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. Deb K

    Just made my first batch and going to be using it soon! Thank you for sharing this recipe.
    Can I reuse the orange peels to make another batch?

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Deb, I’m delighted you made this! You could reuse the peels, although the effect will be less since much of the essential oil is now in the batch you just made.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Susan, I haven’t used this for outdoor bug control, but I have read that a mix of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts of water with a few drops of mild dish soap stirred in will help control garden pests. A spray bottle can be used to mist plants. Some people also like to spray the mixture along the perimeter of the house to deter common household pests. I regularly use the vinegar mixture on my kitchen counters, where I store fresh fruit. I rarely have a problem with ants, fruit flies, etc. If you skim through the comments, you may also find ways that others have used the solution.

  2. Stacie

    I made some 3 years ago for bug control. Do think it can still be used? How long is too long? The orange peels are almost black.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Stacie, Vinegar is an excellent natural preservative, but the black color makes me think the batch should be tossed.

  3. Grandma Foxes

    I read to use a non metal lid. So I picked a plastic lid. They say those grated Parmigian Lids fit Mason jars. I also put a spacer between the peels and the lid to make sure the vinegar level was completely over the peels. Used a tiny solo type cup maybe 1 inch tall. I added a few fresh basil leaves. Now we wait a month.
    Thanks for posting.

    1. Ann Post author

      You are most welcome, Grandma Foxes, and thank you for your detailed comment. Reusing plastic lids from other bottles is a helpful mention. I’ve also noticed that lids from mayonnaise jars often fit a standard canning jar.

      1. Betsy

        Standard peanut butter jar lids also fit well and are usually thicker than the mayo lids. I like to save a couple in as many colors as I can so I can use them for opened homemade canned goods like salsa as well. Red for marinara, yellow for salsa, ect.