It’s mid-February in South Texas, but some days it already feels like spring. Sunny and 70 degree days are upon us and I’m not loving it. Whether this means winter is over or that spring has sprung early, who knows. But by the look of the winter grapefruits and tangerines still sitting on my dining room table, the message is clear: it’s time to do something with these fruits before they shrivel up to nothing.
It’s not that I don’t love citrus, because I do, but I’ve had my fill of winter grapefruits and oranges. I must have eaten dozens of grapefruit halves for breakfasts and snacks. I have also cut the assorted citrus into supremes as the chefs say, or segments as I say, and added them into salads as well as with roasted beets. Though rather than toss these colorful beauties that are still aromatizing the dining room–one of the reasons I haven’t been too motivated to do anything is I love the smell–I have found a very environmental and healthy way to use the citrus.
While I love the smell of a clean house, when I came across this dandy approach, it made me think of all the chemicals we use to clean. There was a time, not too long ago, when we cleaned the tile floor throughout the house with vinegar and essential oils. My housekeeper agrees that vinegar is a great cleaner. Unfortunately, I am weak and my love of Fabuloso and the smell that makes me think I still live in Mexico beat the natural and healthy alternative cleaner.
Natural Cleaners for the Win
Until I did some research, which changed my mind for good. Are you ready for this? Fabuloso is nothing more than water combined with sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate (“a hazardous substance”), fragrance, C9-11 Pareth B 8, sodium laureth sulfate (“highly irritating and dangerous”), preservatives and dye. Yuck!
Considering we have two dogs that we adore more than anything and that we live and work at home, I thought of the possible damages we could be doing by using chemicals to clean the floors. The fact that 97% of our house is tile and wood floors only accelerated my decision to make the change from chemicals to something natural and less toxic.
When I came across this recipe for a citrus-vinegar cleaner, I knew this was going to serve us well. Citrus is a natural degreaser, stain remover and freshener, while plain old (and inexpensive) white vinegar is a great cleaning agent that breaks down grease, mineral deposits, mold and even dreaded bacteria.
With the remaining winter citrus on my dining room table, I used the citrus peel for the recipe and then juiced the fruit. The fruit was used, the citrus peel did not go to waste and we thoroughly enjoyed drinking the juice. And, yes, we now have an all-natural lemon-orange-grapefruit-rosemary cleaner and the house smells great!
A sweet ending to what could have been quite sour.
Buen provecho–or, in this case, buena limpieza (good cleaning)!
Natural Citrus-Vinegar Cleaner
All you need is your choice of citrus, herbs, spices, extracts, distilled white vinegar, a Mason jar and a minimum of two weeks. For spring, I would go with lemon-rosemary and choose the lime-thyme in the summer, while the orange-spice would be nice in the fall and grapefruit-mint is good for winter. Or mix it up as I did and use whatever you have in the house. This is a super cheap, easy, fun activity for kids to make and healthy way to brighten up and "green" your cleaning regime.
- Distilled white vinegar
- Citrus peels lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits
- Herbs rosemary, thyme, sage or mint
- Spices cinnamon sticks and cloves
- Extracts vanilla, almond or mint
- Essential oils optional
Using a 1 or 2 quart jar or sealable container, add citrus peels, spices, herbs and extracts. Pour in enough vinegar to cover completely and cover tightly. Let sit for 2 weeks or as long as a month, shaking the jar every few days to redistribute contents. Strain liquid and store in covered jar or container for up to 1 year.
When ready to use, mix in a spray bottle using 1/3 cup scented vinegar concentrate for each 2/3 cups water. If desired, add 3-4 drops essential oils or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon extract to enhance scent. Shake and use for cleaning most surfaces. Not recommended for granite or marble.
I made two batches: ++Lemon-orange-grapefruit and rosemary vinegar became my first batch. ++Orange-cinnamon-clove vinegar is my second batch that waits patiently for two weeks in hiding. Vinegar-citrus combinations: ++Lemon-rosemary--3-4 large rosemary sprigs, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, enough lemon peels to fill the jar. ++Lime-thyme--6 sprigs thyme, enough lime peels to fill the jar. ++Orange-spice--4-6 cinnamon sticks, 1-2 tablespoons whole cloves, 1 Tablespoon almond extract and enough orange peels to fill the jar. ++Grapefruit-mint--8 large sprigs of mint (or 1 tablespoon mint extract), enough grapefruit peels to fill the jar.