

science experiments

5. Strain. I use a cloth-lined sieve over a bowl.

strain peels

6. Gather up the corners of the cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the peels.

squeeze the peels

7. Store in a jar and use full-strength or diluted with water to clean sinks, tiles, toilets and so on.

finished vinegar

Citrus Peel Scrap Vinegar Cleaner

1. Fill a jar with citrus peels.

2. Pour in enough vinegar to cover the peels. Insert a jar or weight to keep the peels submerged in the jar.

3. Close jar with the lid.

4. Store for two weeks at room temperature.

5. Strain through a cloth-lined sieve.

6. Gather together the corners of the cloth and squeeze out as much liquid from the peels as possible.

7. Store in a jar and use full-strength or diluted with water to clean sinks, tiles, toilets and so on.

36 Replies to “Clean Your Home with Trash”

  1. That’s awesome that you even made your own vinegar. Thanks for the recipes and the detailed pictures!

    I’m using up my stock of Earth Friendly Parsley Plus spray that I had gotten for free from Walmart a couple of years ago but once that’s done, I’ll be trying out your vinegar and degreaser spray. I love the “no waste” aspect and bring able to upcycled/reuse items that others would throw away. I have been composting my orange peels (and also making marmalade, freezing zest, I want to make the candied orange peels but haven’t gotten around to it yet) so this is a great idea for yet another use for them. I’m in Central Florida so we have oranges galore! I linked to your post but my own post won’t be published until later on tonight.

    1. Thank you. I was so happy when I figured out how to make vinegar. It’s basically free and incredibly useful. I should have mentioned in the post that scrap vinegar is not as strong as something like cider vinegar, but this certainly is vinegar. You’ll have vats of orange cleaner, living in Florida 😉 Thanks so much for including me in your scheduled post 🙂

  2. Thanks a lot for posting this great tip!

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you for checking it out 🙂

  3. Wonderful cleaning recipe. I just used up that last of my husbands favorite orange cleaner and have been trying to think of a replacement. I’ll give this a try! I use orange cleaner to remove the grease stains he gets from working around aircraft components in a shop environment.

    1. Wow, that is potent stuff if it gets out grease stains. I hadn’t thought to use this in the laundry. Thanks for the idea 🙂

  4. I’m thinking about trying my hand at making other scented vinegars to clean with – like lavender or rosemary. They might not have the same properties as orange peels, but vinegar is a pretty good cleaning agent on its own, so the idea of a scented version appeals to me. I’ve done lavender infused gin, so I don’t think vinegar would be that much different. Let you know how it turns out.

    1. Ohhh, what a good idea. I have lots of rosemary. I want to try that too! Thanks for the idea and yes, please let me know how it turns out. I have a big jug of vodka for cleaning and making vanilla. That would probably work well with the orange peels or herbs too…

  5. Like you, I find making cleaning products out of waste incredibly satisfying. It is like giving something that has already worked for you the most dignified end possible!

    I have a few suggestions of my own. If you drink black tea, made from tea leaves rather than bags, keep the tea leaves. They are mildly astringent and mildly abrasive. Pop a scant teaspoon on a damp soft cloth and use them to clean the mirrors. Use more for cleaning the windows, but scrub with newspaper – more waste – rather than a damp cloth.

    Another great use of citrus peal is lemon peel infused dusters. When you’ve finished with lemons, i.e. after using the remnants of pith and juice to scrub the taps (I think you call them faucets in North America) to lift limescale, peel of the lemon rind with a potato peeler o knife. Then take soft clothes. Pop a few pieces on each. Roll them up. Pop them in an empty jam jar for a couple of weeks. Then use the soft clothes as dusters for polishing wood/wooden laminate.

    Our great grandparents really new a thing or too about cleaning!

    1. Thank you for all of these great suggestions, Meg! I had no idea you could use tea leaves this way. I’ve been composting them all these years! If I don’t use them immediately after making my second cup of tea (I get at least two cups out of them), how long do you think they will keep in a jar? Maybe longer if I put them in the refrigerator? I’ll try your dusters too. My piano and my daughter’s violin will look fantastic polished with those! Just when I thought I had wrung every last use out of food waste, you have given me more ideas! 🙂 I agree, our great-grandparents knew so much! We have forgotten the basics.

      1. When I pour off the leaves, I leave them to drain in a tea strainer first till they are bone dry. Then I pop them in a jar for 3-4 days. Some go onto the compost, some into cleaning products. Oftentimes, I will use the tea leaves again before treating them as ingredients for cleaning products or for dyeing. (As I like browns, I am practicing with dyeing scavenged fabric with tea. Okay, maybe this is taking zero waste/circular economy to extremes but I don’t care!) I love making tea loaves, Bara Brith (a Welsh fruit loaf) and Barm Brack (an Irish fruit cake) – dried fruit is a big thing in the British Isles! All these recipes involve soaking dried raisins/currants/sultanas in tea overnight. This is rooted in British thriftiness. It cuts out the need for butter in cakes and milk in sweet fruit loaves!

        By the way, I polish my violin and viola with lemon peeled dusters too!

      2. Ooooh, what a great idea to dye fabric! That’s not taking it too far! No such thing! I would love to dry some fruit in the solar food dehydrator my neighbor lends me and make those tea loaves. How’s that for thrifty?! Thanks for all the ideas 🙂

        You have a viola also? My daughter would love to have one…

  6. Not only effective, but I bet this smells divine as well! Much better than chemical commercial cleaners 😉

    1. It does smell great! I forgot to mention that in the post. Thank you for pointing that out, Karen 🙂

    2. Does the peel have to be on there for this to work? Or can you just use the pith part if you have zested or used the skin for something else?

      1. Hi Tiffany,
        I haven’t tried it with just the pith. I think it’s worth a try, maybe with a small amount.
        ~ Anne Marie

  7. oh this is a good one – thanks .I have been using the baking soda as cleaner idea and it works – I once cleaned around the windows with lemon as lemon oil is supposed to deter the spiders from setting up base – they’re back now so didnt follow up on that one but I am off to the kitchen now to make a lemon cleaner – no oranges around at the moment but when they are…

    1. You’re welcome, Sandra. Thank you for checking it out 🙂 I use baking soda for so many things, including washing greasy dishes. Lemons would also work for this. They contain d-Limonene also. We’ve had more oranges than lemons so I’ve been using those.

  8. Re: Scrap vinegar, I have some apple scraps that I’ve been storing in the freezer to go in my green bin later, could I still use these for the vinegar? Also, if vinegar flies descend upon my house are they easy to get rid of or do I have to burn the place down? :-0 😉

    1. Yes that should work! The first time I made it, I used apple peels and cored I had stored in the freezer. Unless I make an apple pie or crumble, I don’t have enough peels. It’s a good excuse to make and eat a pie though 😉

      I haven’t had much trouble with flies. I get some from my kombucha brewing but not too many. Just be sure to cover your scrap vinegar with a cloth and attach it snugly with a rubber band. You shouldn’t have to burn even the kitchen down 🙂

  9. a simple, good idea. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for checking it out, Cynthia 🙂

  10. […] Don’t toss out those lemon rinds just yet! Head over the the Zero-Waste Chef’s blog to find out how to turn those peels into scrap vinegar; it’s great as an all-purpose cleaner! […]

  11. Is it possible to just use lemon peels instead of orange?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Yes Yasmeen. That would also work. Any citrus will–lime, grapefruit, lemon, oranges… Thanks for asking! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Oh okay! Thanks for responding!

  12. A late comment: Anne Marie have you ever had a scoby form in your finished jar? It looks like I have one, and I didn’t even use scrap vinegar. But I’m thinking it’s fine?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jen,
      Yes I have! It’s always a little thrill when that happens. I’ve used the scobys to make kombucha!
      ~ Anne Marie

  13. Oh, interesting! I didn’t know you could transfer scobys between mediums. The person who gave me a green tea scoby said it was for green tea only! Anyway, thanks for reassuring me it was the good kind of floating growth 😉

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Oh I put mine in green, oolong, puerh and sometimes a combo of green and black. Someone told me I couldn’t make kombucha with one (and she was very hostile!) but I read in The Art of Fermentation that vinegar and kombucha scobys are identical and I made the stuff and have been drinking it, so…

      1. My husband has made kombucha with green tea for years with great success. I flavour vinegar with blackberry or guava for vinaigrette and have only recently tried mixing the two for a very successful and refreshing change of flavour. Once you start on a new idea, it just takes you ‘off the grid’ into all kinds of adventures!

  14. KanadrAllegria Schmunn says: Reply

    I decided to try making this recipe… In July of last year. It’s been 8 months since I put the orange peels in the vinegar, and I just found the jar on my pantry shelf and decided to strain the peels out. They are pale as ghosts, and the liquid smells heavenly! Like orange candies, no vinegar smell left at all. I did test it out on the counter top and it felt a little “thick”, but after a wipe with a damp cloth, and then a dry towel, the countertop looks great WouWo you say it’s still safe to use to clean things with? Should I dilute it, rather than use it straight? I’m definitely excited to try it out for washing the floor.

  15. Great article! I tried this once, but I think I left the orange peels in too long, maybe 3-4 weeks. When I used the cleaner, it left surfaces sticky, so I had to abandon it. It also got much darker after a couple of weeks. Has anyone else had the experience of the cleaner becoming too sticky? I will try again but only leave the peels in for 2 weeks!

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  17. I attempted to remove a raised mole from my face with ACV. After a few day of applying ACV, the scab formed and it came off, leaving a slightly raised area. It seems as only the top of the mole came off on too if this there is yellow discharge coming out. I used lots of different ointments but it’s been three days and it’s not getting better, wonder whether I should see a doctor?
    What do you guys recommend?
    Thanks for advice

    1. Hello! I would call the doctor right away and make an appointment as soon as possible.
      ~ Anne-Marie

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