Updated 17 April 2013

Lemons: golden fruit

Lemon juice is a staple of any green cleaning list: its acidity makes it a potent germ-killer and degreaser, and it smells great.


It’s unjust to this legendary fruit that when we call something (usually a car) a “lemon” we mean it’s a dud, and that life “giving you lemons” is another way of saying you’ve had bad luck.

Any cook will tell you they’d be seriously handicapped without these little vitamin C bombs, and lemons have splendid non-culinary powers too.

You can use straight lemon juice as a cleaner and de-odoriser, but diluted also works well. And it’s non-toxic of course, so you can literally eat off surfaces cleaned with it.

After squeezing a lemon for cooking, why not put the halves or wedges to work again before you throw them away. The peel is acidic (i.e. disinfecting) and aromatic too, so don’t let it go to waste. You can wield a half-lemon as a scrubber, but it makes for a more user-friendly cleaning product if you place the halves in a jar and cover them with hot, even boiling, water. Let them steep for a while, then use the liquid (you can strain it to avoid lemon pulp if you wish) for various cleaning tasks around the house, for example:

  • To disinfect cutting boards and counter-tops
  • Added to the washing-up water for extra de-greasing
  • To shine up metal (add a little salt or baking powder) like kitchen and bathroom taps
  • As an air freshener – decant some into a spray bottle for ease of use.

You can re-fill your jar of lemon pieces with water a few times before it’s time to discard them. After you’ve cleaned with lemon juice, rinse the surfaces with water and dry them with a clean cloth. A note of caution: do a patch test on surfaces first to make sure the lemon won’t cause discoloration. 

Lemon also acts as a gentle bleach/lightener. Reader Barbara Myburgh has another good tip:

"You can even use lemon as a facial cleanser which also removes dark spots over a period of time.

Just put some brown sugar on cotton wool, squirt a little lemon juice over and exfoliate your face over your bathroom basin. Rinse with luke-warm water. Do this once a month and you'll notice the dark spots clearing up.

Your face might burn a little. If it causes the skin to darken, stop using the lemon as your acidic levels might be too high. Lemon cleansing is not for you."

Got a good green tip or event to share? Email me at or post on the EnviroHealth Forum. If it's a planet-saver, we'll publish it.

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