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. Ann Post author

      Hi Peggy, That’s a long time, but if the peels don’t look degraded and the vinegar isn’t cloudy, it’s likely fine to use. I would remove the peels though.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Sue, I mention in the instructions that, for basic household cleaning purposes, I use a 1:1 ratio (equal parts) of vinegar and water. As far as washing floors, you should be able to use the diluted vinegar on most surfaces. Some people have used it on wood, but it may have a negative effect on the finish, so I do not. When in doubt, test a small area or contact the manufacturer.

  1. Bonnie Boggs

    I used the peels from the little cuties instead of regular oranges. Will they be ok? It’s about time to take them out and strain the peels from the liquid.

  2. Justine

    Is it possible to steep the orange peel/vinegar for too long? Is a cloudy solution no good for use? Thanks!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Justine, I recommend two weeks because the peels can start to break down, which could cause the vinegar to become cloudy. A little cloudiness probably won’t be a problem, but if you’re not sure, you may want to start a fresh batch and set a reminder to strain after two weeks. Hope this helps and that you enjoy using it!

  3. Christine

    I was gifted a case of oranges. I was going to juice a majority of them… Can you still you juiced oranges peels to make the cleaner or do they HAVE to be peels from after eating them???

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Christine, You want to make sure all the fruit has been removed from the peel. So if you juice the oranges, you’ll want to peel away what’s left and use the rinds only. And what a lovely gift!

  4. Rowan

    I made this and it took a very stubborn stain off my quartz countertop that Bleach, Lysol, vim, and baking soda couldn’t remove.

  5. K

    Hi! On a whim I tried something different this time and worry I ruined this batch which was meant as a gift for my mother- in-law and her Mom as well. I decided to juice the rinds that have been soaking in the vinegar and was able to get a very concentrated solution that I strained and mixed with water and then poured in a stray bottle.

    Has anyone tried this and do you think I ruined it? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pulp in it but it is much darker.

    Thanks for a great recipe!

    1. Ann Post author

      That’s a good question, K. Pulp can make the solution sticky, which isn’t ideal for cleaning. Pressing just the peels may be fine in theory but could also leave a residue, as evidenced by liquid that isn’t clear anymore. I’d test some of it on your kitchen counters and see what you think. And so nice that you are making some to give your mom and mother-in-law!