The Science Behind DIY Cleaning With Citrus

Lemons – juice and peel – can be used in many ways to clean your home, from kitchen to bathroom and more. There are many DIY cleaning recipes using lemon and other simple kitchen ingredients that will help you reduce your exposure to harsh artificial chemicals.

Knowing the science behind why they work can help you choose the right recipe for the right cleaning challenge.

It’s About The Acids

Most soaps are actually alkaline. However, acids can make efficient natural cleaning agents. Lemons contain both citric acid (about 8% of its dry weight) and ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. Acids are useful in many cleaning situations, such as:

  • Removing stains caused by other acids, such as fruit juices, wine, coffee, lipstick, paint, and sweat;
  • Cleaning off limescale and other alkaline stains (calcium carbonate) such as rust (iron oxide);
  • Combining with alkaline compounds (such as baking soda) it creates an even more powerful cleaning solution.

The acids in lemons and other citrus fruits make them good choices for cleaning cutting boards, knives, plates, and other surfaces that come into contact with acidic stains. Typically, the acid attacks the staining material and softens it, making it easy to wash away.

Antibacterial properties

Lemons do have some – albeit not global or all-inclusive – antibacterial properties. The acids do not kill bacteria, but it does create a hostile environment where many types of bacteria cannot live and they become inactive. These include:

  • Salmonella;
  • E.coli;
  • Among others.

It is important to remember, however, that there are some pathogens where the weaker acids of lemons, limes and other citrus fruits do not have much effect.

  • Organic acids such as citric and ascorbic acid tend to be more effective on what are known as Gram-negative bacteria.
  • Adding baking soda adds protection against the feline calicivirus (a norovirus surrogate).
  • Increasing temperature increased the antimicrobial efficacy.

Lemons against odours

The acids in citrus fruits neutralize odors, particularly when it comes to organic smells like fish cooking or rotting veggies in the garbage. With fish, for example, the odor is called by chemicals called amines. They react to the citric acid in lemon juice and form salts. Those salts dissolve in the liquid of the juice – or water that you can use to rinse.

  • It makes lemons the ideal solution to garbage and garbage disposal odors;
  • It cleans and refreshes microwave ovens;
  • Setting a saucepan of water and lemon slices on a slow simmer will keep your home smelling fresh for hours.

Knowing the science helps you choose the right cleaning solution for the right job.

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