Saturday, November 8, 2014

How to Make Your Own Non-Toxic Cleaner Using Recycled Orange Peels!

As far as non-toxic all-purpose cleaners go, distilled vinegar is king. It’s almost as lethal to bacteria and mold as bleach without also being lethal to your children, yourself, and your pets. You can even spray it on your salad after you’re done cleaning for extra flavor!

What could possibly be better?!

The smell.

Vinegar has a strong smell that isn’t terrible, but it won’t win any awards. The good news is that it’s odorless when it dries. What about those of us who are used to the smells of a clean home, though? Is there any compromise without having to purchase expensive cleaners to keep your family safe?

There is! It turns out that adding the refreshing smell of your favorite citrus to a bottle of distilled vinegar is not only incredibly inexpensive, it’s fairly simple as well. Also, when the vinegar dries, your chosen scent will remain. I use this in my own home, and now I’m going to show you how to make a fresh batch for yours.


First, let’s talk about what you’ll need to bring to the party.

Distilled Vinegar This stuff is really inexpensive. I bought a gallon at my local grocery store for less than $5. You want to make sure that it says that it has 5% acidity on the jug. Any less than that, and I can’t vouch for its cleaning power.
A reasonably airtight container or two I used two ziplock 4-cup containers with screw-on lids. You can use mason jars, tupperware, or anything that seals tight. Try to get something with a wide mouth so the orange peels are easy to get out when you’re done.
Oranges It took me five navel oranges to fill both of my ziplock containers to the brim. Depending on the variety or size of your oranges, your mileage may vary. If you are running low on oranges, you can browse our great selection here
A spray bottle Any standard spray bottle will work for this purpose. I don’t recommend reusing old spray bottles, as they may still contain chemicals that could react negatively with vinegar.
1 Strainer I used a silicone strainer for my mixture. I’d recommend a finer, metal strainer, as they’ll let even less pulp through.
1 Funnel The neck of a spray bottle is narrow, and making a mess while preparing a cleaner is pretty backwards.

Step One 

Peel and enjoy some oranges. As I said before, I needed five Navel Oranges to do the job, so I got some hungry help and went to work. I personally found that peeling the oranges the messy way (by tearing off small chunks) allowed me to stuff more of the peel into the jars at the end. Try to leave as little of the albedo and pulp on the peel as possible. The more there is, the more thick the solution will become.

One orange down, and I'm just getting started.  Good thing I'm hungry!

Step Two

Fill your containers with the peels. Using medium-sized Navels, each of my 4-cup containers took two and a half oranges apiece.

One Orange’s worth. Smaller chunks take up less space in the jar, leaving room for more.

Two Oranges’ worth.  Almost full.  Still room for a little more.

Step Three

Use vinegar to fill the containers. Your containers should be so full that the vinegar is only filling in the small spaces in between. Also, be mindful of the fact that the orange peels will float. I was able to keep from overfilling my jars by pressing on the oranges with my free hand while I poured the vinegar.

Getting my vinegar ready after pushing the peels down below the lid of the jar.

Step Four

Seal the containers. It takes at least two weeks for the vinegar to absorb the full aroma from the orange peels. You can date the containers if you like. I personally just set a calendar appointment on my phone to remind me when they were ready.

Full right to the top!  Let’s take it outside to get a better look at how much we’re working with.

Notice how even after cramming as much as I could into the jar, the peels still are buoyant enough to have room at the bottom.

Step Five

Wait at least two weeks. Feel free to wait longer, though. It won’t hurt the final product. I recommend taking a long vacation during this time. You could even come down to Florida and visit our groves!

Step Six

Transfer your new, sweet-smelling cleaner into your spray bottle!

After two weeks, it’s ready. Your oranges should appear pallid. Don’t worry, though. Everything the oranges have lost, your cleaner has gained. Notice how the jar on the right is darker. I left a bit of pulp on the peels to see the effect, myself. The solution was a little thicker as well, but it was still thin enough to keep my sprayer from gunking up.

I picked up a generic 32oz. sprayer for this task. For four cups’ worth, this is ideal.

Now for the hard part, getting the cleaner into the bottle.

Time to affix your funnel.

If you aren’t holding a camera, you don’t have to turn this into the balancing act that I did. It’s much easier with two hands. You can just hold the strainer over the funnel.

Pour carefully.

Halfway there. Time for the second jar.

Feel free to dump the peels into the strainer to get every last drop. They won’t hurt anything.

All done and ready to take on the kitchen!


Step 1 Peel your oranges, tearing them into small chunks.
Step 2 Fill your jar with orange peels all the way to the top.
Step 3 Pour the distilled vinegar into the jar.
Step 4 Seal the jars and date them.
Step 5 Wait at least two weeks.
Step 6 Transfer them to a spray bottle!

And you’re done!

Go ahead and have fun with this process, though. Add other scents and fresh-smelling fruits and herbs, such as tangerines or mint leaves, to find the combination you like best. In fact, when I first tried this, I used cinnamon with the oranges. The cinnamon smell overpowered everything else. I quickly realized that cinnamon is a great scent in small doses. I didn’t enjoy having so much of it everywhere in my house.

Nothing I’ve tried yet so far smells as refreshing as oranges, though.


Feel free to use this cleaner almost anywhere in your house. Just be sure not to use it on granite. Granite is very sensitive to acid-based cleaners, such as vinegar and ammonia. Also, never mix vinegar with bleach. Bleach reacts with acids by releasing toxic chlorine gas.

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