Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How to Make Homemade Orange Power Cleaner

February 5th, 2013 · 63 Comments · Cleaning, Frugality, Green Living

Homemade Orange Power Cleaner :: via Kitchen Stewardship

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I love making something out of nothing.

I’m still not a composter (*cringe* I know, I know, get on top of that one, Katie), so anytime I can reuse food scraps before I toss them, it makes me indescribably happy. I posted a while back on Ways to Cook with Garbage, and now I have a great one for how to clean with garbage.

It’s the time of year that we always have oranges around – they’re not exactly “in season” in Michigan, but they’re on sale at the grocery store thanks to those warmer climates where oranges are in season.

Here’s one way to use the peels rather than tossing them.

  • Juice about 3-4 oranges or save the peels from eating them.
  • Put empty rinds into a quart jar.
  • Cover with white vinegar.
  • Allow to sit for about 2 weeks, either in a cabinet or on the counter.
  • Shake when you think of it.

Homemade Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

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After 2 weeks, strain out the vinegar, which will smell clean and citrus-y. Really. It will. There’s no other way to describe it – the bite of smelling straight vinegar is gone, and the orange smell is heavenly.

Citrus will help cut the grease when cleaning and be a good substitute for those commercial orange cleaners that harness the natural cleaning power of oranges and then adulterate it with a bunch of other junk.

UPDATE: A reader shared in the comments that she makes this out of grapefruit peels, which makes me pretty confident that lemon would work excellently as well. I’m trying both this week – maybe I can finally have that “Pledge” smell for dusting again but without the chemicals!

If you’re digging natural, homemade cleaners and want more recipes, my friend Michelle has an eBook with dozens of natural cleaning recipes, and for even more fun, try Food on Your Face for Acne and Oily Skin by Crunchy Betty – love her!

Store citrus vinegar in a glass jar for a very long time – no reason this should go bad. I got about 1.5-2 cups from a quart jar, and I was still using a jar from last year just this week.

How to use your new orange power cleaner

citrus cleaner (1) (356x475)

  • Mix in a ratio of anywhere from 1:1 to 8:1 with water in a spray bottle and clean anything, from counters to floors to toilets, with it (but vinegar is not recommended for wood floors, granite, or marble).
  • Pour into your rinse aid dispenser in your dishwasher.
  • Use the orange vinegar as part or all of the vinegar for the natural dishwasher cleaning method.

Those readers who know me will have already guessed that I tried using the rinds for another batch. It works great! The result is perhaps slightly less dark than the original, but surely will still have great cleaning power and smells great. (I do the same thing with bones for everlasting chicken stock.)

Use the Peels a Third Time!

Once you’ve strained out your vinegar, keep the jar of orange rinds by the sink. They shouldn’t mold after all that vinegar. About once a week or when your garbage disposal gets a little stinky, use the rind to wipe around your entire sink, especially the drain area, and then put down your disposal. It smells great! Combine with a little baking soda to really scrub the grime out of the sink.

I learned the method here.

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63 Comments so far ↓

  • Amy

    Katie,
    I use vinegar instead of Downy in my washing machine. Do you think this would be a weird substitute? I’m kind of thinking that orange-smelling clothes would either be really fabulous or really awful :-)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Amy,
    I’m sure that would all be a matter of opinion. I haven’t found it to be sticky – might not be quite strong enough to make the clothes have a scent. Worth a try! :) Katie

  • Evie

    This looks awesome!

  • Evie

    Is it gross to use peels that people have eaten off of or will the vinegar disinfect them?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Evie,
    The vinegar should disinfect it just great. If you have a choice, I would still opt for not-eaten peels myself though… :) Katie

  • Angelique

    I did this last year. My bottles of diluted mix formed kombucha-like scobys that clogged (and ruined) the spray nozzles. It was gross.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Angelique,
    Really!! Ooo, yucky. I did not have that happen at all; I wonder what the difference was. :(
    Katie

    Kristen @ Smithspirations Reply:

    I’ve also had that happen, Angelique! I’m not sure what it is, either. It kind of reminds me of the “mother” that’s in raw ACV. I’ve restrained my vinegar when I see it and then continue to use. It is annoying, though!

    Laurie Reply:

    Annoying? No WAY! Use the mother to make more vinegar – I’ve never tried it, but I’ll bet if you poured apple cider in a jar and put the scoby/mother in it, you’d end up with great apple cider vinegar!

  • Jendeis

    A tip for those who don’t compost for their own use (yet): we save compostable items in a bag in our freezer to donate to my SIL’s compost pile.

  • Margot C

    Heh, yeah this is fun and for some reason is enjoying a surge of interest just lately. In fact I did it again recently myself. That smell is wonderful.

    Angelique is right about the strange kombucha-like phenomenon though because I have done this before.

    I think if the mixture was made from only the orange bits of the rind (not the white styrofoamy parts) then that would cut out or eliminate that, or maybe adding some isopropanol. I haven’t tried this mind you. I did stick my recent one in the refrigerator, but that only adds so much life. So, I used it up in the dishwasher doing the vinegar thing in the natural dishwashing method that you showed me about here (and which is so awesome!).

    As for composting, I don’t want to be a natural nag, but really it’s so easy and rewarding. Do you have the space for it?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Margot,
    I know, I know…it’s just getting the system started. I know once I get going it will be easy, but let’s put it this way: we moved 14 months ago now, and I still have over a dozen boxes not unpacked!!! I’m just….busy.

    I wonder what the difference is with the yucky film. I totally didn’t have that happen in a whole year, but now I want to go check my other jars…
    :) Katie

  • Jacqueline

    I do the same thing, with grapefruit. Love it! I do use just the rinds, no inner skin or anything, in response to some of the comments above.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jacqueline,
    Oh , good! I’m going to update the post with this note. I’m sure lemon works too; I think I’ll try both this week! :) Katie

    Angelia Reply:

    Yes, lemon works great and I like the smell to I also you tangerines as well

  • blessed

    I was wondering–if some people find there is stuff floating in the mixture that clogs the spray bottles, maybe the mixture needs to be strained when it is being put into the spray containers?

  • Angelique

    I did use the peel only, and strained it through a coffee filter. It still grew bacteria after a few weeks, which clogged the nozzle.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Angelique,
    Now I’m wondering if once it’s diluted with water the problem begins. I’m going to go check all my bottles… :) Katie

  • Kelly

    I’ve done this with grapefruit, lemon, lime, clementines, oranges – you name it, if it’s citrus it goes in the vinegar jar! I always filter it through cheese cloth. Perhaps boiling (and cooling) the water you use for dilution would help those people who are getting funky spray bottles. That has never happened to me, but that might be a possible solution.

    Katie – get a tumble style composter, they are SO easy and you don’t have to see or smell the compost pile and it’s really easy to give it a turn whenever you add scraps. Just keep it close to the kitchen so it’s convenient to dump stuff out there.

  • Diana

    I put citrus down my garbage disposal, but never thought to wipe down the sink with it first. I bet that would make the orange aroma even better! :) Thanks!

  • Susan

    After squeezing lemons or lime for a recipe, I take the inside (pulp stuff that is still attached to rind) and wipe my sink down, then throw them down the garbage disposal to me ground up. I love the smell it makes.

    Also, with regards to white vinegar…if you happen to leave a load of laundry in the washing machine overnight (like I sometimes do – just plain forgot about it), and it has that mustly smell – just pour white vinegar over the clothes, add laundry det. and wash again. Takes the musty smell away.

    Also, to clean your microwave, take glass bowl, fill with water about 1/2 way – and add vinegar (about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup) – let the microwave run ( I do for 15 minutes – but can do less), long enough to get the top and sides steamy – wipe down microwave. I then pour vinegar down my drain where garbage disposal is – you could probably put bowl and vinegar in dishwasher to clean dishwasher.

    Susan

    Stephanie Reply:

    WARNING: It is possible to SUPERHEAT water in the microwave to the point that it “explodes.” It is rare, but does happen. Please be careful heating water in the microwave for long periods of time.

  • Denise

    I have a ton of lemon peels in my freezer that i dehydrated after receiving more than enough lemons from a friends tree… I wonder if these will work???

    ericka Reply:

    Denise, I’ve used dehydrated citrus for this and it works great!

  • Stacy Makes Cents

    Girl – you are so frugal. This whole post just makes me smile…but yeah, I had the same problem as some readers with the scoby gunk – only after it sits a while though, so I just don’t make a ton of it. And I hadn’t added water yet.

  • Jill

    When you say to mix the vinegar in a spray bottle, what do you mix the vinegar with? Water?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jill,
    Ah, good point. Missed a beat there! Yes, with water. Just a few Tbs. to maybe 1/4 cup vinegar with 32 oz. water or so. :) Katie

  • Brittney @ Sound in Wind and Limb

    Wow! Thanks for sharing! I use lemon essential oils and thieves cleaner from Young Living and works great! I’ll have to try your orange recipe :-)

  • robyn

    I use citrus peels to clean the microwave too. Just put some in a bowl of water. Nuke it for 4 mins or so to get it nice and hot. Let it sit there and steam for 10 minutes, then pull out the bowl (to pour down the disposal) and wipe down the inside of your microwave. The citrus steam dissolves any gunk.

  • Alissa

    I love this post and all the “easy fix” comments. I am a super lazy cleaner, so I need these simple methods in my life. This whole series: make citrus vinegar, then steam peels in water to clean the mircowave, then pour down the garbage disposal…. so awesome! Going to start ASAP.

    I’m thinking you could actually put a jar 1/2 full of vinegar by the sink and slowly add citrus peels to it over a couple days and end up with the same result.

  • LauraSC

    I just set up a wide mouth Mason jar beside my sink. Cut up an orange and put the peels in the jar to get started. That was a tasty orange, too, so I am sure it will make me some fine orange vinegar. I have read that vinegar tinctures need to be stored in the refrigerator. I don’t know if this goes for citrus, too. I don’t have all my peels together just yet, but one option is to bring the vinegar to a boil and pour over the peels to extract more. Once it cools, you still have to let it soak for a couple of weeks or more shaking it every few days. This is such a great idea to keep handy for vinegar cleaning.

  • Kristen @ Smithspirations

    Like some others commented, I’ve gotten the floaty goop in my citrus vinegars, but I keep using them. I just strain them again when I notice it. I’ve also had the vinegar darken over time, so I wonder if refrigerating would help. It doesn’t smell any different, though. It was nice to read other ladies find the goop in their vinegar, too, because I was wondering what in the world I had done wrong!

  • Lanette

    Any cleaners using vinegar/acid should not be used on granite or marble. It can dull the marbles and eat away at the granite sealer.

  • Julie

    I have a great recipe for furniture polish that smells just like Pledge…not for regular dusting though, but for occasional polishing. Your wood looks great when you’re finished.

    2 cups olive oil
    juice of 1 lemon
    20 drops lemon essential oil

    Mix all ingredients together in a clean glass jar. Dip a lint-free cloth into the mixture and use to polish and buff wood.

  • Annette

    I have been doing something very similar this past year….save citrus scraps in an old plastic juice bottle, mix water with brown sugar, add to citrus scraps, loosely close lid and set in cool dark place for 3 months. I give it a shake every now and then and release the pressure too if the lid is closed too tight. I add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar after I strain. This stuff is an amazing cleaner. Pineapple is my favorite.

  • Carrie

    I did this too, but heated it on low till it smelled more like citrus than vinegar (i didn’t let it boil), let it sit a couple days and strained it into my spray bottle. i got the idea from the quick method mentioned on your vanilla recipe post and learning a bit about making tinctures. I think it works really well for cleaning! I’m thinking about using it for the vinegar conditioning wash on my hair too so it doesn’t make my bathroom smell so much like vinegar.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Carrie – love the idea for the hair conditioner! Might have to steal that one. I also wonder if your method to infuse the citrus into the vinegar would help those people who are getting moldy clogs in their spray bottles…
    :) Katie

  • Rachel

    I’ve done this with clementine peel and it works well also. I imagine from what I’m seeing in the posts that most citrus seems to work well. I wonder what a combination might be like.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Rachel,
    Someone replied to this post via email and said that they combine different ones – even added a cinnamon stick to an orange batch! Yum! :) Katie

  • Vicki B.

    Ugh! We just juiced the last of our oranges yesterday for smoothies. Maybe next time.

  • Dana

    I’ve been doing this for a couple of months and loved it…until I realized it was leaving an orange film on my table and counters. It was quite diluted too. Anyone else have that problem?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Dana,
    I haven’t, but my table surface is so funky…I would never notice! :/ Katie

    Angelia Reply:

    I keep another spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide. I spray orange then the hydrogen then wipe up it is the best for having no residue works great. Just remember to keep them in 2 containers so you wont loose potency..

  • Andria

    I’ve had the gross mother-like stuff at the bottom of my spray bottle when I used orange vinegar but not with the lemon. If you use distilled water it should help. I only mix with water in small batches and keep the rest under the sink in a glass jar. The lemon vinegar doesn’t smell “off” yet (in the jar, NOT mixed with water) but the orange went sorta-bad after about 6 months. You can also freeze the peels after removing them from the vinegar and when you cook something greasy pull a few out to thaw while you cook and when you are ready to clean, run them all over your stove with baking soda to clean the grease off.

  • Rob

    I read this in my RSS feed, and happened to be able to grab about 3 lemons worth of left over wedges from work, threw those in a jar with a couple cups worth of vinegar. Will see how it turns out.

    Been using soapnuts for laundry for a few months now, wondering about adding a bit of vinegar like this to the wash as well.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Rob,
    I think some folks do add it to the laundry – can’t hurt! :) Katie

  • Charlotte

    I started a batch of this a couple days ago, and can’t wait to try it! I use vinegar and water to clean the whole house, so this will be a fun change. I’m wondering about pesticides on the peels, though. I was just thinking that maybe I should only do it with organic, but then even they have bad chemicals. And we buy conventional oranges because organic is so incredibly pricey. My kids go through too many oranges and bananas all winter to splurge on better ones! Do you think it’s bad to have the pesticides in this, or does the vinegar somehow neutralize them?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Charlotte,
    Since pesticides aren’t living things, I can’t imagine that vinegar would neutralize it in any way…but I guess I simply can’t worry about that myself – what little pesticides might get all the way to my kitchen floor or whatever will have to be an acceptable risk. ???

    :) Katie

  • Links to Wrap Up February

    [...] at Kitchen Stewardship explained how to make homemade orange cleaner. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure if I am sold on the idea [...]

  • Tammy

    HI Katie,
    I have a batch of the “brewing”right now. It should be ready for this Friday’s cleaning. I’ve read to use vinegar and water to clean windows. Do you think it would work with this vinegar? I’m not sure if the oil from the orange rinds would cause streaking.
    Thanks.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Tammy,
    I do the same thing and haven’t noticed a problem with greasy streaks… :) Katie

  • VA

    Great post! I see you mention garborators. I read somewhere that these are not good for our waterways as all that scrap food ends up directly in lakes etc. Just FYI if anyone is interested.

  • Jeanne

    I made an orange cleaner using orange peels, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and white vinegar. The vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks add nice cleaning properties as well as the citrus and vinegar. It cleans/smells soooo good! I got the recipe here: http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/06/homemade-orange-peel-white-vinegar-coop.html

  • Angleia

    Tried to purchase the e book you mention on cleaning supplies it said not available. Any new link available?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Angelia,
    Hmmm, your comment came in when we were having some website problems, so maybe that was an issue with the link. This link went right to the site for the cleaning ebook today: https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=166937&c=ib&aff=114298 Hope that helps! :) Katie

  • Gloria

    I have been using white vinegar/water (1:4) on my laminate flooring. Has anyone tried the orange cleaner for this. I am wondering about streaking as I have had such a hard time to find something that will work without streaking. Other than the vinegar/water the only other thing that I have found that works is Natura laminate cleaner with australian tea tree oil.
    That makes me wonder if tea tree oil could be added to the orange cleaner??? any thoughts??

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Gloria,
    I don’t see why one couldn’t add an essential oil…hope it works great for you! :) Katie

  • Kristin

    I just tried this with a lemon. I used a small whole lemon, cut into slices, filled the rest of the jar with white vinegar, and let sit for about 45 days, shaking occasionally. The mixture still smells pretty vinegary to me and my husband, but I am about to dilute it and give it a try! We’ll see how it works!

  • Andrea

    Hi, I came across your post and wanted to respond to the folks we have the moldy problem. I use a diy cleaner and was looking to add citrus to it. I use vinegar, borax, and water. It has been sitting on my counter for weeks with no mold. So I think if you add less orange vinegar just a small cap full goes a long way and borax -which is a natural mold killer , it will help your solution from molding up. I have been using this diy cleaner for a while with no problem. I am going to try to make the orange vingear and use that as my base.

  • Carolyn

    Hi, I’ve never commented on a post before but feel compelled to add my own comments. I’ve been making my own orange oil cleaner for over 6 months now and love it! After I add white vinegar to the orange (and lemon peels if I have them), I put the jar on top of my dryer and turn it upside down every few days. When I put the liquid into a spray bottle after 2 or more weeks I add about the same amount of water and also a small squirt of dawn dish detergent. I’ve never in the 3-4 batches I’ve made had any problem with floaters or clogging and love the fact that I’m not leaving unwanted chemicals behind on any of the surfaces I clean.

  • LadyV

    Katie, have you ever used lemongrass essential oil? It smells just like pledge! So now when I make my homemade wood furniture polish I add lemongrass essential oil to get that familiar scent of Pledge spray. Sometimes I cheat and diffuse the lemongrass too ’cause it makes our home smell like its been cleaned top to bottom.

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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