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.
Ingredients
  • 1 16-ounce canning jar*
  • 2 oranges, peels only (eat the insides!)
  • White vinegar to cover
Instructions
  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.
Notes

* 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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Comments

  1. Mary

    I’m curious as to why you shouldn’t put the orange vinegar mix in full sunlight. I thought that would accelerate the oil infusion into the vinegar. I put mine in full sunlight before reading your post. We’re having a hot summer where I live (southern Manitoba). It’s been 39Celcius, or 102F at times. I had put a few jars on my deck about a week ago. Two have vacuum sealed from the heat. Lol. I do not have a self cleaning oven. I use it full strength to spray on and let marinate for a bit. Spray a bit more and wipe, especially if the first round has dried. It’s my favourite oven cleaner. Could someone please fill me in on why sun infusion isn’t a good idea? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I have never tried a sun infusion, Mary, and appreciate the mention. Thank you for describing your oven application as well. Very helpful.

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Nicky, This can be used any way you’d use regular vinegar as a household cleaner. The orange peels simply add a nice scent.

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I’m so glad, Stephanie, and you can store it in the fridge…but you don’t have to. A cupboard is fine.

      Reply
  2. Dee

    I was wondering if some of the juice or pulp that comes from cutting various citrus can be added as well….

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Dee, I wouldn’t recommend it because the juice and pulp may leave a sticky residue. It’s better to rely on the cleaning properties of the vinegar along with the aroma and essential oils from the peels alone.

      Reply
  3. Chad

    I used an industrial grade orange oil degreaser/cleaner on my machinety, dirtbikes, etc. I noticed after many uses, an orange color residue remained on the metal surfaces that was impossible to remove. Needed muradic acid and water to clean away.
    Never tried your recipe for household cleaning. Would it leave an orangy residue, on bath tiles for example?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Chad, If you make sure to use just the peels (no fruit attached), there won’t be any residue. If you try, I hope you like!

      Reply
  4. Erinn

    Hi there! I actually made this TWO months ago and it’s still sitting in my fridge. I haven’t opened it or used it at all. I actually forgot I made a batch and so right now it’s still sitting in my fridge with the peels and all. My question is, I imagine it will still be okay to use? Maybe even a little more potent? After I strain out the peels and put it in a spray bottle, you don’t have to refrigerate it anymore right? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Erinn, No need to store in the refrigerator, and I think it will be just fine as the vinegar acts as a preservative. If the scent is a little stronger, that may even be a bonus!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      You can definitely use apple cider vinegar for cleaning, Mamie. It can have some sediment in it, so if you have a brand that does, you may want to strain it through cheesecloth or another fine cloth first.

      Reply
  5. sumaiya khan sumi

    Much obliged for this awesome modest and green method of getting citrus pith into my vinegar cleaners. I have utilized white vinegar as a cleaner for a long time as I am oversensitive to a portion of the fixings in the business cleaners. I used to utilize business fundamental oils however that can make it very costly so this is great. I used to run a bistro in Cyprus and we utilized white wine vinegar, as it was extremely ample and modest, to clean glass, descale the pots (you do need to wash and heat up the pot a few times with plain water to dispose of vinegar smell and conceivable buildup taste, however does some incredible things).

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment and feedback as to how you’ve used vinegar as a cleaner. So nice to connect with someone in Cyprus!

      Reply
  6. NATE

    Four years ago after two weeks in the hospital I was diagnosed with late stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sent home to on oxygen 24/7. After 8 weeks of using BESTHEALTHHERBALCENTRE COPD HERBAL REMEDY, my breathe completely came back to normal. Last week I was checked by a different pulmonologist and tested and he said I don’t have COPD.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Carole, People have been using vinegar to wash clothes (it can whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals), although I have heard some people say that it’s not great for rubber seals and hoses. If you’d like to use it regularly for this purpose, you might want to inquire as to the washer manufacturer’s recommendation.

      Reply
  7. Philishia

    Where or what surfaces do i clean this orange peel mixture with,i lost my job recently so i am doing my house work myself now so i welcome easy ans cost effective home made remedies to my cleaning easy and quick.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Philishia, I use vinegar to clean surfaces like counters, sinks, and fixtures. Some people also use it to clean floors. If you have any doubt about where you are using it, you can test in a small, inconspicuous spot.

      Reply
  8. Shifrah

    Thanks for this wonderful cheap and green way of getting citrus essence into my vinegar cleaners. I have used white vinegar as a cleaner for many years as I am allergic to some of the ingredients in the commercial cleaners. I used to use commercial essential oils but that can make it quite expensive so this is perfect. I used to run a coffee shop in Cyprus and we used white wine vinegar, as it was very plentiful and cheap, to clean glass, descale the kettles (you do need to rinse and boil the kettle a couple of times with plain water to get rid of vinegar smell and possible residue taste, but works wonders).
    Now I’m back living in UK I use white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda often together to clean really dirty things and for cleaning drains, toilets and sinks. These two items along with hand dishwashing liquid form my cleaning solutions. Great bonus is I have plenty of free space in my cleaning cupboard!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      So happy this will be a good new addition to your arsenal of natural cleaners, Shifrah. Thank you for your comment and for mentioning all the ways you put vinegar to use!

      Reply