30 alternative uses for lemons

bowl of lemons - alternative uses for lemonsThe next time life gives you lemons, throw them back and demand chocolate cake ... of course, if that doesn't work there are plenty of options that go beyond making the proverbial lemonade.

Containing citric acid and low pH levels, lemons are a natural choice for cleaning, deodorizing and disinfecting around the house. After harvesting a basket full of lemons from a neighbor's tree (I asked first!), I set to work seeing what miracles the fruit might hold.

My first task, inspired by theReader's Digest website, was to find out if lemons really would work magic on less-than-lustrous pots and pans. Using the cut side of the lemon, I scrubbed inside and outside a variety of pots and watched in amazement as the shine was restored.The lemon removed hard-to-clean rings and watermarks and made the pots shiny and bright. Voila! Cheap, lemon scented thrills! Cluebert, another online resource devoted to helpful hints, recommends an alternative method of filling the pots with water, adding three tablespoons of lemon juice and boiling for 15 minutes before attempting to scrub with half a lemon.

Next, using a tip from the Mind Mart website, I attempted to clean the kitchen sink. I sprinkled table salt into my vintage (read old) porcelain sink, cut a lemon in half and used it like a sponge to scrub. I read that lemon will remove rust stains and act as a bleaching agent, so I had high hopes for a spotless, white sink. The effort brightened the sink, but did not completely remove the stains. Still, it's a great idea if you happen to find yourself standing in the kitchen wondering what to do with half a lemon.

On the other hand, several resources suggested mixing lemon juice or rinds with water and cooking on high for five minutes in a dirty microwave,and since I happened to have one I gave it a try. The boiling water caused condensation on the interior of the microwave and the lemon gave it a natural, pleasant scent. It was easy to wipe down and it felt great not to use chemicals.

Cleaning the chrome came next. Inspired by Mind Mart, and using a large lemon wedge, I scrubbed the chrome fixtures in my shower with both the outer rind and inner fruit. Then, rinsed and dried with a paper towel. The results were gleaming.

Buoyed by the success of experimentation, I tackled the tarnish on my brass door handle and locks. Heeding Cluebert's directions, I made a paste of lemon juice and baking soda in a small bowl. As an added bonus, the mixture fizzed and sizzled as I stirred. Cool, mad scientist vibe -- kids would love this. Using a paper towel, I applied the paste in a thick layer to the door handle, and lock and let it sit for five to ten minutes. When I returned, I wiped down the brass with a warm soapy cloth, rinsed with a paper towel and dried. The tarnish was gone and the brass handle looked like new. The lock required additional elbow grease, and would benefit with another application.

Moving right along, I wanted to find out if placing lemon wedges near the guinea pig's cage would result in a lemon fresh scent. Since several websites suggested putting cut lemon wedges near the cat litter box to neutralize odors I thought Roxy's room might benefit as well. I put two large wedges in a bowl on top of the cage and waited. My son claimed the room smelled remarkably good, but there's a chance he was angling to put off cleaning the cage. Twenty four hours later, the bowl was starting to attract fruit flies. So much for that idea.

However, several other scent-sational uses do not attract unwanted pests. Cluebert reports, "if you don't like the smell of cooking cabbage, simply put a slice of lemon in the pot." Something to keep in mind for St.Patrick's Day. The site also encourages putting lemon juice and water in a spray bottle and using it as an all-natural air freshener; or soaking a sponge in lemon juice and leaving it in a malodorous refrigerator over night (be sure to remove whatever caused the funky smell in the first place).

Similarly, grinding up left-over pieces of lemon rind in the garbage disposal also works to reduce odor, and many sites suggest putting lemon rinds into a humidifier to elicit a clean, fresh scent. For dry, winter days, Reader's Digest recommends simmering lemon rinds mixed with cinnamon sticks, cloves, and apple skins on a stove top or wood burning stove to create a fragrant, do-it-yourself humidifier.

In fact, according to Mind Mart, sniffing lemons might actually make you smarter and thinner (are you wondering why I buried this so far down the page?). They report that lemon essential oil has proven, "to stimulate the central part of the hippocampus, triggering rational, left-brain thinking. If you're in a problem solving slump, dab some lemon essential oil on a tissue and inhale." More good news, the site also suggests "... a whiff of lemon oil has the effect of swiftly curbing the emotional reactions that trigger cravings for sweets." I had to try this. I waited for that late-afternoon craving, dipped a paper towel in lemon juice and breathed deeply. I think I was so excited by the idea that it worked in a placebo-type way, so I'm not sure if my "scientific testing" will prevail for everyone. Still, it's worth a shot.

Although most cooks already know that rubbing lemons onto fingers that have worked with garlic, onions and fish will remove unwanted odors from skin, the trick works just as well on cutting boards, wooden serving utensils and bowls. An added incentive, the acid in the lemon also acts as a disinfectant.

There are those, however, who do not like the lemon scent and that is a good thing. Ants, roaches, fleas and moths loathe lemon. According to Cluebert, a sachet of dried lemon rinds in a closet might save coats and sweaters from munching moths, and squirting lemon juice in and around areas where the ants come marching in should halt further parades.

As for deterring roaches and fleas, add the juice of four lemons mixed to a gallon of water and wash the floor.

Mind Mart suggests lemon juice can also be applied as a flea repellent on Fido himself. The site directs mixing one part lemon juice with one part water and dabbing it onto doggie's problem areas (avoid eyes and ears). Not only will your four-legged friend be flea-free, he might also sport trendy blond highlights since, as Reader's Digest points out, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 3/4 cup water applied to hair and dried in the sun results in lightened locks. But any sun child of the '70s could have told you that.

In fact, if you remember the disco era, you might be interested in using lemon juice to lighten age spots, or what I'd prefer to call "hyper-pigmentation". Cluebert's method advised applying lemon juice onto the spot for fifteen minutes, washing and repeating daily until faded.

On the first aid front, applying a slice of lemon onto bug bites or rashes resulting from poison ivy is reported to reduce itching. While warts are said to shrink from a treatment of directly applying lemon juice for several days. Hearty souls may want to try Reader's Digest suggestion of disinfecting cuts, scrapes and stopping bleeding by pouring lemon juice directly on the wound. It might work, but that's gotta sting.

The Dangerous Book for Boys offers one of the most unique uses for lemon juice: invisible ink. According to the book, the clear, carbon-based juice can be applied to paper where it will "disappear." Once it is dry, heat (i.e. a flame) held close to the paper will reveal the hidden message. You never know when this might come in handy. Pre-nups possibly?

Last but not least, I recently enjoyed one of the finest lemon bars that ever graced a dessert tray. Turns out, they were Martha Stewart's Lemon Squares and if you're not sure what to do with a couple of extra lemons you won't be disappointed.

With so many reasons to love hard working lemons, it's a mystery why we call a clunker car by the same name. Pucker up!
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