Orange Vinegar (a “green” cleaner)

By Ann Fulton

This economical "green" cleaner is easy to make and rivals pricey boutique alternatives.
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This economical “green” cleaner is easy to make and rivals pricey boutique alternatives…and all you need is two ingredients!


Household chores will likely be cast off in favor of egg hunts and family get-togethers this weekend, and that’s a good thing. Happy Easter!

The arrival of spring, however, is known as much for bunnies and daffodils as it is for thorough cleanings.   So the timing seemed right to consider an ingredient that can disinfect your counters as effectively as it can dress your salad: vinegar.

Basic household items like baking soda, toothpaste, lemons, and vinegar have long been used for purposes beyond the obvious. They offer convenient ways to scour, deodorize, remove stains, and more. What’s more, they do this without the use of harsh chemicals and for a fraction of the cost of many store-bought cleaners.

For some people, however, the pungent smell of vinegar is off-putting.  All-natural and boutique products often rely on essential oils to make things smell good, and it occurred to me years ago that the natural oils in citrus peels might accomplish the same goal.

My initial experiment involved stuffing orange peels into a Mason jar, pouring basic white vinegar overtop, and storing the jar in a cupboard without opening. After two weeks of steeping, the essence of the orange peels did, in fact, permeate the vinegar and I deemed the test a success.

When I shared this “recipe” in this very space three years ago, I was astounded by the response to my little experiment. Orange Vinegar has been “pinned” hundreds of thousands of times and shared countless times on Facebook and beyond.  If you look below, you will see over 400 comments!

Readers have mentioned making versions with clementine, lemon, and lime peels and have noted the many ways they use vinegar in their household cleaning. And who knew? Lots of people use it as a hair conditioner, too! There are various questions and a few funny stories thrown into the mix. The resounding feedback is that people like to cook and clean with vinegar and they enjoy the ease with which this green cleaner benefits from a little orange.

After writing The Fountain Avenue Kitchen blog for several years, I have learned that many readers appreciate those comments as much as I do. So, if you try this—or any other recipe—I welcome you to leave a quick comment. In this case, feel free to include the ways you put basic household products to work beyond their intended use.

Orange Vinegar (a “green” cleaner)
This eco-friendly cleaner is easy to make and rivals pricey boutique alternatives.
  • 1 16-ounce canning jar*
  • 2 oranges, peels only (eat the insides!)
  • White vinegar to cover
  1. Curl the peels around the inside of the jar. For my last batch, I used two large oranges and would not have been able to fit another peel. If your oranges are small and you can fit another peel, feel free to add it. Pour the vinegar into the jar to cover the peels and close tightly.
  2. Store the jar in a cupboard or another cool, dark place for two weeks. Then remove the orange peels and transfer the vinegar to a spray bottle.
  3. For basic household cleaning purposes, I use a 1:1 ratio (equal parts) of vinegar and water.

* You may vary the jar size. Just choose one with a tight-fitting lid, and then fill it with peels and cover with vinegar. Also, feel free to experiment with peels from other citrus fruits, like lemons, limes, and grapefruit.

Tip: I have used vinegar to clean our granite countertops for years with no ill effect, but some people recommend against doing so. If you are unsure as to whether vinegar should be used on a particular surface, test it in an inconspicuous spot. For anecdotal information, you may also wish to skim through the many comments below.

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  1. Carrie

    What happens if you forget it and the oranges infuse for 2 months? Should I throw away or is it still safe to use?

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Carrie, As long as the vinegar isn’t cloudy, it should be fine to strain and use. Vinegar is a natural preservative, so you have a good bit of leeway, especially if stored away from sunlight and in a relatively cool place.

  2. Annette

    Thank you for this! Seeking clarity on the last bit. When transferring to a spray bottle, we need to dilute with 1 part water, or do we transfer to a spray bottle and use as is? Thank you!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Annette, You’re most welcome and yes. For general cleaning purposes, vinegar is typically diluted with water for a 50-50 mix.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Barbara, The instructions indicate removing the peels after two weeks. At that point, the infused vinegar will keep indefinitely. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Tara

    I love using vinegar cleaner and I’m trying this. I promise this is a genuine question and I’m not being difficult, but I was thinking about pesticides/ fungicides left on the peel going into my cleaner. I washed the oranges well. The price of organic is not worth it to just make my vinegar cleaner. Ps- I am a flower farmer so I am fairly versed in agricultural production. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

    1. Ann Post author

      Your question is not taken as being difficult at all, Tara! It’s a valid question, and while there are advantages to organic, it’s a nuanced subject. Emily Russo, who is the Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s registered dietitian, recently wrote an article based on the latest research, and one of the key takeaways is that the level of pesticides on conventional produce is generally quite low. If interested, you can read the specifics here: From what I can gather, the amount that would make its way into the vinegar solution would be negligible. I do welcome other insights on this subject – and I love that you are a flower farmer!

      1. Carol T

        Wet the oranges and sprinkle w/baking soda. Rub them well and let soak w/baking soda for 30 min then rinse. Should remove pesticides and other junk from your orange

    2. Kirsten Evans

      When I do get a deal on organic oranges, I save the peels in a labeled gallon bag in the freezer. My kids know not to put conventional peels in it. When it’s full, I then make the orange vinegar. I grew up in CA central valley. No way would I use conv. peels. I know how much they’re sprayed and I do not want that on my counters.