If you go on Pinterest or Instagram looking at the zero waste posts, you have probably seen the photos of the jars of orange peels suspended in vinegar. When I first started my zero waste journey, this was the one hack that I was equally intrigued by and also skeptical of. As an avid lover of oranges, I know that I have more wasted orange peels that I know what to do with, so I thought that it was finally time for me to bite the bullet and try out this all-purpose cleaner hack.
The cleaner itself is three ingredients. All you need are orange peels, vinegar, and a jar. So when I got home from work one day I promptly ate three oranges, put the peels in a jar (actually it was a glass bottle), and covered them with vinegar. The only thing left to do was put it in a dark place and wait. The consensus that I found on the internet was 1-2 weeks, so that’s what I did.
I actually was going to put the bottle in the back of my closet because I didn’t want my mom questioning why there was a jar of orange peels in one of her cupboards. But, she ultimately came in right as I was going to pour the vinegar and started questioning what on earth I was doing. So I explained to her how orange peels and vinegar together apparently make a really nice all purpose cleaner. My mom actually cleans for some people around town (mostly elderly people who aren’t able to clean everything by themselves anymore), and so she was actually weirdly intrigued by this and allowed me to put the bottle beneath the sink.
I should add that my mom makes some of her own DIY cleaners, but I wouldn’t say that they are the most eco-friendly. The one that comes to mind most is her concoction of vinegar and Dawn dish soap that she uses in the bathroom a lot to clean showers and sinks, but can also be used for just about anything.
I went to go check the bottle a day later, but I couldn’t get the cap off the bottle after a few dozen tries, so I gave up and took that as the cleaner’s way of saying it wasn’t ready yet. When a week had finally gone by, I checked the bottle again. I could tell that the vinegar inside had an orange tint to it that wasn’t there before. I finally just had my dad open the bottle (that is of course what dads are for).
So once I opened the bottle, I bravely took a sniff, not really knowing what all to expect. I thought that maybe it would still have a strong vinegar smell with a hint of the citrus peel coming through, but what I found was that it smelled half and half like vinegar and orange. From what I found online and the countless posts about this cleaner was that you should dilute this mixture with water, so when I put the solution in the glass spray bottle, I made a 1:1 mixture with water.
Another thing that I think I should point out is that this cleaner is always touted as being an “all-purpose cleaner” when in actuality, it shouldn’t be. As I’ve said before, my mom has made a living cleaning for the elderly and small businesses in our community, so she knows a thing or two about what works well to clean what. After living in the same house as her for 20 years, I know that there are certain things that should never be cleaned with vinegar. Vinegar is acidic and so it can be harmful to certain surfaces and materials.
You should NEVER use vinegar to clean:
Stone and Granite Countertops
Wood and Stone Flooring
Wood Furniture and Shelving
Anything with Bleach
Now that we have that out of the way, I will point out that vinegar is a good multi-purpose cleaner, not all-purpose as we were all told. This solution that I made is diluted, so of course it is not as harmful to clean with as straight vinegar, but I would still be careful and do your research before using this just anywhere in your home. What I do know is that vinegar is known not to leave streaks on glass and easily remove tarnish from most metals.
You SHOULD use vinegar to clean:
Copper and Brass
Pet Urine in Carpets
Stinky Garbage Cans
I would say in retrospect that this cleaner was very simple and non-intensive to make. If you aren’t a fan of citrus smells, then you can use a multitude of other things to create this cleaner, the most popular I saw being pine needles and lavender buds. You could also probably skip the waiting by creating a 1:1 mixture with vinegar and water (I also saw measurements of 1 ¾ cup water to ⅓ cup vinegar) and then adding some drops of your favorite essential oils for scent. Overall, I say that this is a great DIY for beginners and should work well in your home as long as you do your research before cleaning to make sure that you won’t damage your surfaces.