We use lemons in all kinds of things we eat from lemonade to lemon bars, even in pies. Their rinds make a wonderful garnish or zest, too. Some people really like lemons, so much so that we have cleaning products like wood polishes and air sprays that have a pleasant lemon scent. Some people believe lemons have bacteria-fighting capabilities as well.
But does lemon juice kill bacteria? No, lemon juice cannot kill bacteria. You can use lemon juice to clean but that lemon is not going to be able to disinfect your counters or areas where foods, especially raw meats, are prepared.
No chemical-based cleaners out there can completely kill all bacteria either. Bacteria will always be around in good and bad forms. And while you shouldn’t use lemon juice to clean areas that have been in contact with things like raw meats or food preparation areas, you can use it to clean some other household things.
And if used with a few other commonly kept items, lemon juice could be a decent cleaner. But what makes a lemon able to clean things and not other fruits like bananas? Read on to find out more.
How could a lemon help clean your home?
Lemons are an acidic fruit and acids make great cleaners. If you have ever just cut one open and took a bite, or drank fresh squeezed lemon juice, chances are you pulled that classic scrunched up face and then got laughed at by your friends and family. That taste is the acid. This bitter, tart-tasting fruit has a few fun little secrets under that zesty rind.
Lemon juice could potentially be a good cleaning agent due to its natural antibacterial properties and a low pH count. Because of that low pH count, the acids in the lemon can break down and halt certain bacteria and germs from spreading. Some even say it has an antiviral ability, helping to stop the spread of viruses.
In case you’re still not sure what pH is or what it has to do with cleaning with lemon juice, here’s a quick rundown.
Don’t worry, I won’t test you on this.
Quickly, pH is an acronym for ‘potential of Hydrogen’ and the pH scale is used by scientists to determine or measure the acidity or alkalinity of some water-soluble solutions.
The pH value scales from 0 to 14, 7 being the middle ground. Most tap water and bottled waters tend to have a pH around a level 7.
Of course, it is a bit more complex than that, but a lemon falls on a pH scale of around 2 to 3. Here is an excellent explanation of all that crazy science stuff if you are curious.
I was also fascinated by a few reports and documents of tests that were performed with lemon extract on foodborne microorganisms.
But that’s enough science nerd stuff. We want to clean!
But how can you clean with lemon juice?
It’s time to make your home sparkle and shine with that bonus of a fresh lemon scent! But how should we get started?
Easy, we need a few lemons. Fresh lemon juice works best but not everyone is going to have time to squeeze a lemon. Never fear; we have more than one option.
Lemon juices are a common thing to find at most grocery stores, but we don’t want the normal lemon juice that you would buy for cooking or baking. Try to find concentrated lemon juice. This is stuff that does not have any other added ingredients.
You should also note that lemons can get expensive. It might help to find a place that sells either lemons or pure lemon juice in bulk, and do not worry if the fruit has a few brown spots or is a little beat up. We don’t really need the fruit itself for this, just the juice.
You might also want to have a few other things on hand as well, like some plain table salt, non-iodized salt. Make sure it’s not kosher, just plain table salt.
We will also need some white vinegar, baking soda, and a few old sponges and toothbrushes along with a simple spray bottle.
Since lemon on its own isn’t a very strong cleaner we can do a few things to boost its power.
All you need is an old or new spray bottle. Make sure it’s one that has not been used with bleach or other harsh chemical cleaners. Fill the bottle part way with some white vinegar, then add some lemon juice.
Despite my research, I was unable to find a specific, magic ratio.
It depends on the size of your spray bottle, strength of the lemon juice, and the type of vinegar or other additives. The general consensus seems to be one to two cups vinegar to a half cup lemon juice. Some people cut up full lemons and let them soak in a vinegar bath in the spray bottle for an hour or more. But don’t just start spraying. You should strain the lemons out, squeezing the remaining juice into the bottle first.
The idea is to have the cleaning and antibacterial properties of both the vinegar and lemon juice without that sometimes offending smell of the vinegar.
What can you clean with lemon juice?
Now armed with our lemons and lemon juice, we can start cleaning!
There are a few things people say you should not use lemon juice on, such as natural stone counters or flooring and brass-plated items. Before cleaning something you are not too sure of just test a small spot, then rinse with warm soapy water.
The vinegar and lemon juice mix could be good for average surfaces such as counters that are not for food preparation or after you have safely disinfected those surfaces with cleaning agents meant for those surfaces.
On stains, you can use a mix of lemon juice and cream of tartar or baking soda. Scrub the lemon and baking soda into the stain or grime with a sponge or old toothbrush and it should help lift it off after sitting for 60 seconds. Wait a few minutes longer for really tough spots. With nasty, stained grout tiles, you could use the lemon juice and baking soda, leave it for a minute or two then gently scrub away with an old toothbrush or rough-sided sponge.
Your mix of lemon and vinegar could be used on things like glass and mirrors, misting them down then gently wiping away with a soft cloth. Lemon juice and vinegar water could also be used in your washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher. The acid in the lemon juice works quite well on those nasty soap and lime deposits. Lemon juice and salt can make for a decent way to shine up chrome details in places like the sink or a car.
Is lemon juice safe for my family?
Lemon juice as a cleaner is generally safe. It is food-grade, because it’s literally made of food. The acidity in lemons may potentially cause mild contact-sensitive reactions in some people, so just make sure you follow safe cleaning and usage practices.
This is especially good to hear for chemical sensitivities and homes with babies and young kids. Since there are no harsh, synthetic chemicals to worry about, a teething child or curious pet isn’t likely to be harmed.
Can I use lemon juice to clean wounds?
The high acidity of lemons can halt the spread of some kinds of germs but there is no proper medical evidence that putting lemons or lemon juice on your wounds is beneficial. It is much safer to go with proper saline solutions, rubbing alcohol, medical wipes, or a quick visit to your doctor.
Be wary of home remedies that tell you to put food on an open wound. Not to mention, lemon juice is going to hurt like the dickens!
Does lemon juice kill bacteria in your mouth? Lemon and honey with some ginger in warm water is usually a common way to help rid yourself of a nasty sore throat. Many home remedies exist out there that use lemon, as lemon can stop some bacteria and cut through mucus. However, do not let lemon juice sit on your teeth for long as the acid in the juice could erode the enamel in your teeth.
Is lemon juice an antibacterial? No, it’s not. You should always use recommended sanitizing agents to clean food prep areas such as cutting boards.
Lemon juice is a useful, safe, natural household helper, but it’s not made of magic. Used responsibly and with caution, it can help you keep your house sparkling and fresh without the use of synthetic chemicals.