From deodorizing your garbage disposal to shining up your windows, ‘throwaway’ rinds, skins, and other food scraps can help you spring clean your house for pennies! Here are five clever ways to make your home sparkle — with things you’d normally toss out.
Revitalize wood with banana peels.
Banana peels contain potassium, citric acid and salicylic acid, all of which act as gentle cleaning agents for natural, porous surfaces like wood and leather, says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily’s Maids in Dallas. The peels also contain a natural wax, which helps keep everything from wood furniture to leather jackets sealed and supple. “Just take the banana peel and rub the inside of it on the surface you’re cleaning, then gently buff it using a soft cloth — and don’t forget to enjoy eating the actual banana afterward!”
Get steel gleaming with cucumber skins.
If your stainless steel appliances, faucets, and cutlery are looking a bit spotty or discolored, a cucumber peel can be your new best friend, says Elizabeth Cannon, owner of Two Maids & A Mop in North Carolina. “It contains mildly alkaline potassium, which helps draw out dirt and tannins that tarnish steel surfaces.” The powerful peel also removes fingerprint marks for a glossy shine — and has the added bonus of leaving your kitchen smelling fresh.
Clean your disposal with orange rinds.
The oils in oranges deodorize even the smelliest garbage disposal, promises natural cleaning expert Kait Schulhof, of A Clean Bee. Just toss in a few rinds, then run the disposal. Their juice and oils will eliminate germs and leave a fresh, fruity scent. “For really tough odors, drop a few peels in an ice cube tray filled with water, then grind the cubes in the disposal — the ice will scrape the walls and help the peels do their job more thoroughly.”
Rust-proof pots and pans with potato scraps.
“Potatoes are the natural enemy of rust because they contain oxalic acid, the active ingredient in store-bought rust cleaners,” reveals cleaning expert Cyrus Bedwyr, of Fantastic Services. Just give knives, baking pans and cast iron cookware a swipe of potato peel to take the rust right off. “If the rust is stubborn, add a little salt to make the peel more abrasive — then simply rinse and dry your items.”
Shine up windows with a lemon squeeze.
Lemon peels make an unbeatable glass cleaner, promises Schulhof. Just fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar, add a few lemon peels, and leave them to infuse for one week. Then simply spritz your natural cleaner on windows, shower doors and mirrors. “The acids from the vinegar combine with the oils in the lemon peels to cut through soap scum and mildew, leaving glass clean and streak-free.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.