Five Cleaning Uses for Lemons and Lemon Juice in the Kitchen

by kajohu

Using lemons and lemon juice is an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to clean and disinfect various items in your kitchen and in the rest of your house.

I happened to come across a great use for lemon juice a few weeks ago, after I had discovered that our dishes were occasionally coming out of the dishwasher with ugly yellow-brown stains.

I found out that the yellow-brown staining is from iron and manganese in the water. The suggested solution was to run the discolored dishes through the dishwasher using citric acid crystals instead of detergent. Citric acid dissolves rust and other mineral deposits.

I didn’t have citric acid crystals, but I did have lemon juice. And I know that lemons, being a citrus fruit, have citric acid. A bright idea was born (pun intended)!

I soaked my stained dishes in a basin of water with 1/4 cup of lemon juice and let them sit for about half an hour. And voila! The stains were gone, and the dishes sparkled!

What Else Can Be Cleaned With Lemon?

I was so impressed with how quickly and easily the lemon juice solution cleaned my stained dishes that I started searching for other ways to use lemon (either the fruit or just the juice) for cleaning in the kitchen

Here are five of my favorite uses. 



Use #1 -- Clean Yellow-Brown Stains From Dishes

Over a short period of time we were noticing that our light-colored dishes and mugs were coming out of the dishwasher with yellow-brown stains.  

As I mentioned above, I discovered that this was due to high iron or manganese content in the water (I suspect it was mostly iron in our case), and the suggestion was to run the dishes through the dishwasher using citric acid crystals rather than detergent.

Instead, I soaked the dishes in a solution of about 1/4 c. of lemon juice in a couple gallons of water for about 1/2 hour.   You can see the results on one of the stained plates, below.

This was an easy and inexpensive solution.  We always have a bottle of lemon juice in the refrigerator, and using the lemon juice solution worked well.

Before and after soaking in water mixed with lemon juice
Before and after soaking in water mixed with lemon juice
My own photos

Use #2 - Clean Tarnished Copper-Bottom Cookwear

This is an amazing way to remove tarnish from copper-bottomed pots and pans. 

Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with with salt, and scrub it over the copper bottom.  The tarnish will disappear quickly with very little effort, leaving a bright copper finish.    The salt is necessary for this to work quickly, due to a chemical reaction between the salt and the lemon juice.  I tried rubbing with just a lemon half, and nothing happened.

Soaking the copper bottom in a lemon juice / water mixture also works, but not nearly as quickly. 

Make sure to rinse the pots well afterward, and then dry them, otherwise the copper oxide and salt will combine to form a blue-green color. 

This also works for other copper and brass objects. Try it on your brass candlesticks, but make sure they are real brass and not just brass-plated.  Lemons and anything acidic may remove brass-plating.

Lemon and salt remove copper tarnish
Lemon and salt remove copper tarnish
My own photos

Use #3 - Remove Mineral Deposits from Teapots

Or Clean Aluminim Pots

Cut a few slices of lemon and boil them in water in your teapot.   Let sit for a couple of hours, then rinse well and dry.

This also works for cleaning your aluminum pots.

A nice side-effect of this cleaning method is that it also acts as an air-freshener for your kitchen and nearby rooms.

Remove mineral buildup in teapot
Remove mineral buildup in teapot
My own photos

Use #4 - Deodorize and Remove Stains From Wooden Cutting Boards

If you've been cutting onions and garlic or other strong-smelling food on your wood cutting board, you can neutralize the odors by rubbing the board with a lemon half and letting the juice soak into the wood.   You don't need to rinse it.

If your cutting board is stained, rub a paste of baking soda and lemon juice into the stain and rinse.  You can also try a lemon half with salt (as shown with the copper-bottom pot, above), although I had quicker results with the baking soda / lemon juice paste.

I tested this cleaning method with my own wooden cutting board, shown below. I spilled a little coffee on the left side and a little red wine on the right and let it dry.    Dish soap and water didn't remove the stain, but the paste worked quickly for me. It actually turned the wine side a grayish color to begin with, but a little more scrubbing got rid of that too.

Note that this baking soda / lemon juice paste will foam the same way as adding vinegar to baking soda.  The foaming action helps to deep clean into the cuts and scratches in the cutting board.

Clean and deodorize cutting boards
Clean and deodorize cutting boards
My own photos

Use #5 - Deodorize and Clean Garbage Disposal

Whether you have been cooking or cleaning with lemons, throw your used lemon peels into the garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh and to clean the disposal blades. 

Or sprinkle 1/2 cup baking soda into the drain and add lemon juice.   It will foam for awhile, loosening up any grunge on the blades.   After 5 - 10 minutes, rinse with hot water while running the garbage disposal.

Deodorize and clean garbage disposal
Deodorize and clean garbage disposal
My own photo

Read the Book "Secrets of Lemon"

Household uses and more

As well as containing information on the health benefits of using lemon, and recipes for personal beauty care, this practical book also has a good section on how to use lemons for house and laundry cleaning.

Lemon deodorizes and disinfects household objects, brightens clothes, and eliminates certain stains.  This section will tell you how.

And there are some really yummy-sounding lemon food recipes too!

Try it Yourself

You can see that these methods for cleaning with lemon are all variations on a theme.  Try them out for yourself.   What else can you clean with lemon?

If cleaning with just a lemon half doesn't work, add salt or baking soda to it.   Or make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda or salt.

I'd love to hear what works for you and what doesn't!

Updated: 01/21/2014, kajohu
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kajohu on 01/13/2014

Thanks, WriterArtist -- yes, lemon is very good for cleaning and deodorizing!

kajohu on 01/13/2014

Thanks, ologsinquito -- that's the reason that I decided I needed to write about it -- the results were so dramatic :-)

WriterArtist on 01/13/2014

Lemon is a great cleansing agent and fights bad odour too.

ologsinquito on 01/13/2014

I knew lemon was good for cleaning, but the before and after pictures are amazing. I'm pinning this to My Wizzley Writing board.

kajohu on 01/12/2014

Thanks, Abby :-) And trying out these methods made it more fun to clean as well.

AbbyFitz on 01/12/2014

These are really great green cleaners

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