12 Surprising Household Uses for Citrus

Save a bundle on stain removers, air fresheners, dishwashing products, and more by using citrus instead. Citrus is a natural product with many uses, and is available at a very affordable price.

Cleaning Power of Citrus

We’ve provided 12 surprising household uses for this remarkable type of fruit. Use in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and elsewhere at home.

Citrus fruits include lemon, lime, grapefruit, and oranges. Most of the uses for citrus below recommend lemons as the fruit of choice.

This is because lemons are the most versatile, and are believed to be the best at removing odors. However, note that in many cases, any of the other fruits can be substituted, although they may not work as effectively as a lemon.

Household Uses

Repel Cats

Keep cats out of flower beds by placing various peels in and around them. Cats hate the smell of citrus and will head in the opposite direction.

Repel Ants

Keep ants out of your home with a homemade ant repellent. Grind two whole lemons and mix with water in a spray bottle. Spray wherever ants can enter the home to keep them away.

Homemade Air Freshener

Slice two lemons or other citrus fruits, and place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 200°F for about an hour. The scent is invigorating, and will remove any foul kitchen odors.

For more tips and ideas to make your own natural air fresheners at home, check out our post.

Remove Stubborn Odors

Cutting boards absorb foul odors like nobody’s business. By rubbing them with a lemon cut in half, you can remove odors left behind by onions, garlic, and other smelly food items, and leave them smelling fresh and clean.

Clean Away Juice Stains

Rub a lemon on stains on countertops, and on cutting boards to remove juice stains. Whether you’re working with a fresh stain left behind by berries, or have a stain from a child’s drink, fresh lemon juice will help wipe it away.

Brighten the Wash

Soak dingy looking clothes in warm water and fresh lemon juice before washing. After about 30 minutes, check the clothes and add a bit of baking soda to extremely dirty garments. Wash as usual for brighter, cleaner clothes.

Remove Laundry Stains

Remove sweat stains, ink spots, and other fresh laundry stains with fresh lemon juice. Turn the garment inside out and rinse the stain from behind with cold water.

Slice a lemon in half and dab – don’t rub – the lemon directly on the garment. Let the lemon juice set for a few minutes and then wash in cold water.

Power-Boost Dishes

No store-bought rinse agent will get dishes as sparkling clean as a lemon can. Place half a lemon in the dishwasher along with your regular detergent for the cleanest dishes you’ve ever seen.

Clean Copper Pots

Don’t spend a lot of money on specialty copper cleaners. Instead, slice a lemon in half, dip it in table salt, and rub the bottom of the pan. It won’t take long before your copper pots will be sparkling clean again.

Remove Buildup on Faucets, Stainless Steel Sinks, and Appliances

lemon being used on a stainless steel pan to remove stains

Sink faucets dull over time, and become coated with hard water stains, soap spots, and other residue. Slice a lemon in half and rub it on the faucet, sink, or stainless steel appliances to remove buildup and leave a sparkling shine.

Check out our post for more tips to keep your small kitchen appliances sparkling.

Disposal Deodorizer

Add lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit peels to your garbage disposal to get rid of smelly odors.

Fireplace Kindling

Keep dried peels by the fireplace and use them whenever you build a fire. This is one of the more unusual uses for citrus, but it works like a charm. Best of all, the burning citrus works as a subtle air freshener.

For a more detailed look at this subject, read our special report on the cleaning power of lemons.

What are your favorite tips for using citrus around the home? Let us know in the comments!

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

49 thoughts on “12 Surprising Household Uses for Citrus”

  1. Interesting article, I like all these handy tips and tricks. I have used citrus on the taps as you mentioned. I found putting a generous amount over the end of a tap, then wrapping it in clingfilm and leaving it has good effects.

    I have cats and I have used lemon citrus to keep them away from my best furniture. 🙂

  2. Great article. I see this is specially good for removing smells. It makes a lot of sense since these fruits have a really strong smell, specially oranges. The pastics tip is something I’ll be trying definetely. I’ve noticed they absorve a lot of smells. I’ve heard of using baking soda, but never lemons. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Pointers definitely taken to note… i had no clue you can repel ants by use of citrus…kindly do tell, does this include safari ants because in our home area, there seems to be an invasion and they are not putting down a fight…stubborn as ever…believe me a sting from a safari ant can bring tears to your eyes :(…ah, let me read the special report, it might just have the answer am looking for 🙂

  4. I will try the faucet tip as I hate using limescale remover and waiting for it to work. I don’t have ants, but will pass it onto friends who do have them.
    Next time I have hand washing I will try the lemon tip too.

    Even if I don’t get around to drinking my lemon water each day, I will have a use for them now.

  5. This is a great comprehensive list. I didn’t know that citrus could be used to deter cats. There are several cats in our neighborhood who love to torture my dogs by coming right up to the fence and windows. I think I will have to try this technique and see if it works. Any idea if it repels squirrels?

    • I have two southern flying squirrels who LOVE to eat their oranges, so I don’t think it’ll repel any other sort of squirrel 🙁

  6. I am definitely going to try the ant repellent. We’ve been having a problem with ants this summer, and this is bound to smell much better than the store bought insecticides. I had no idea that lemon worked to remove build up on faucets. I am going to try that, too. You learn something new every day. 🙂

  7. A lot of benefits from citrus! I have been making smoothies for the past couple of days and I think I can use its peels. Well, we have cat at home and I always found her sleeping in my bed. Funny was one time I woke up and she’s sleeping by my side! Though she’s sweet and lovable, never did I try to cuddle her because I am really afraid of cats. I am going to try citrus peels in my bed sheet. I love her, I would buy a cute couch in return!

  8. A cat repellant? I might stock up citrus in our house this month. Stray cats have been entering our house and eating our food! And messing around the house.

    My granmother have used citrus, especially calamansi for the clothes stains and other cleaning chores in our house before, and that has been passed on to my mon and to me. They also have introduced me on using calamansi as deoderant but my skin was breaking at that time so I did’nt pursue on actually using it.

    Anyway, thanks for the list. This is a great way to use the over ripe citrus if we ever have one.

  9. The humble lemon really is a gift from god!

    I use it for so many things — plus I drink lemon juice for its extraordinary health benefits.

    After cleaning my Beech wood chopping board, I always rub half a lemon over it to get rid of those nasty smells and keep it fresh.

    Great article.

    • I had to scroll up again to check whether the part about removing chopping board odor had indeed been listed, turns out it had, i guess the previous time i was on this page, that sub-topic seemed to have passed me, now that i have known that aspect, practice starts tonight :).

  10. Wow, I had no idea I could do so much with simple lemons and oranges! I’m going to try throwing a lemon in with the dishes today. I love the smell of citrus so I’m more than happy to start using it more around the house. Thanks for the tips!

  11. I didn’t know about many of these tips! There are so many stray cats around my neighborhood that I probably should put peels in my garden. That’s my favorite tip in this article. I also am going to use the lemon to get rid of that build up. Wonderful article!

  12. I’d like to add a little something to this article if I may; using a lemon on the cutting board is a little more effective if you coat the cutting board in a thin layer of salt before rubbing with the lemon half. It adds a little scrubbing power to get into the porous surface of the cutting board to remove even more of the nasty smell. I learned that a few years ago when we discovered that our cutting board was the source of the disgusting smell coming from our kitchen.

    Thank you for the rest of the tips, though! I had no idea that citrus repelled cats..maybe that’s why my cat doesn’t want to snuggle after I’ve eaten an orange!

  13. I absolutely love this! We have about three orange trees, two tangerine trees, a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree in our yard, and half of the trees produce really strange, sour fruit. We can’t eat any of it, and we end up throwing tons of it away every year. Reading this gives me tons of other ideas for all of that weird fruit we get, that way we can actually get some use of it rather than letting it go to waste. Too bad we don’t have a fireplace, that sounded like an interesting use!

  14. Wow, what an informative article. Citrus has many purposes it seems besides being digested in the ways we have it consumed. As a cleaning and fragrance agent, I could probably see myself giving that a try in the event that I lack cleaning products in my household or there isn’t a bottle of Fabreeze laying around. Fantastic read.

  15. Wow, I believe in the value of citrus but I didn’t know of al these uses!

    Fire starter? I like that one. Because worms don’t like citrus, I never put citrus peels in the compost but I hate just throwing it into the rubbish. I’d like to be able to burn it instead so it is useful and scenting the house. I could also see that being useful when camping as both a fire starter and a means of reducing the rubbish made (and having to be carried out!) although I guess the peel won’t dry fast enough to be useful.

  16. Citrus fruits have uses than I thought! I had no idea that it could be used to repel ants and cats! I already use it to clean my sink and stove which is does a fantastic job of doing. I’ve never tried it when doing my laundry, so that definitely sounds like something I would like to try. I also already put them down the garbage disposal and can verify that it helps freshen the room. I’ve never heard of baking them in the oven to create an air freshener. However, I have heard of a stove top alternative. I’m sure the effects are similar. This is a great article and I may have to go pick up some more citrus fruits soon!

  17. I knew that citrus was always a good cleaner but I didn’t ever realize how much. My kids would always be weirded out when I didn’t freak when they made a mess with something citrus because I knew it was a great cleaner but didn’t know to what extend 🙂 I will be purchasing and trying to use this more often!

  18. I knew that citrus was useful, but I had no idea of the amount of things it could be used for. I knew it was good for cleaning surfaces and that it can repel cats, but I didn’t know it could repel ants. Also, who would’ve thought you could just throw half a lemon in the dishwasher? Genius. I’m going to favorite this page for further reference, thanks for the tips!

  19. At first I read “Repel cats” and I thought, what, why would anyone want to repel cats?
    Turns out there is a reason.

    Very good tips overall; I look forward to seeing how it works with my laundry. My mom used to poke some cloves or something into her oranges for smell.

  20. I had no idea you could do so much with citrus fruits, I thought they were just for eating! I do have a problem with cats using my garden to do thier business so I’ll be putting down some peel tomorrow!

  21. Our family always orders a lot of citrus from a local grower when it’s in season, so I can’t wait to try out some of these new techniques. For the air freshener, I’ve done something similar before with vanilla extract. Just a little bit of it in the oven for a short time makes the whole house smell very nice and bakery-esque! I haven’t tried it with citrus, though I can imagine it would be a more refreshing scent. Thanks for the tips!

  22. Sounds like a great idea with vanilla. I can just image the aroma spreading through the house as it heats in the oven. Will definitely have to try this.

  23. Haha, I’ll remember this when my neighbors cat won’t leave me alone. She’s always coming to visit and sometimes it’s not the right time. I also love the tip about using it for my laundry. I’m definitely going to try that out. It’ll smell so good!

  24. I am really glad I joined this blog. I have learned so much here, in just a few days. This is really great information. I love the smell of citrus, and while I knew it could be used for a lot of things, I had no idea there were this many. I’ll be trying most of these (don;t currently have a dishwasher).

    The cat one comes at just the right time. I’m very allergic, and my neighbors cats have been making me pull my hair out. They make a mess with our trash and one even peed on my welcome mat!

    I happen to have some oranges that I need to use up, so I’ll be saving those peels. Ok, time to run… I need to go get some lemons!

  25. I would always use a lemon after soaking my shower head with CLR. I never really had a good reason why. I remember my mother would always use a lemon. It shined the holy heck out of that thing.

    • Wow, that’s cool. Good to know, Joan. Thanks for sharing. Lemon is used to clean a number of things and it does a great job. I just never thought of using it along with something else like CLR.

      We have lots of limescale in this area apparently, so I’ll give this a try. The fresh, lemony, scent is a bonus. CLR doesn’t exactly smell good!

  26. I love the scent of citrus, and have used it for years in many capacities, but I’m glad I read this article, because there are some uses I’d never considered. I was unaware that lemon would help to prevent/deter ants. I’ve used cinnamon for this purpose, but never citrus. I have a problem here at the house with hard water build-up, and nothing seems to help, but I’m going to buy some lemons and try using them for that purpose. I had also never considered adding citrus peels to the kindling, but what a wonderful idea!

  27. I’ve seen a few of these tips around, but I’ve never seen so many of them compiled in one post. Excellent list. Like many others, I had no idea citrus could repel cats and ants. Currently I’m not dealing with those problems but I know a few people who are, so I’ll have to let them know they should try it out. And I’ll definitely have to keep the laundry tips in mind. Time to stock up on some lemons!

  28. We are just entering the winter season in my country and there is a lot of citrus fruit around at this time. It’s is great smelling and I never thought of using it this way, especially in the bin or fire.

    I am sure one could dry out the peels and store them to use at a later date. I am certainly going to begin experimenting with it in my household.

  29. Nice ideas. I love the idea of using citrus to clean. We often spend so much money on organic cleaners to help reduce the level of toxins in our kitchens but what we do not realize is that food can also help clean, not just make a mess! lol. I once also read that you can microwave a lemon in a bowl of water, to make your microwave smelling fresh!

  30. It’s amazing what citrus can really do to improve the household. Not only can the smell brighten your home and leave a nice aroma, it can also help clean the grim within your kitchen. Those nasty places and grease stains can clean right up from your kitchen. The citrus is also acidic, and can deal with sneaky pests within your home. These small tricks can lower any headache any day.

  31. Can’t wait to try these tips on my stainless steel sink! My sister is always frustrated about the fact that our sink doesn’t look as nice and sparkly as she wants it to. We actually have stainless steel all over our kitchen, and I want to get away from using harsh chemicals on everything. It’s tough to do when things like a stainless steel fridge door get all messy so quickly. I’ll have to keep a lemon on hand to see how this works!

  32. This is fantastic. We buy lemons, limes, and oranges all the time, and using the peels instead of just the fruit would be great. As I was reading this article, I was wondering if you could slice the fruit thinly before putting it in the oven, which would rid the house of gross smells and also provide a great addition to tea blends.

  33. Awesome tips! We already use citrus for our disposal. Works like a charm every time! I also like to put lemons in a crock-pot with some water. It makes for a really great smelling and natural air freshener. Next time I clean the kitchen I’m going to try lemon on the sink area. There are always tough-to-clean areas. I never thought of trying it!

  34. What an amazing article! I never knew all these uses for lemons existed. I knew that the acid in them could be used for cleaning up stains on metals, but I hadn’t thought about using their smell to cover up odours.

    The use I’m most looking forward to trying is as ant repellant; I’ve always been worried about the commercial poisons and this provides a safe alternative.

  35. My husband was just asking me for suggestions on how to improve the scent of our house without creating allergy problems. I’m allergic to most perfumes and pollens, so most traditional air fresheners won’t work. Lemons in the oven just might be the way to go! As a bonus, I love the smell of citrus, so it’s perfect for our household.

  36. I love the smell of citrus around the house! I have used the various types for lots of things, I didn’t know about using it for a cat repellent, or for keeping ants at bay. There were some other uses listed that were news to me. This is a great article!

  37. I love this list, I was aware that citrus helps remove odors but everything else is new to me. Oh I also knew that it helps with cleaning the dishes. Works like a charm.

  38. Finally a way to get that onion/garlic odor out of my cutting boards! I love that it’s something so simple, too. My granny showed me how to use lemon rinds to clean the kitchen sink and faucets, but I didn’t know that it had so many other uses. I especially like the idea of baking citrus fruits in the oven to create a nice fragrance…my kitchen doesn’t have a lot of ventilation and the window doesn’t open so it’s nice to have something to get rid of any lingering cooking smells. The fact that it’s all natural is a bonus 🙂

  39. This is great! I am regularly given a basketful of lemons by a family member but I actually don’t really like lemon so I usually end up spending a lot of time trying to find people to pass them on to. Actually being able to use them is going be wonderful. I have a toddler so I am pleased these are use less harsh chemicals.

  40. This article was very informative. I was not quite aware of how good citrus can be in the kitchen. I used to wonder why my grandmother would but a wedge of lime or lemon in with our cleaning sponges, or why she would save the used wedges. She also taught me that washing some proteins, fish and chicken, with it will remove raw tastes.

    But, I must say, I never knew that adding it to your washing would have such as effect. Dishes, clothes, gardening, I think each household should have these on hand. I cannot say my cats seem to mind having them around though. Either that or I never noticed before if they avoid it or not.

    Thanks again for this information. I shall now endeavor to save my peels and reuse them.

  41. This is a very interesting read, I had no idea you could do so many things with those fruits! I have a lemon tree and an orange tree in my garden and now their fruits will be put to good use. I’ve only used lemons to clean dirty and smelly dishes, especially the pans and pots used to cook fish, it works like a charm!
    I didn’t know you could use lemon juice and water to repel ants, now that the weather is getting warmer, they seem to be everywhere and if I can keep them away without using chemicals, I’ll be grateful to you for the rest of my life!

  42. I’ve used some of these ideas before – especially the air-freshener and removing odors tips. The repelling of cats and ants didn’t work for me … maybe the wrong sort of lemons (or wrong sort of cats and ants). I love the idea of letting citrus peel dry and using it as kindling and shall try that next time we light a fire which will be a few months from now.

  43. Great article! Thanks for this! We have a serious ant problem where we live and we have tried everything, but we also have to be careful about what we use because of the kids in the house and we have cats. So I will definitely be getting some lemons to use to repel the ants. Another great one is the air freshener with oranges, I have a huge bag of oranges in my kitchen and have no idea what to do with them. I’m going to try this right now! Any other uses for oranges?

  44. Well I have used some citrus in my cleaning before, but not to this extent and I never really knew that there were this many uses. I have used it for dishes, but never for laundry so I am definitely intrigued by that one, and I am going to have to look up some methods for it. I also like the disposal deodorizer, and I can always use something down there. Interesting stuff, and thanks for sharing.

  45. There are tons of uses here that I have never heard of before! Thats great. So far the only citrus fruit I use for cleaning would be lemonsl. I use them weekly to clean off the stove top and also clean the sink in the kitchen and bathroom, as well as the bath/shower. It leaves everything fresh smelling and sparkly, looking new.

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