Don’t throw out those citrus rinds

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Citrus fruit and juice have a wide variety of uses in your daily life. Whether you are squeezing an orange into fresh juice or squeezing lemons to use as a natural stove top cleaner, you probably have good reasons to buy bags upon bags of citrus when it is in season.

You may not have known, though, that the peels of your favorite citrus fruit are just as useful as the fruit itself. Lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange rinds not only smell delicious, but they also contain a number of antibacterial, pest repellant and flavorful properties that go to waste when the peels end up in the trash.

Here are 14 ways you can use your leftover citrus rinds.


Add citrus to the list of things you may not have known you can compost. The myth that citrus rinds ward off good bugs in compost is not true. In fact, the smell of citrus may help keep scavenging rats and birds out of your compost pile. Tear citrus peels into smaller pieces to help it decompose more quickly.

Freeze them for later

Whether you’re making curry or cookies, a little bit of citrus zest goes a long way in the kitchen. Instead of tossing those citrus peels in the trash, toss them in a freezer-safe container and keep them for up to three months. When you are ready to use them, simply pull them out and get to zesting. I personally recommend zesting a little bit of chilled orange rinds over chocolate ice cream for an extra punch of flavor.

Make compound butter

Making compound butter is an easy way to make an everyday meal seem gourmet. Simply melt a stick of butter on low in a saucepan, add some mix-ins, cover and freeze in a silicone ice cube tray for a few hours before using. Some flavor combinations that take advantage of your favorite citrus zest are:

  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest + 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest + 1 tablespoon of rosemary + salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest + 2 tablespoons chopped basil + 1 garlic clove, pressed or finely minced + salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of lime zest + 2 tablespoons cilantro + 1 teaspoon chili powder + ½ teaspoon salt

Clean your counters

If you are looking for some natural spring cleaning hacks, take advantage of the disinfectant properties of citrus peels to make a fresh-smelling and effective natural cleaner. Add orange or lemon rinds to a jar with vinegar for a few weeks to make an antimicrobial, antibacterial all-purpose cleaner.

Deter pests

The smell of citrus will effectively keep pests at bay in your garden and kitchen. Scatter small slices of lemon peel around your garden, or on windowsills, door entrances and mysterious holes where ants and mice may be entering your home. The scent of lemon is also effective against roaches and fleas.

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Garbage disposal fresheners

No need to spend money on garbage disposal cleaner. Freeze a few citrus peels with water in an old ice cube tray and grind a few in your stinky garbage disposal to freshen it up.

Candied citrus peel

This guilt-free sweet treat reduces food waste and uses natural ingredients. First, boil thinly-sliced citrus rinds for about 15 minutes in water. Remove, cool and dry. In a separate saucepan, bring two cups of water and one cup of sugar to boil in a saucepan. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the boiled, sliced citrus peels and let sit for about 45 minutes (sooner if the water begins evaporating quickly). Remove, let cool for 15 to 20 minutes and roll the pieces in fresh sugar spread out on a clean surface or tray. Store the candied citrus peels in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Dip the candied citrus peel in melted chocolate for an extra tasty treat.

Clean your microwave

Citrus peels can help magically remove stubborn food stains in your microwave. Fill a microwave-safe bowl halfway with water and add leftover lemon peels. Cook for two to three minutes and make sure the water steams. When done, wipe the inside of your microwave with a clean cloth and watch the stuck-on food disappear.

Infuse olive oil

Infusing olive oil with punchy, citrusy flavors is another way to quickly enhance your home-cooked dinner experience. Warm olive oil in a saucepan on low with the peels from your favorite citrus. Strain the mixture and store in the refrigerator for up to one month. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before using (a little solidification is unsightly, but normal and still edible).

Make potpourri

Citrus and potpourri are a natural combination. Freshen up the smell in any room by drying your discarded citrus peels and turning them into a sweet smelling potpourri. Check out these DIY instructions from Insteading to learn how to do it.

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Add acidity to the soil

Citrus peels will give plants that need a little extra acidity the nutrient boost that they need. Grind dry peels in a food processor and sprinkle the powder over acid-loving plants like nasturtium, blueberries and radishes.

Prevent brown sugar from clumping

Have you ever noticed brown sugar has a tendency to harden and clump together? End the struggle to scoop and pack brown sugar for your favorite baking goods by sticking an orange rind in the bag or box to keep sugar moist and fresh.

Neutralize odors

The delicious, fresh scent of citrus will help neutralize even the most sour odors in your smelliest places. Grind citrus rinds and put them in your trash can to keep it smelling fresh. If you are able to keep a bowl-shaped half of a grapefruit, orange or lemon intact, fill it with salt and put it in your refrigerator to absorb foul odors.

Remove stains

Acidic citrus peels have the power to remove stubborn stains. Put salt on a citrus peel and use it to take stubborn stains of your favorite mugs. To remove the grime build-up in your tea kettle, fill it with water and add a handful of citrus slices. Bring to a boil, turn off heat and let sit cool for an hour. Drain and rinse well. For coffee pots, fill with ice, salt and citrus rinds, swish, dump and rinse. A citrus peel will also remove scum from your stainless steel sink.

How do you use your citrus rinds? Add your favorite rind upcycling techniques to the comments below.

1 comment
  1. […] a way to remove a stain on your favorite mug without using any chemicals. Take a peel of the lemon, place […]

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