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.
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).
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 350.org.)
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.
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.
Scouring Powder With Orange or Lemon Zest
- 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!
- Taste Canada silver for single-subject cookbooks
- Second-place Gourmand cookbook award in the category of food waste
- Shortlisted for an award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals