Less Waste Pantry: Lemons

When life gives you lemons… use them for everything! Next on my list of stapled pantry items is: lemons. Yes, they don’t have a long shelf life like baking soda but they are handy for many different purposes. See how lemons can help you in your everyday less waste life.

You should NEVER mix lemon juice with: sodium percarbonate, washing soda or bleach. This could be very dangerous!


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The most common use for lemons is obviously for eating. They add flavor to so many foods, but they can also spice up your bland water or ice tea. To be sure lemons are useful to you, store them correctly so they can live as long as possible by keeping them in a cool place. Some argue in the fridge, others say that only creates spots. I keep mine in a cool area on the counter.


Hair Lightener, Masks and Teas

While the next thing that seems to be flying off the shelves is hair dye, you bottle blondes can try this natural trick to keep your locks golden. Add fresh squeezed lemon juice and some water to a spray bottle. Spray the areas you want lightened and spend some time in the sun. The sun activates the lemon juice so it will lightly bleach the area. Just be sure to use a good conditioner after to keep your hair healthy and always remember sunscreen.

If you do a search online you will find many homemade recipes for hair masks and or hair teas. Masks can help bring out the best version of your hair and teas can be used to naturally dye your hair. Lemon is used to lighten or helps with oily hair so be sure lemon is the right ingredient for your specific hair mask or tea.

Face Toner, Masks and Steams

Lemon is an acidic substance so using it in a face toner or mask will help scrub impurities from the skin. It can also be used to lighten skin, so be sure to carefully research recipes for homemade toners and masks that are appropriate for you.

Facial Steams are great for those looking to clear their sinuses or soften your pores to remove dirt and grime. Adding lemon peels to your steamed water can add a refreshing scent to your steam while helping with greasy or oily and acne prone skin types.

Nail Polish Remover

If you would like to try a natural nail polish remover, lemon juice is the key. Soak your nails in warm water for awhile. Move them to a lemon juice and white vinegar mix. Using your nails work to peel off the polish. This is recommended for non-toxic polish but you can certainly try it for normal polish and see if it works. Gel nails, I can almost guarantee this mix will not be strong enough to remove the polish.


I am not brave enough to try sugaring but if you are looking for a more natural hair removal option you can try sugaring. It only requires lemon juice, water and sugar and acts like a wax. Be sure to truly research this before attempting to avoid injury.


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Smelly Cutting Board or Limescale

Using a lemon half, rub it on a smelly cutting board to eliminate the smell. Using the same method you can remove limescale from sinks or other items that might need this treatment.

Fridge Cleaner

Lemon juice and a good scrubbing cloth/sponge will keep your fridge smelling good, while removing germs and grime.

Microwave, Oven and Garbage Disposal Cleaner

Using lemons to clean is great for the kitchen since it is non-toxic. To clean a microwave, add one lemon’s worth of juice to a small bowl and microwave it for a few minutes to soften caked on food for an easy wipe up.

For the oven, add a few lemons and water to a pot and place it on the inside of the oven and bake it. Like the microwave this will soften the caked on food for a clean wipe up and leaving a lemony smell rather than oven cleaner.

To freshen up a smelly garbage disposal you can grind up a lemon slices. I have been advised that the acid from the lemons can wear on the disposal over time so be sure to do this sparely to keep your disposal in good working order.

Stain Remover

You can remove stains from counter tops by pouring some lemon juice on the stain, let it sit for several minutes and then scrub with baking soda. If you have Tupperware stained by sauce or other foods, you can use lemon juice to remove it. Add lemon juice to the stained areas and leave the Tupperware in the sun to bleach it for hours. Wash it after and it should be good as new. Freshen up copper items by scrubbing them with lemon juice, vinegar and salt.

Scrubbing Pans, Glass and Rust

Add salt to a lemon half and scrub sticky surfaces and stuck on food from your pans, counters and other such areas. You can also use these recipe on glass. Using newspaper to wipe up the glass will keep it streak-free. Scrub a rust stain with lemon juice and salt and let it sit for at least a half hour, cleaning it with soap and water when satisfied.

Clothes Cleaning Aid

If you need to remove sweat stains or a yellowing clothing item, you can soak it in a cup of lemon juice and hot water for a couple hours or overnight. Remove a grass stain by rubbing it with lemon juice and then washing in cold water and soap.

Air Freshener & Decoration

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Like flowers, fruit can make for great decor and they add a pleasant smell. Using lemon peels (or other citrus fruit peels) in a pot on your stove or in your oven will freshen the air in your kitchen.

Insect Repellant

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Insects don’t care for the smell of lemon juice, so if you spray some lemon juice around door frames and windows, insects will stay away. This is a more friendly option vs the baking soda one I proposed last week!

And so much more

Like my pantry pick last week, I could go on with more uses for lemons. These tips are just to get you started and to think about how you can get more use out of your everyday items in your home.

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My name is Kate and I'm a world traveler looking to make a positive impact by reducing my waste and single plastic use.