My Superhero: Lemon Vinegar

Like so many American boys, Lil’ A talks about superheros on an almost daily basis. And although we try to discourage as much video game, TV and movie time as possible, the lure of the story of a masked crusader coming to save the day is always a powerful one. I remember those days myself, flying around the living room in my Superwoman Underoos’…

Nowadays my taste in superheros has changed, as the people I look up to are real and most likely someone I have a personal relationship with. My fantasies no longer revolve around strange characters with elaborate costumes, but are instead about being rescued from the evil clutches of Commercial Products and House Cleaning… Let’s face it, as adults our daily superheros are usually making our lives easier as opposed to actually saving our lives!

With that, I’d like to introduce you to my latest superhero… Lemon Vinegar. You may laugh, but lemme tell ya- Lemon Vinegar deserves a cape on that jar. Maybe even a mask and a symbol. Hmm… I’ll have to talk to Gramma T about that.

I’ve been on a quest for over 5 years now to actively eliminate chemicals from my home. This process began even before having Lyle and Lil’ A in my life, but now seems that much more important. I’ll write a post soon about the specific reasons I started this journey, but suffice it to say, it has been one of the biggest changes in my life overall. From food and medicine, to cleaning and hygiene, the process of moving to an all natural lifestyle has been slow but ongoing. Replacing just my cleaning products with all-natural alternatives has eliminated my exposure to hundreds of toxic chemicals alone. Reading a Safety Data Sheet (formerly a Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS) for some of the products I used to use makes me shudder now… Hormone disruption? Emphysema? Cancer?!?

No, thank you.

What are the alternatives then?? Manufacturers have come out with more “green” options when it comes to household cleansers. Walk into any supermarket or box store and you’ll find a variety of products with words like, natural, organic, and green on their labels. Unfortunately it seems the more natural the product, the higher the price tag. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

My entire adult career has been in social services which translates into, “I don’t make diddly-squat” in case you didn’t know. Purchasing expensive, albeit “all-natural” products, was a challenging hurdle for me, which led me to start using good ol’ fashioned vinegar and baking soda. More often than not it is a basic cleanser that does the job well… Notice I said, more often than not. Which means sometimes the answer to how well it’s working is, “not”.

Which is why Lemon Vinegar has become my superhero, albeit a vintage superhero! It’s like rediscovering the old Superman in a world full of Power Rangers. The idea of throwing citrus peels into vinegar for cleaning is NOT new, and in fact your grandmother or great-grandmother probably did the same dang thing. Of course, now that everything old is new again you can see this idea all over Facebook and Pinterest right now. In the comments however, I see doubt… Could it really work THAT well? Could it really be THAT easy? Could it really be THAT eco-friendly?? YES. For the love of all things wonderful, YESSSS!!! Hey, I’m shouting it from the mountaintop, so it must be true…

We live in the mountains where there is a lot of dirt. We love to work in the garden and yard where there is a lot of dirt. We have a 5 year old where there is a lot of dirt. Have I mentioned we have a lot of dirt?? As you can imagine, this ends up in the sink and shower eventually, where it combines with our body oils and soaps and hard water to create the dastardly villain Soap Scum! Dun, dun, DUNNNN!!! (That was supposed to be the dramatic music I heard in my head as I typed that last sentence by the way). The funny thing about soap scum is that once it starts building up, it is HARD to eliminate. I would spray the shower with vinegar, let it sit for a while, before coming back with the baking soda to scrub. And scrub. Pause to open a beer because it’s that hard and then scrub some more. Even with commercial products, cleaning off this villain requires a whole lotta’ elbow grease! 

And yet, with Lemon Vinegar on my side, I was able to actually drink that beer (while cold!) as I had to scrub sooooo much less than before. I now keep a large mason jar in my pantry at all times, filled with a combination of lemon peels and vinegar. You could also use orange or grapefruit peels, or a combination of the three. This is my go-to cleaning product, one that is always in a spray-bottle and ready to be used at a moment’s notice. It’s cheap, it’s effective, and it won’t cause harm to myself, my loved ones, my pets OR the environment. Win win in my book!

You may be surprised to learn how much lemon vinegar works on…

  1. Soap scum. I spray the sink and bathtub until they’re wet and then walk away for 20 minutes or so. Do something else while that citrus-smelling superhero does the hard work for you. Spray the offending scum once again, throw on a little baking soda, and wipe. Add more Lemon Vinegar and baking soda as needed, depending on dirty your shower is. Give everything a quick rinse afterwards for a spotless and clean smelling shower or bath!  
  2. Grease. Lemon Vinegar cuts right through the grease, especially if wiped with a cloth dampened in hot water. Add a little baking soda to the mix as well if you need a little more scrubbing power, such as on the stove top.
  3. Bacteria. Lemon Vinegar may not kill as much bacteria on your counters as Lysol or bleach. BUT. I want you to think long and hard about how much bacteria is really in your house. Odds are, you’re not sheltering the Ebola virus, and Lemon Vinegar will kill MUCH of the common bacteria strains that do actually inhabit our home that will make us sick. Living in TOO sterile of an environment does not allow our bodies to produce antibodies that can protect us. I feel Lemon Vinegar is a healthy balance between too little and too much bacteria exposure.
  4. Ants. Yup! It kills ants too, dead as a door nail. Lyle and I have had several attempts at major infestations in the house that have been thwarted by Lemon Vinegar!! Spray it generously on the swarm (or just the trail if you’re lucky) and repeat if necessary the next day. We’ve only had to spray twice to convince them our house was not welcoming…
  5. Cat pee. Is there anything more insidious in terms of smells?? Ewww… Spray the Lemon Vinegar on the pee and wipe up. Spray another generous layer and allow it to dry if it’s on a material that won’t be damaged, such as linoleum or light carpet. Wipe up the second layer of spray if you’re concerned about damage from the acidity, such as on hardwood floors.  
  6. Hair rinse. I have been pursuing alternative methods of cleaning my hair for the last year or so (future blog post!). More often than not I follow those methods with a vinegar rinse, and will sometimes use the Lemon Vinegar as my rinse instead of apple cider or plain white vinegar. It leaves a gentle lemon scent on my hair after my shower.
  7. Removing mineral buildup. The minerals that make our well water oh-so-tasty also have a nasty habit of building up on the sink and shower fixtures. We use a half water, half Lemon Vinegar mixture to soak the heads before scrubbing, making the job MUCH easier. With a sink faucet that doesn’t lower or remove easily for cleaning, you can soak a piece of rag in the same mixture. Wrap it around the mineral buildup and cover it with plastic, using a rubber band or tied piece of string to hole the bundle in place. Leave it tied up overnight before removing it and cleaning the head. You’ll be amazed… 
  8. Dishwasher boost. Use about 1/2 cup of Lemon Vinegar in your dishwasher instead of a rinse agent full of chemicals. You can either toss it into the bottom of your dishwasher before starting the wash cycle, or put it in a shallow bowl or cup on the top rack. I love the scent of lemon while watching something else clean!
  9. Laundry softener. Remember me talking about those Safety Data Sheets? Yeah… Laundry softener is no bueno!! Use vinegar instead for an economically and ecologically better alternative. Plus, vinegar in the washer helps eliminate unwanted odors from your laundry AND combats mineral buildup. Use the Lemon Vinegar to add a touch of lemon scent to your wash as well! My favorite combo in my laundry is lavender and lemon as it smells like sunshine! 
  10. Salad dressing. Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more! Add 1/2-1 teaspoon of the Lemon Vinegar to your favorite homemade dressings to add a little lemon flavor along with the vinegar. Acidity adds a brightness to dressings that provides balance and is delicious!

Do you see what I’m saying about the awesome superpowers of Lemon Vinegar?? Have you ever tried making a citrus vinegar? How well did that work for you? Let us know in the comments!

Now to go talk to Gramma T about that cape… 

Lemon Vinegar
Photo by SPF
Lemon Vinegar
Lemon Vinegar (or any citrus vinegar) is a Superhero at cleaning!
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  1. 1 mason jar, quart size or larger
  2. Lemon peels
  3. White vinegar
  1. Add enough lemon peels to fill your mason jar at least 1/3 full.
  2. Fill the jar with white vinegar and cover.
  3. Allow to steep in a dark place for at least 2 weeks.
  4. Replace lemon peels and add more vinegar as needed.
  1. Use a strainer when adding the vinegar to a spray bottle to prevent debris from clogging your sprayer. Add the same amount of water and mix.
Adapted from the old ways
Adapted from the old ways
Seven Points Farm

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