How to Make Scouring Powder With Orange or Lemon Zest

A jam jar with a blue lid sits on a while counter. The jam jar is filled with homemade scouring powder containing bits of dried citrus zest.
Jump to Recipe

Zest all the oranges and lemons for this simple, effective scouring powder. Save money, use up more food scraps and enjoy a truly natural scent.

Citrus peels contain d-Limonene, a natural compound that breaks down oil, making it an effective cleaning agent. Many commercial cleaning products contain d-Limonene, from brands containing more natural ingredients to this bottle of hazardous waste.

You can make your own “Now with d-Limonene!” scouring powder with a handful of simple ingredients: baking soda, salt, washing soda (sodium carbonate) and citrus zest. Except for the washing soda, we eat all this stuff. And the washing soda earns an A+ from the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Look for washing soda in the laundry aisle of grocery stores. If you live near a refillery or very good bulk store, it may carry it. If you can’t find it, the baking soda–salt–citrus combo should still work quite well. You can also transform easy-to-find baking soda into harder-to-find washing soda by baking it.

Clean seasonally

If you harvest and dry orange and lemon zest during citrus season, you’ll have plenty of zest to last throughout the year (assuming you eat a decent amount of citrus).

Closeup of lemons hanging on a lemon tree among lots of dark green leaves
Our lemon tree
A large green unripe pomelo hangs on the tree, surrounded by lots of large green leaves. A hand upholds the pomelo from the bottom.
Our volunteer pomelo tree

Lemon and orange trees grow all over the place around here. You’ll see lemon-filled boxes with free signs here and there on the side of the road. Or if you work in waste management like my daughter MK does, a driver might share a box of oranges someone on his route set out for him. The juicy oranges pictured above tasted so sweet!

Step 1: Harvest and dry zest for the citrus scouring powder

If you don’t have enough zest to make this, stash zest in the freezer and after you’ve accumulated enough, dry that out and proceed. Or dry the zest as you go after each orange or lemon (or grapefruit or pomelo…) and store it until you make the scouring powder.

Zest whole citrus with a microplane or the small holes of a box grater before you eat it or cook with it. Zesting cut pieces is frustrating.

Dry the zest on a dish

I usually dry my zest by spreading a thin layer across a dish and covering it with a thin towel. I you live in a humid area, where mold might develop, you can dry the zest in the oven at a very low temperature.

Dry the zest in the oven

Because zest occupies such a small amount of space, a toaster will suffice to dehydrate it. Whatever oven you use, set its temperature very low, around 170°F. Break the zest clumps up with a fork every 15 minutes and dehydrate for about 45 minutes total or until the zest has dried out.

On a hot sunny day, you could dry zest outside but citrus, a winter crop, grow in, well, winter (although our lemon tree is never bare) and the weather has been freakishly cold. (If the out-of-whack weather has triggered your eco-anxiety, consider joining a climate-focused group such as

Step 2: Mix together the homemade citrus scouring powder

To transform my somewhat clumpy orange zest and somewhat large pieces of lemon zest into a finer consistency, I ground them up. I wouldn’t worry too much about this though. Coarse bits will help scour surfaces. I used a Magic Bullet to grind up the zest. A mortar and pestle would also work well as would a spice mill or coffee grinder.

After processing the citrus zest, mix it together with baking soda, salt and washing soda.

Step 3: Clean

To use the scouring powder, sprinkle it on a surface, scrub and rinse away. I compost the citrus zest that the drain strainer catches.

Closeup of a metal sieve in the center of a kitchen sink. The sieve has caught a small amount of citrus zest.
Compost these little bits

This citrus scouring powder removed all of the rust from the mouth of the jar below and most of the rust from the lid. This jar had contained conditioner and sat in the shower, where it developed rust. If you ferment food, you probably have a rusty jar or two on hand.

A glass jar with rust around the mouth and its rusty lid sit on a grey and white marble background
Rusty jar and lid before and after
A jam jar with a blue lid sits on a while counter with jars of white powders behind it. The jam jar is filled with homemade scouring powder with dried citrus zest.
A jar of this looks nice enough to leave out on the counter.
A jam jar with a blue lid sits on a while counter with jars of white powders behind it. The jam jar is filled with homemade scouring powder with dried citrus zest.
5 from 1 vote

Scouring Powder With Orange or Lemon Zest

Use this money-saving homemade scouring powder to clean sinks, tubs and other grimy surfaces.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Yield: 1 cup


  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup salt
  • ¼ cup washing soda
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground dried citrus zest lemon, orange, grapefruit or lime or a combination of citrus


  • Place ingredients in a jar, close it and shake the contents to combine everything well.
  • Sprinkle the scouring powder onto dirty, grimy surfaces, scrub with a damp sponge or rag and rinse.

Check out my award-winning cookbook!

Learn more about my book here.

US Cover

10 Replies to “How to Make Scouring Powder With Orange or Lemon Zest”

  1. Thank you for this recipe, I haven’t been saving my citrus zest, I do go through a lot of limes. Always have found washing soda (the only place I have found it) at Canadian Tire.

  2. Hi Anne Marie, have you by any chance done any research on soda productions? I’d love to hear your take on it. Thank you.

  3. Great idea Anne-Marie! The acid from the citrus really loves to activate that baking soda!

    1. Thank you Dorothy 🙂

  4. Genius idea! I’ve long used plain baking soda to scrub things, but I never thought of adding citrus zest. Gonna try it.

    1. Thank you! It works really well and smells great. Enjoy!

  5. Can you not just use dried peals?

    1. Do you mean zest alone? That might work. You’d need lots of zest. I’ll give it a try.

  6. Anne-Marie, thank you for this wonderful web page. I stumbled upon it quite randomly, but find myself every now and then reading more of your blog posts. Thank you for your amazing job here!
    I have a question about dried orange peels. We have dried a bunch of them. We did it for the scent purposes. Now we have a whole kitchen bowl full of them and not sure what to do. We do not want to compost them, but to use for example somehow for anything else, aside eating, as we kept the bowl in the bathroom. This post inspired me to see if you have any recommendations. They are usual big peel pieces and hard. What do you suggest we should with them?

  7. We are looking forward to your reply, Anne-Marie.

Leave a Reply