Lemon, or Citrus limon, has a long, exotic history as an oriental fruit, an ancient delicacy, a rarity of the wealthy in Medieval times, and now, a simple fruit of refreshment. First cultivated in India and surrounding areas, then migrated to the near East, and on eventually into Europe, lemons have been prized by homeowners and consumers for a variety of uses, both culinary and healthful.
Originally brought to the Americas as seeds by Columbus, lemons are grown now throughout the Western Hemisphere, mostly the warmer climates. Once a wildly-expensive treat in ancient times, now lemons are found in every grocery store–lemonade and lemon slices in iced tea are considered standard Americana refreshment.
Lemon: A Natural Cleaner and Disinfectant
Green cleaning consumers have been developing a new love for their yellow, acidic friend, whose ph level is 2.3, approximately 6 times more acidic than vinegar. Lemon carries a powerful punch as a cleaner with natural disinfectant qualities. Straight lemon juice, whether fresh-squeezed or in concentrate form, is able to kill most of the bacteria in your house, particularly in the Kitchen and Bathroom.
How Does Lemon’s Acidity Work as a Disinfectant?
The high level of acidity in lemons changes the pH level in bacterial cells, creating an acidic environment in which microbes can’t survive. Using straight vinegar as a disinfectant has been scientifically proven to have a disinfection kill-rate of 90%, in tests at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so it would make sense that straight lemon juice would be more effective as a disinfectant than even vinegar.
Cleaning and then rinsing with soap, borax, or baking soda (all of which are non-acidic, base, or alkaline substances, on the other side of the ph scale from lemons) are the best way to handle washing soiled surfaces and fabrics, but following up afterwards with an acidic “disinfectant”, like lemon, is the way to “zap!” any remaining microbes.
Alkaline cleaners (such as soaps, borax, or baking soda) neutralize soils and stains, which are most often acidic in nature, producing effective results as the dirt is rinsed away in the water. Alkaline cleaners do kill certain types of microbes; this is why washing your hands with soap and water is an effective way to minimize germ transmission in normal daily life.
Acidic cleaners, including the natural cleaning lemon, kill a greater variety of microbes, and in my limited knowledge of chemistry, basically finish off the job!
Cleaning with lemons has the added benefit of leaving your home with that pleasantly-refreshing citrus aroma that always seems cheerful and clean-smelling.
Helpful Homemaking Tips Using Lemon as a Green Cleaner:
In the Kitchen, Bathroom, and Around the House:
All-purpose Disinfectant Spray:
Using lemon essential oil
Fill an 8 oz. spray bottle with distilled water, and add 25 drops of lemon oil.
Shake well, and use as a spray on counter tops, faucets, doorknobs, bed linens, etc.
Wipe with a clean towel as desired.
This is safe even if it gets on food items or surfaces that come in contact with food.
(Recipe from greenfeet.net)
Rub with lemon juice and salt to polish, then rinse off.
Easy Microwave Cleaner:
Heat 1/2 cup of lemon juice on high in microwave for 3 minutes. The lemon juice will steam-clean the “yuk”. Wipe and you are done.
Coffee Pot Cleaner:
Run a cycle with water and the juice of 1-2 lemons. Let the pot sit overnight to clean-off coffee residue.
(I learned this one as a waitress during college)
Cutting Board Cleaner/Deodorizer:
Scrub cutting board with baking soda and water, then rinse. Rub ½ a lemon on your cutting board, let sit 15 minutes. Then rinse.
Grills and Pans:
I watched the chefs at a Hibachi grill recently, they wash/disinfect their stainless steel cooking surfaces with straight vodka and a fresh-squeezed lemon. After letting it sit briefly, they scrub and wipe and are done. Cool!
Vinegar-Lemon Juice Floor Cleaner:
- One gallon of water
- Four cups of vinegar
- One cup of lemon juice concentrate
Mix vigorously and use liberally.
If you have polyurethane on your hardwood floors, you shouldn’t use a wet mop, only a damp one. Both vinegar and lemon juice are acidic and can, over time, damage your finish. This floor cleaner also works great on linoleum, stone, or tile floors.
(Thanks to gomestic.com for a great recipe)
- 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon water
Extract the juice from the lemon. Mix with oil and water. Apply a thin coat on your wood surface and let sit for five minutes. Use a soft cloth to buff to a deep shine. (I use this regularly and have never had a problem with the oil becoming rancid.)
Use as a bleach alternative. Add ½ cup to the laundry in the rinse cycle. (Lemon juice is known for getting out perspiration stains in particular.)
Summary: Two Thumbs Up For Lemon, I use it all the time!
Lemon juice in concentrate form is relatively cheap; you probably have some on you fridge door right now. Fresh lemons are a slight bit pricier, but are easy, as well, to purchase 1-2 each week for cleaning, if you prefer using fresh. Pure lemon oil is higher-priced, but will last a long time, since only a few drops are needed in each chore.
Lemon has a naturally uplifting, “happy” smell that can brighten any home and create an atmosphere where you will want to clean—and isn’t that a big plus when trying to get motivated for your never-ending chores??
Knowing that you are cleaning and disinfecting in a natural, totally-biodegradable, non-toxic manner is an even bigger boon.
Pamela Palmer is the founder and writer of Natural Cleaning Product Reviews. Pam is also a contributing “Green” writer for the ezine, Suite 101 . She has written for print publications and other websites.She resides in Western Maryland, near the mountains and enjoys writing poetry from the porch of her almost one-hundred-year-old house. She is the wife of a very patient man for the last 21 years and is Mom to two energetic teens, a goofy dog and a street-smart cat. Visit her poetry blog goldapples.wordpress.com when you get the chance.