22 Surprising Uses For Lemons

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When life gives you lemons, use them around the house to clean, get rid of laundry stains, and more.

Female hand holds a sliced lemon and scrub brush showing how to use lemons for cleaning

Ways to Use Lemons and Lemon Juice

If you have extras on hand, there are many ways to use lemons around your home. Not all of these uses for lemons require fresh ones, so next time your recipe only calls for half of one squeeze and freeze the other half. Depending on how you want to use it, you can even freeze lemons whole.

1. Make rice fluffy: To make fluffy rice, squeeze a little lemon juice into the cooking water. The acidic juice helps cut through the rice’s starch so that grains won’t stick together.

2. Get rid of sweat stains on white shirts. To remove yellowing or rusty-colored sweat marks on your favorite white clothes, squeeze lemon juice directly onto the stain. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then wash in COLD water. Don’t use hot water, because it might set the stain. (Here are more ways to get rid of sweat marks.)

3. Repel clothing moths. Use dry lemon peel slices to keep clothing moths out of your closets. Gather the dry peels in an old sock, knot the top, and then hang it in your closet to repel moths. Replace when you can no longer smell the peels — about once a month.

4. Deodorize a wood cutting board. Wooden cutting boards pick up all sorts of nasty smells. To deodorize a wood cutting board, scrub it with half a lemon dipped in salt, then rinse and dry it. Protect your cutting board from future odors by sealing it with a thin coat of mineral oil.

5. Brighten dingy cotton socks. Gym socks often turn gray after repeated washing, and they get smelly, too. To eliminate stubborn sock odors and get them bright white again, boil socks in a quart of water with half a lemon for 10 minutes.

6. Keep cut fruit from turning brown. Sprinkle lemon juice on sliced apples, avocados, or bananas to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown.

7. Get tough stains out of plastic food containers. To get stubborn grease or tomato stains off of plastic food storage containers, dip the cut end of a lemon half into salt and rub it over the stains. Put the container in a sunny spot for the day, then wash it well in warm, soapy water.

8. Keep cauliflower bright white while steaming. To keep cauliflower florets bright white, toss them with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice before cooking.

9. Deodorize your microwave. To remove burned popcorn odors and other smells in your microwave, toss few lemon wedges in a deep bowl and fill it halfway with water. Microwave this for 2 minutes, let it cool for a couple more, then wipe your microwave clean. Odor’s gone!

10. Repel flies. To keep flies away from your picnic, slice a lemon in half, then poke 10 whole cloves into it. Leave the lemon sitting cut-side up on your table and flies will steer clear of you.

11. Get rid of hard water spots. To remove crusty mineral residue from vases, tea kettles, and faucets, scrub them with a lemon wedge dipped in salt. Let the juice sit in place for a couple of minutes, then rinse. Repeat until the buildup is gone.

12. Fade dark spots on skin. Don’t apply lemon juice directly to skin — it will sting and make you susceptible to sunburn and further damage. Instead, mix equal parts fresh lemon juice and aloe vera gel then apply it to dark spots or scars to help them fade. Repeat every other day until it’s gone.

13. Fix soup that’s too salty. To balance the flavor of a soup that’s too salty or which tastes too greasy, add lemon juice.

14. Make cakes and cookies fluffier. Many cake and cookie recipes start by creaming butter and sugar together. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice when you do this, and you’ll get even better results without affecting the taste.

15. Get rid of bleach smells on your hands. To remove the smell of chlorine bleach from your hands, rub them with some lemon juice, then rinse them under cool water, pat dry, and moisturize.

16. Get ink stains out of carpeting. To get ink stains out of carpeting, apply a paste of lemon juice plus cream of tartar. Wait 10 minutes, then use a clean, damp cloth to blot away the residue. Let the area dry and vacuum thoroughly. (Here is how to get ink stains out of clothing.)

17. Clean a burned coffee pot. The easiest way to clean burned coffee in the pot is by adding ice, a little salt, and the juice of half a lemon and then swirling it all around. Let this sit for an hour, and the gunk will rinse right away. (Here’s how to clean your coffee maker while you’re at it.)

18. Grill fish without the mess. To keep fish from sticking to your grill’s grate, lay it on a bed of lemon slices. The lemon will infuse the fish and add a nice flavor.

19. Remove coffee and tea stains. Use lemon juice to remove coffee and tea stains on clothing. Dab the spot with a lemon wedge, then run it under cold water.

20. Fix fake-tan streaks. To dark self-tanner spots and streaks, get the area damp with water, then gently rub on a paste of equal parts baking soda and lemon juice. The baking soda exfoliates, and the lemon juice lightens. Buff in for a minute, rinse well.

21. Eliminate cooking odors. To get cooking odors out of your air naturally, cut a lemon in half and put it cut-side up on the rack of a warm oven with the heat off. Leave the oven door open an inch or so. The heat and lemon juice will combine to freshen your home’s air and get rid of cooking smells.

22. Get gray cutlery marks off of plates. To get gray marks left on your pates by flatware, squeeze a little lemon juice onto it. Wait a few minutes, then sprinkle salt over the surface and use the cut side of the lemon to rub away those marks gently.

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  1. If I a need half a lemon for a recipe I always put the other half in the dishwasher. It cleans the dishes and gives the dishwasher a fresh smell.

    1. That sounds like a fantastic idea, Petra! Do you ever find dried pulp on your dishes afterwards?

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