Homesteaders have found many ways to use lemons on the homestead, whether it’s through the actual fruits, the essential oils, or preservation methods. More parts of the citrus fruits are wasted than used.
For example, you might squeeze a slice of lemon into your water, then toss it out later. You eat the flesh of oranges and grapefruits, leaving the peels behind.
So much of citrus fruits are wasted, and a homesteader knows there are ways to use up everything. Lemons are versatile fruits that are easy to use and preserve. You can find all kinds of creative ways to use lemons.
Don’t forget that citrus fruits have a boatload of vitamins and nutrients that help our bodies. Lemons can heal our bodies when we’re sick and feeling nauseous, and put a pep in our step when we need a boost of energy.
1. Save the Zest
The zest is a valuable part of the lemon that can add flavor to your recipes. Dried zest can be substituted for fresh zest in any recipe that calls for it.
You need a grater to remove the outer layers of the peel from the lemon. Make sure it’s a fine grater. Avoid the bitter, white pith of the lemon.
Fresh zest can be used immediately, but you can also dry it by spreading the zest over a baking tray and letting it air dry in a spot with low humidity. Once thoroughly dried, transfer the zest to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place in your home.
2. Make a Homemade Bathroom Cleaner
Now that you have some dried lemon zest, you can make a homemade bathroom cleaner. The House and Homestead list an awesome bathroom cleaner that I tried and had excellent results. You need two cups of baking soda, zest from one lemon, and 3-4 drops of lemon essential oil.
You can store the cleaner in an airtight container. Just sprinkle over what you need to clean, such as a sink or bathtub. Then, spray with vinegar and scrub clean.
3. Create an All-Purpose Citrus Cleaner
Have you ever soaked vinegar in orange peels? You can do the same thing with lemon peels to create a vinegar infusion that can be used as an all-purpose cleaner. Take your fresh peels and put them in a large, glass jar. I prefer to use quart-sized Mason jars. Submerge the jars with white vinegar.
I keep a jar going at all times with peels waiting to become a citrus cleaner. Put the peels and whatever flesh is left into a jar. The vinegar infusion needs to sit for a few weeks, 4-6 weeks ideally. Then, strain the vinegar into a spray bottle and discard the peels.
Store your all-purpose lemon citrus cleaner in a cool, dark place and dilute with equal parts water. This cleaner can be used on countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, and more. However, never use a vinegar cleaner on marble because it will stain the marble.
4. Preserve the Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is a powerful bleacher, but you don’t have to purchase it at the store. Juicing citrus fruits is a simple process, and it can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Don’t think you’ll use all the lemon juice before the two weeks are up? Store it in the freezer for several months.
To freeze lemon juice, freeze into ice cube trays for easy portioning. Then, once the cubes are frozen, transfer them into a large freezer bag.
5. Dry The Peels
Dried lemon peels are a versatile item to have in your cabinets. They can be used for herbal teas, medicine, and homemade bath products. When you dry peels, try to break or cut them into smaller pieces because it makes drying easier.
Drying lemon peels can be done in several ways. Air drying is by far the most lengthy process, but it doesn’t require any special tools. A dehydrator can be used as well, but if you don’t have a dehydrator, bake the citrus peels at a low temperature.
Store your dried lemon pools in a glass jar or airtight container, and keep the jar in a cool, dark place.
6. Dehydrate the Slices for Potpourri
Have you ever purchased potpourri at a craft store and noticed dehydrated slices of oranges or lemons throughout the potpourri? All you need to do is dehydrate slices of lemons and oranges to make your own, and potpourri makes an excellent gift. People love homemade gifts that you spent time creating.
To dehydrate lemon slices, cut them thinly, around ¼-inch thick, and discard the seeds. Put the slices on a single layer on the dehydrator tray and dry at 135 degrees F for 6-10 hours. Store them in an airtight container that’s in a cool, dark place.
Add cranberries, cinnamon sticks, and other dehydrated goodies to create a unique-to-you potpourri blend.
7. Homemade Christmas Decorations
Stumped for Christmas decoration ideas? You can make a quick DIY ornament with the lemons you probably already have in your fruit basket. Dried citrus ornaments are super easy to make – all you need to do is slice a lemon into rounds (leave the peel intact. The slices should be about ¼” thick and you should do your best to remove the seeds.
Put the slices into the oven and allow them to bake for four hours at 150 degrees, flipping once per hour. Once the fruit is dry – but not shriveled – you can remove the slices. Stick a hook through the top of the rounds, and hang them from your Christmas tree. They look just like stained glass ornaments!
8. Homemade Vitamin C Powder
Vitamin C powder is a powerful remedy against colds, the flu, and sore throats. The powder is an orange-flavored powder that you can add to water and honey to make a drink. It’s a way to add a boost of vitamins to your body.
If you have dehydrated lemons on hand, you can make a homemade vitamin C powder. Most people associate oranges with vitamin C, but lemons have high levels as well making it a perfect candidate. Take your dehydrated lemon slices and use a coffee grinder to create a powder form, which needs to be stored in an airtight container.
To use this powder, add to water and stir in honey. It tastes great and helps to kick colds fast.
9. Candied Peels
Making candied peels takes a lot of sugar, but they’re far more nutritious and better for you than store-bought candy.
Use a peeler to remove slices of the peels from the lemon, avoiding the white pith. Put one cup of peels into a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 10 minutes.
Drain the water and repeat two more times. Next, add ½ cup of sugar with ¼ cup of water and let boil. Once boiled, put the peels into the sugar water, simmering for 15 minutes.
Remove the peels and dust with a bit more sugar, and let them air dry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. A dehydrator also works. Store your candied peels in an airtight container. Candied peels stay good for three months.
10. Homemade Room Spray
Making a citrus extract for homemade room spray takes just a few ingredients. First, to make the extract, place fresh or dried citrus peels into vodka.
Make sure you use a glass jar such as a pint or quart Mason jar and cover the lemon peels fully. Put the jar in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking every few days. You’ll notice that the vodka turns yellow as it adapts the color of the peel.
Once you’re satisfied, strain and put the extract into a bottle. You can use this as a room spray with parts water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
11. Whiten Your Clothes
Don’t buy bleach; use lemon juice instead! Lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide work together as a homemade bleach alternative. It’s an all-natural mixture that will whiten whites and remove stains.
To make a homemade whitening bleach, you’ll need a large half-gallon container. Add 12 cups of water, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and one cup of hydrogen peroxide. To whiten your laundry, add two cups of this mixture to each laundry load.
12. Freshen the Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposals sometimes smell a bit funky, and lemons are a super simple way to make it smell fresh again. Freeze white vinegar into an ice cube tray and put chunks of lemon into each ice cube.
Put the trays into the freezer, and when your garbage disposal is smelling a bit strange, drop a few vinegar lemon ice cubes down into a running garbage disposal.
The ice helps to keep the blades sharp while the lemon gets rid of the scent. Vinegar helps to clean it out and get rid of any bacteria that might be making the disposal smell terrible.
13. Add to Your Compost Pile
Adding lemons to your compost pile is one of the easiest ways to use lemons on your homestead. Lemons add beneficial nutrients, and the strong scent helps to keep pests at bay.
Be wary of adding too many citrus peels to a compost pile because the peels take longer to decompose than other fruit. Dice the peels into smaller pieces before adding them. Also, citrus and vermicomposting don’t mix as well because worms don’t like citrus. Keep lemons in the traditional compost pile.
14. Feed Lemons to Your Livestock
Livestock benefit from a few citrus treats. Chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, and cows like a bit of citrus in their diet. You don’t want to give too many lemons to your livestock, but a few treats here and there are good for them.
Lemons are full of good vitamins and essential oils that have antimicrobial properties — feeding lemons to your livestock help to keep them healthy.
15. Wash Your Fresh Veggies
Whether you’re bringing the veggies in from the garden or the store, fresh lemon juice can help wash your vegetables. Put one tablespoon of lemon juice into 8 ounces of water, and put it into a spray bottle. Use this mixture to spray your fruits and veggies, letting them sit for a few minutes,.Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
16. Clean Your Cutting Boards
Are your cutting boards starting to get a little…well, not so fresh? If so, you can easily refresh them with some lemons. Often, a quick washing is all you need to do to remove odors, but sometimes there are lingering scents that lemons do a great job at removing.
Here’s what you do – simply cut a lemon in half and rub a section on the stinky area. You’ll have a fresh, clean cutting board ready for your next culinary experiment.
17. Prevent Produce from Browning
We already mentioned washing your produce in lemon juice, but did you know you can also use it to prevent fruits and vegetables from browning? Lemon is an excellent natural disinfectant that won’t harm produce in any way.
You can easily dip vegetables and fruits like cauliflower and apples in lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring when exposed to the air. The best way to use lemons in this manner is to squeeze a lemon so that a few drops of the juice ends up in a glass of water. Put your produce in the water, and you’re all set.
18. Deter Pests
Nobody likes having a house full of bugs! Prevent an infestation before it starts by spraying your baseboards, windowsills, and cupboard doors with lemon juice. You can cut it with white vinegar for an extra boost – plus, the pleasant citrus scent will keep the vinegar from stinking up your kitchen.
There are tons of pests, including ants, cockroaches, and spiders, that are sensitive to the smell of lemons. Use lemon juice liberally around your home, and you won’t even see them cross the threshold.
19. Clean Your Windows
Lemons are fantastic streak-free glass cleaners. The dirtier your windows are, the more lemon juice you will need –but rest assured, they’ll get the job done. Just mix a few tablespoons of lemon juice into a cup of water.
Then, spray it on the glass. Wipe off the liquid with your cleaning rag and you’ll have a long-lasting, super-clear shine. No chemicals needed!
20. Polish Metal
Just as you can use lemons to clean other areas of your home, you can also use them to polish metal. They’re great at restoring shine to chrome fixtures and silverware in particular. Simply dip half a lemon in salt and scrub the dirty area until all the grime is gone. You don’t have to have a whole lemon, either – the rind will do.
21. Loosen Clumped Up Rice
If you like to buy dry goods like rice in bulk, you probably had your rice sticking together many times. This can also happen when you are cooking rice. An easy way to remedy it is to add a few drops of boiling water before you cook your rice. It will separate the grains and keep them from sticking together anymore while in the pot.
22. Relieve Heartburn – & Hangovers!
Lemons can be used in a pinch to substitute for a variety of medicine cabinet staples. Case in point – lemons as a heartburn reliever. Lemons are acidic, so if you have heartburn because you are lacking acid, this treatment will work wonders. All you need to do is drink a glass of lemon juice. It can also help relieve nausea.
Lemons are also heroes when it comes to curing hangovers. If you’re feeling a little under the weather after a night out on the town, squeeze some lemon juice into your water. It will make it easier for you to rehydrate and will also balance your pH levels and the vitamin C in your body.
23. Make an Essential Oil
Who doesn’t love burning essential oils in a diffuser – or using them in their cleaning, self-care routine, or some other aspect of your daily living? Lemons are the perfect candidates for making essential oils.
All you have to do is simmer a lemon in a carrier oil of your choosing (such as jojoba or olive oil) and then strain out the lemon bits before you use it. If you don’t want to use your stove, you can also just soak the rinds in cold oil for a few weeks.
24. Decorate Your Home
Let’s face it – winter can be super dreary. If you want to add a pop of color to your home during the bland winter months, do so with lemons! Since they’re winter fruits, they will be easy to find even during the cold days of winter.
Either layer them decoratively in a clear vase or leave them whole in a bowl – no matter how you choose to use them, they’re sure to brighten your mood and your home.
25. Clean Your Microwave
Got a nasty microwave to clean? Don’t waste all your time scrubbing it clean. Instead, slice up a lemon and drop a few slices into a bowl of water. Microwave the bowl for about six minutes.
The water will produce steam, which will loosen the grime inside your microwave. All you will need to do is wipe things down with a clean paper towel.
26. Make Gorgeous Finishing Salts
If you’re looking for a great gift – or if you just want to impress your visitors with a unique garnish on seafood and meat – you should whip up a batch of lemon finishing salts.
All you need to do is add the zest from a lemon and some thyme and sea salt to a bowl. Bake in a 225-degree F oven for two hours, mixing once an hour. Let them cool and press out any lumps.
Then, you can sprinkle the salts onto seafood either before or after cooking, or package them into cute mason jars as awesome gifts!
27. Create a Vinaigrette
You can easily make a lemon vinaigrette by combining lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and honey. It’s a perfectly simple gluten-free option that you can whip up in a jiffy!
28. DIY Your Buttermilk
Are you making buttermilk biscuits – but forgot that you are out of buttermilk? If so, you can easily “hack” your buttermilk by combining a cup of milk and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Let it stand for about five minutes – it will start to look somewhat curdled. You can make all the buttermilk you need!
29. Make Potpourri
If you love potpourri but don’t want to pay the big bucks for it at the store, then you can easily make your own using sliced-up lemons. You’ll just simmer a couple of sliced lemons, some rosemary, and a tablespoon of vanilla in a pot for about an hour. When finished, this potpourri will last about three days before it starts to lose its scent.
30. Descale an Electric Kettle
I love using an electric kettle, but over time, crusty white scales begin to appear inside of it. It’s unpleasant to look at, and although it’s not necessarily bad for you, it’s not something you want to have around.
You can get rid of the scale –which is actually calcium deposits – with some acid. Lemon juice has plenty of it! Just squeeze some lemon juice and water into your kettle, boil it as you normally would, then dump out the water. Give the kettle a rinse before you use it again – unless you like the lemony flavor, that is!
31. Remove Smells in Your Refrigerator
Sometimes, no matter how diligent you are about cleaning your refrigerator, it just smells. If you’ve scrubbed it clean and don’t have any old, moldy leftovers hiding out on you, it might be worth using some lemons.
After you’ve squeezed a lemon – say, for one of these other purposes we’ve mentioned – go ahead and put the juiced half in a bowl, cut side facing up. Your refrigerator will smell fresher in just a few hours.
32. Make a Candle
If you like the smell of lemon essential oil but want to use it on your skin, don’t. this can cause some major irritation. However, you can use the oil for scented candles. Use the oil as the scent in your favorite candle recipe – you’ll need just a few other ingredients, like beeswax, to get the job done.
33. Create a Cocktail Garnish
Slice a lemon into rings and then dry them in the oven – just as you would in our Christmas ornament hack. Then, you can hang them from garlands for another kind of decoration or you can hang them off the rim of cocktail glasses. When dropped into your drink, you’ll get a super concentrated dose of that perfect lemon flavor.
34. Use Peels as Fire Starters
If your fireplace has been smelling a bit too smoky lately, some lemons might be the perfect cure. Along with your logs, add a few dried lemon peels to the fireplace. They are not only great at getting a fire going, but they will make your house smell fantastic as they burn, too.
35. Create an Emergency Deodorant
Plenty of people are shying away from the idea of using store-bought deodorants. Not only are they expensive, but they’re filled with harmful chemicals, like aluminum, that can cause long-term health problems. Rely on lemons instead!
Not only will lemons help you smell fresh and clean, but the citric acid in lemon juice is also reported to kill the bacteria that cause the smells.
36. Soothe a Sore Throat
There’s a reason why your mother always made you drink green tea with lemon when you were sick! It’s great for healing a sore throat, as it has anti-inflammatory properties. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of warm water and gargle for the best results.
37. Keep Greens Crisp
There’s nothing worse than heading to the refrigerator to grab the ingredients for a tasty salad…only to find out that your lettuce has wilted and gone soggy. Don’t throw it out!
You can still use the greens in your salad with the help of a bit of lemon juice. Put the juice of half a lemon in a bowl of cold water. Put the lettuce in the bowl and refrigerate for an hour. Dry your leaves before using them in your salad.
38. Disinfect Cuts
In addition to having anti-inflammatory benefits, lemons are also antiseptic. You can stop bleeding and disinfect minor injuries by just pouring a couple of drops of lemon juice on the cut. It will sting for a minute, but you only need to keep it on for a minute or two to see results.
39. Soothe Poison Ivy
If you discovered you had poison ivy after a day of playing in the woods, you don’t have to reach for the calamine lotion. Lemon juice not only helps calm the irritation, but it can soothe itching, too.
40. Ditch the Mothballs
You don’t need moth balls to keep moths from damaging your clothes! All you need are some lemons. Stick a few cloves with lemons in your closet. The lemons, once studded with the cloves, will dry with the cloves and not only leave a fantastic odor in your closet but will help keep moths and other pests away, too.
Using Lemons on the Homestead
As you can see, lemons are a versatile fruit. You might need it to flavor your hot tea, add a unique twist to a dish, or to whiten your whites in the laundry.
There are hundreds of other potential uses for lemons – particularly when it comes to culinary applications! – but these are some of the most unique hacks to help you make the most of the entire fruit.
That’s a range of ways to use lemons on the homestead. It takes a bit of creativity, but tossing out lemons that still have a life to them isn’t the right step as a homesteader. Use them up!
Bethany is a mom of three living on a suburban homestead in Eastern Ohio. She’s an avid gardener and advocates living a frugal lifestyle.