After much urging from my sister and my friend Becky, I am venturing into the world of homemade cleaners in order to save money and eliminate dangerous chemicals from my household cleaning products.
You can read here about my DIY laundry detergent experiment. Today I’m sharing about the second experiment: orange infused vinegar or DIY Citrus Cleaner.
How to Make DIY Citrus Cleaner
The first step to make this all-purpose citrus cleaner is to slice orange peels (with all of the fruit removed) into sections, place them in a jar and pour white vinegar over them. The photo above was taken on Day 1 of this experiment.
You can decide what works best for you, but I would say three weeks is the optimum time to remove the orange peels. This photo was taken at exactly four weeks after I originally made my concoction and the orange peels are starting to turn a very unattractive brown color.
As far as the smell, it’s much more appealing than straight vinegar, but the citrus smell is not as strong as I would have liked. I can still smell a slight hint of the vinegar.
I poured the citrus vinegar into a spray bottle and added water to make the ratio of 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water.
Effectiveness of DIY Citrus Cleaner
As far as cleaning, I went straight for the most difficult mess I could think of: bacon grease. For the purposes of frugal experimentation, I smeared bacon grease onto my kitchen counter and then sprayed the grease with the vinegar and water combination.
One swipe and most of the grease was gone, but I sprayed again because there was a slight residue of grease left behind. I would say unofficially that it works as well as 409 on cutting through grease stains — maybe better.
I will definitely try this again. While the cost is very low since vinegar is about $3.00 a gallon, I would only make this if I purchased the oranges on sale and needed a way to use the peels. Otherwise, I will stick to my vinegar and water cleaner. The smell of the vinegar doesn’t bother me enough to justify the cost of the oranges at full price to make this cleaner.
If you are buying 409 or similar type cleaner at full price or if the strong smell of cleaners bothers you, this would be a good investment of your time and money.
What DIY Cleaners Have You Tried? Leave a comment and let us know how they worked.
Ken Caputa says
I’ve just made a batch of Orange infused vinegar and it doesn’t seem to be as strong or concentrated as I had hoped. It was well over a month before testing it. I would like to know if by heating it up to reduce would make it stronger ?
Kimberlee Stokes says
In my experience the cleaner still has a bit of the vinegar smell. I would not suggest heating it, but perhaps you could add a drop or two of essential oil.
Caputa Kenneth E. says
Thank you for responding. What I meant by “stronger” was would the cleaning strength be stronger?
Kimberlee Stokes says
Sorry, I’m not sure about that.
Carmen Chaux says
Oranges are better when you peel them leaving most of the white part. It is good to chew the pulp instead of juicing them. If you store the juice it loses the vitamin C content. Thank you for refreshing a great idea to use the peels for cleaning.
I read about orange peels and vinegar on Pinterest so I thought I would try it. After one month I think it is ready, still a slight smell of vinegar and I am pleasd to read you diluted your mixture as I wasn’t too sure about that part.
Hello from Scotland.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Glad to hear that you tried it Ann. Let me know how you like it. 🙂
Margo Miller says
I dry my orange peels to save them so that I don’t have to eat alot of oranges at a time. Today I took a bunch of them and I’m soaking them in the vinegar. Already it smells pretty good. I’ll check it in a week and see what I think.
The Peaceful Mom says
That is a great idea if you don’t have a bunch of teens like I do. 🙂 Let me know what you think.
Mary chleboun says
Peaceful mom- can you tell me how long this will keep? I found a bottle that I had done about 4 years ago and wondered if I could still use it.
Thanks so much! Please email me the reply.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Hi Mary – I don’t have a definitive answer but probably a couple of months. I usually use mine before it goes bad. 🙂
It’s not like you are wasting the oranges. You eat the oranges or make orange juice. The peels would have went into the garbage and so shouldn’t be factored as a cost – since you are using something that would have went into the garbage. You get fresh squeezed orange juice to boot and a good healthy dose of vitamin C that you most likely need in this flu season.
The Peaceful Mom says
Good point Brendeay – thanks!
Here is a tip. Keep the peels covered with vinegar. You need to add more every so often to keep them covered. This prevents the browning. If you keep them covered you can reuse them for a second batch. I use lemon peels and sometimes whole limes. The limes were 25¢ from the dollar store. I just sliced them up. I normally let them sit for a month or more. Right now we have 5 quart jars sitting in the pantry. Once ‘done’ I pour the vinegar into a gallon bottle and keep it under my kitchen sink.
This is great Kimberlee. We are huge orange eaters. I’ve always saved my peels in the freezer to make orange gummy candy for Christmas and saved my lemons for making Limoncello – now I have another use for both!
What would happen if you used citrus slices, instead of just the peel by itself?
I decided to try it that way, but I’m using one jar for grapefruit, and one jar for lemons. It looks really pretty in the jar, especially when the sunlight hits it, but will doing it this way ruin the cleaner?
You know Chanda, I have not tried that or seen anything about it. The only thing that I can think of is that it might produce mold because of the fructose in the fruit, but let me know how it goes.
No mold if you keep the fruit covered with vinegar. It adds to the scent and gives you a second batch if you add fresh vinegar.
The Peaceful Mom says
Thanks for the tip!
The fruit/pulp part is likely useless in the cleaner and you’re just waisting Vitamin C that your body could use instead. The purpose of the peels is not for the scent… that’s just a nice perk. 🙂 The peels add a great boost of cleaning/antibacterial power to the vinegar. So if your fruit doesn’t go moldy over the 4-6 weeks that you wait, at the very least you’re just waisting good fruit. 🙂
I used orange slices instead of just the peels and it fermented. I didn’t think about the sugar from the flesh/juice reacting with the vinegar. I didn’t try cleaning with it because it was sticky. Basically pickled oranges or almost kombucha.
Hey Amanda! Thanks for this important point. It only works with the peels.
Lauren H. says
The citrus isn’t just for scent. There are actually amazing cleaning properties in almost all citrus fruits (If not all.). I, personally, think it’s always justifiable to buy the citrus to use the peels for infusion. It’s also a great excuse to eat more citrus. Plus, you can play around and figure out which citrus is best for certain tasks. I urge you not to try limes, though. I was making some citrus vinegar today and found that limes are RIDICULOUSLY hard to peel. Seriously, not worth it. My hands are still sore.
since i continually cleanse my liver, our largest and most highly functioned organ, there’s lemon peels at my disposal almost each morning. the peels go in a jar and i cover them with vinegar. when the jar is full, i let it set for about 2 weeks then drain it into another jar. lemons are highly anti-bacterial. this, i use (about 1/4 cup) as fabric softener to which i add a sprinkle of baking soda (to alkalize) and now i only need a few drops of essential oils rather than the 10 or more (costly) i was using. result: a wonderful fabric softener that kills germs, is great for the environment and extremely cost effective. TRULY LIVING SUSTAINABLY! 🙂
Amanda Kilbury says
I kept the oranges in the vinegar for a little over a week and than took the peels that were dark out and put them down my garbage disposal house smells great…
Would lime peels work? My family loves key lime pie!
They probably would Mary, but I haven’t tried that.
you have to wait at least six weeks to dilute the vinegar smell and the solution starts to lighten up again. It becomes a very pretty orage color. I have a batch right now that we only waited 4 weeks before using and it smells strongly of vinegar.
Also the acid which is released by the orange peels make this much much more potent that vinegar alone so you do want to dilute this. for general purpose cleaning i use 1 part vinegar to 1 part water. ( A fifty/fifty mix)
Thanks so much for the tip Kendra. I wasn’t aware that I needed to wait six week. 🙂
I also use a vinegar mixture to clean surfaces instead of the 409 I bought in the past. It works great. I just added some orange peels that the hubby and I ate today to some vinegar to let steep.
But I have to say that NOT everything that there is a recipe out there for is the same as the real thing. Just because it looks the same doesn’t mean it is the same. Fabric softener, laundry detergent and downy wrinkle remover or even fabreeze fall under these categories. Do the math people, they have very special ingredients in them to preserve the fabric! Do you think fabric softener is really made of hair conditioner and water? Really people. Those that make their own laundry soap do the math, you might as well wash your laundry with straight water and save yourself the cost of the ingredients because that is what your essentially doing. a teaspoon is NOT enough for each active ingredient to do anything! It’s being diluted even more by the wash water. Please do the math for yourself and figure out how much of your “active ingredients” are going into your wash when you make your own. Then look at the label of the borax and washing soda for what they recommend to add along with regular laundry detergent. Figure it out for yourself then scrap the mixture that makes you feel good that your adding and just use water because that is what your doing. Either that or buy store bought GOOD QUALITY detergent and do your clothes a favor. I go by consumer reports and buy tide or whisk. Buying cheaper laundry soaps aren’t worth it either I figured by doing my own research.
I have to disagree with you Kris. I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for the last 6 months. I did a comparison test with grass stains and one with a mayo stain. I took both liquid detergents, mine and the store bought, rubbed them into the stains and then added the clothes with the rest of the load. The grass stains came out completely with my homemade, but not completely with the store bought (Tide) The mayo stain took two washings with my home made and came out completely. Not so with the store bought. It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concern, the homemade wins hands down. I know my ingredients, cost A LOT less and works much better.
This is a great idea. My Wife and I use vinegar as our household cleaner. While neither of us are turned off by the smell of vinegar, I eat oranges daily and always feel bad tossing the peels since I can’t throw them in my compost bin. I just mixed up a jar and will see how it works in a few weeks!
Cool! Let me know what you think of it. 🙂
Add some lemon peels to the mix, and you should knock out the remainder of that vinegar smell.
When making the home made dishwasher soap, you can also use unsweetened Lemon aide kool-aid. Works Great.
Annette Rose says
I add tea tree oil to my natural cleaners, it’s antibacterial, antiviral and anifungal
Samantha S says
Love this. Please keep in mind that vinegar DOES NOT KILL SALMONELLA. However, you can use a home made beach spray found on the Clorox website that should kill things like salmonella. I use a bleach solution in the kitchen and vinegar in the bathroom surfaces (except the toilet, where I use bleach).
Neil E Mac says
Have created several jars since first starting to make this wonderful cleaner several months ago. I packed well a jar of peels, not unlike your own; and poured vinegar over them until completely covered. Even added more vinegar after a couple or three days when I discovered space in the bottle after the peels absorbed much of the vinegar. (BTW, buying oranges aren’t a waste, they’re packed with vitamin C, so very healthy eating; can’t do that with mixing with ammonia).
Oh yes, had a problem with ants; so used the bare orange peel, (orange side, of course) to rub around area where I found infestation. Ants have completely disappeared.
Anywho, have found the cleaner needing more strength than original recipe calling for one third juice to two-thirds water ratio once peels were squeezed and removed. Poured the elixir into a spray bottle and filled the rest with water. Almost half and half. But the cleaner did work; in fact, I used a spray bottle to spritz my floors and used a regular old string mop to wipe them clean. Worked wonders, and the aroma was not offensive; but instead, was most welcome. Not too shabby for an aging bachelor, yes? Visitors love the smell of my home. Thanks for your experiment. Hopefully, the world will awaken and use this eco-friendly product. (((hugs)))
Kathy K says
Homemade dishwaher detergent.
I don’t recall the website, but here is the recipe:
1 c. baking soda or washing soda (I used washing soda)
1/2 c. salt
1/2 c. citric acid
Mix together and use 1 tablespoon per load. Add some vinegar to the rinse aid compartment to help prevent clouding.
I have used this for a few weeks and it works well.I had the first three ingredients on hand since I make my laundry detergent. I couldn’t find the citric acid locally and ended up ordering it from Amazon.
Thanks so much Kathy!
You can substitute Citric Acid for Lemi-Shine from the grocer. It’s the same thing. It’s a little pricey, but if you don’t use it, your glass ware and everything else gets cloudy. Besides, it’s still cheaper to make your own (including the Lemi-Shine) than store-bought detergents. Just be sure to stir it frequently over several days after mixing initially. Mine became hard as a rock (due to not stirring – the recipe I had found didn’t say to do that, but research since then says you should) and I had to break it up into smaller chunks and run those through my food processor to make it “powder” again. Ugh.
The recipe I found for dish washer detergent used lemonade mix (non sugar packets) inplace of the citric acid. Haven’t tried it yet but on the list as soon as I run out of the commercial stuff.
Kathy K says
I make a cleaner using vinegar, grapefruit seed oil,water and peppermint oil. I love the peppermint scent, and the vinegar smell dissipates pretty quickly when I use it. I have been using homemade laundry detergent for a couple of years. I’ve tried several different recipes, both powder and liquid, and they have all worked well. I recently made dishwasher detergent for the first time, and it works well, too! All the recipes have been found just searching the internet! I’m really enjoying all the research and experimentation!
I have seen the recipes for dishwasher detergent, but haven’t ventured there yet. What recipe did you use?
Have you ever heard of Norwex products?!? I am officially addicted! They are microfiber rags with silver in them. Silver naturally kills 99% of germs so you simply use water to clean EVERYTHING! I have the basic household pkg which includes a dust mit, basic cleaning rag (enviro cloth) and a window cloth. These 3 rags clean and disinfect my entire house with just water! They are also guaranteed for 2 years. I could go on and on but I’ll stop 🙂 Google “Norwex” for a consultant in your area. (BTW, I an not a Norwex consultant. Just a busy mom of 4 trying to save time, money and our Mother Earth.)
As a fellow frugal mom who tries to stay away from extra chemicals, I have found a use for the peels after draining the vinegar out. Placing the vinegar soaked peels into a mesh lemon bag and tying off the ends you can toss it into the washer to cut through any kids clothes affected by bedwetting. The most stubborn scent will disappear. And the bag can be reused a couple times.
Ooh, good tip Christine. Thanks!
I just recently tried this (both the orange and lemon peels) and have yet to open the jars (It’s been 4 weeks, found this on pinterest!). I noticed there is a lot of “muck” to it……little “floaties” all around. Do you just pour it straight into a spray bottle and mix it with the water and clean away? Or did you strain it? (I know the spray bottle won’t spray out those little floaties…but I’m just curious as to what you did!) :o)
My solution was cloudy colored, but didn’t have any “floaties” in it. I did clean any orange off of the peels and I covered to peels completely with vinegar. I wonder if keeping yours in the fridge would help.
I’d suggest only 2-3 weeks.. Nonetheless, If you get floaties, I’d suggest straining the cleaner through a coffee filter.
OMG! i love this idea! I just passed it along to my whole office! (5 women and 1 guy!) they all want to try it this week! Cant wait to clean my 1913 farm house with “green” cleaners! =D
I do the same infusion with orange peels but add a few drops of orange oil as well. Having the house smell like vinegar just isn’t for me. I also don’t dilute it with water and it’s incredibly effective on grease.
Mama Dobble says
The essential oils will definitely work. I doubt it will work as well as the fresh peels, but it is essentially the same thing (pun not intended 😛 )
Thanks for that info. 🙂
I found this blog through Pinterest, and I’m really enjoying your tips! I have a question about this, though. Are the citrus peels just for scent, or do they actually add something to the cleaner? I have some essential oils that I used to make hand scrub at Christmas, and I was wondering if I could just add that to the vinegar and get the same thing.
From what I read the citrus actually helps with cleaning. You could try the essential oils and see what happens. 🙂
I am so happy I found this! I have starting using vinegar to clean my entire house and it works so well but stinks! Now I can put those orange peels to good use!
Vicki M. says
I just made a vinegar/ water solution for cleaning in my kitchen. We also go through a lot of lemons so I think I will make a batch of the lemon scented. Already use a bleach/ soap/ water mixture in the kitchen for sanitizing. I have a ton of cleaning products that I have bought through the past year or so, when I would find them on sale. I am in the process of using them up (sparingly) and making my own solutions to refill those empty spray bottles. I make my own version of the Downy Wrinkle release spray (about 1/4 cup fabric softener and then fill the bottle with warm water). Smells great and really works the same. I am going to try the homemade fabric softener when I run out of what I had already purchased. Made my own liquid laundry soap (I used Zote, that is what they had at the store that day). As soon as I run out of dryer sheets, I will be making my own version with my homemade fabric softener sprayed on a rag and tossed in the dryer. I am trying to switch over to just vinegar, baking soda, bleach, ammonia and such for my cleaning. I have made homemade butter, but it really isn’t that cost effective unless you get a great bargin on the whipping cream. Love your tips and money saving ideas. Thanks so much for sharing them with us.
Ooh! Love the homemade wrinkle release spray idea! What is your fabric softner recipe?
I use vinegar as liquid fabric softener. About 1/2 cup per load. At that rate, vinegar costs about as much as traditional fabric softener but without the animal byproducts and fragrance.
Thank you for trying it! I keep reading about it, but no one ever says how well it works. I actually like the smell of vinegar, but the hubs does not, so maybe this would be a good compromise.
Cathie, I recently read that lemons work even better for disguising the smell. If you try it, let me know what you think.
I have cleaned a stubborn drain with vinegar, baking soda and a pot full of boiling water.. worked better than Drano for pennies.. plus didn’t make me fear for my life. I don’t trust those chemicals!
I made a shower cleaner with a recipe that is mostly vinegar with a little dish soap and some water. Love it (plus.. shhh.. you feel safe getting in the shower and really scrubbing!) I won’t be purchasing shower cleaner again.
I made some homemade glass cleaner, but that was the one thing I didn’t like as well. I really like western family glass cleaner and just try to buy it on sale.
I am anxious to try any other recipes. I like the savings and the chemical free… 🙂
I like the chemical free aspect too Tiffany.
I have had success with this glass cleaner:
1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
1/4 c. white vinegar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 c. warm water
I found it here:
I have been using for months now with great success…
Abbigail Gutierrez says
I will def be trying this! I am attempting at using cheaper longer lasting working cleaners. I am currently using homemade laundry detergent. I used fels napthat and I love it. My clothes are clean and im paying next to nothing for detergent. I dont pay much for cleaner but would like something with less chemical. Thanks!!
You are very welcome Abbigail. 🙂
Tara H says
Thanks for sharing this! I love using my vinegar/water mix, but my husband HATES the smell!! He hates it so much that I don’t use it at all when he’s home. I will have to try this with either the lemon or the orange (we go through a lot of cuties!).
The Cutie peels should work well Tara. Let me know if you like it.
I love DIY cleaners for a variety or reasons. Frugal, no chemicals to expose my family to, just all around awesome. I use lemon peels in my cleaner instead of orange peels. I get a strong lemon smell and a touch of vinegar. works great. And we use lemons all the time in the kitchen with tea and in our homemade juice, so i always have peels to use.
BTW new to your blog and i love it!
Thanks! The chemical-free aspect is my favorite part of this cleaner. I’ll have to try the lemon peels.
Awesome blog! You are a gem! Thank you!
Kimberlee Stokes says
Thanks so much Fran!
Phyllis Adkins says
I use tea tree oil and a touch of liquid dish soap to a bottle of water works great. Costs pennies. Phyllis
Kimberlee Stokes says
Great tip Phyllis! Thanks!