Green Cleaning | The Science Is In: Orange Peels Take Out Grease

Orange peels are a staple of any serious DIY green cleaning enthusiast, and there’s a lot of history behind its use. Science also supports the notion, and a recent study by Indonesian and Malaysian chemical researchers has come up with some evidence.

The study is titled Biocompatible and Biodegradable Surfactants from Orange Peel for Oil Spill Remediation, and was published in the August 2023 issue of the journal molecules.

The Study

Specifically, the study looked at how effective orange peel extracts were in cleaning up an oil spill. Oil spills directly affect health and the environment.

As the researchers point out, the standard method for cleaning oil spills involves using chemicals. Those chemicals, however, are toxic, and non-biodegradable. A surfactant is added to a liquid, usually water, to reduce the surface tension. Cleaning surfactants attract grease, and lift break it into smaller pieces that wash away or disperse. Some chemical surfactants can irritate the skin and the lining of the respiratory system.

It’s an important step in what is called green chemistry – or trying to switch out harmful chemical options for sustainable ones.

The researchers synthesized two surfactants from the orange peel using a specific solvent.

  • They were biodegradable, and higher than 60% after just 28 days;
  • They measured various qualities, such as how it dispersed, and how stable it was;
  • Standardizes tests were used on the orange-peel derived cleaners;
  • They were “practically non-toxic”.

As the researcher summarized in the abstract,

“Considering these attributes, biocompatible and biodegradable surfactants derived from orange peel emerge as a promising and sustainable alternative for oil spill remediation.”


“It can be concluded that the surfactant synthesized from orange peel using IL as an environmentally benign reaction medium provided higher dispersion effectiveness for oil spill remediation than surfactant synthesized using an organic solvent”.

If it can clean up an oil spill, it can handle your kitchen and household dirt.

  • Check out some of our orange green cleaning recipes here.

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