Run A Used Lemon Through Your Dishwasher For Bonus Cleaning

Are your dishes always dirty after running through the dishwasher? From pesky food remnants to filmy white streaks, the particles left over after "cleaning" can be frustrating, to say the least. Of course, culprits for a faulty wash can run the gamut from using low-quality dish detergent to having a clogged filter. 

By now, you've probably tried all of the best hacks, such as using powerful gel packs or opting for the hottest cycle setting. But, when it comes to achieving a spotless clean, your secret weapon may actually come from a rather unlikely source: a used lemon.

That's right, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade and then throw the leftover wedge in the dishwasher. Not only is it an easy and effective option, one that's become a popular hack online and on TikTok, but it's also an inexpensive way to help tackle dirty dishes — all while minimizing food waste in the process.

The reason it works is because of the citric acid

Lemons work great for cleaning because they have a natural compound called citric acid that's found in all citrus fruits, also including oranges and limes. In addition to giving these fruits their signature bitter taste, citric acid also has powerful cleaning properties. In fact, it's commonly used in household products for this reason. In the case of the dishwasher trick, the acid helps deodorize your machine and get rid of pesky limescale. And a clean machine means your dishes will come out sparkling.

Citric acid works by lowering the pH levels of bacteria, making it a potent option to tackle for mold and mildew. It's also a natural de-greaser, as citric acid binds with magnesium and calcium, the metal ions responsible for limescale buildup, preventing them from forming the clumpy deposits that can leave a film on dishes during a cycle.

So, for shiny, speck-free dinnerware, simply place a leftover lemon peel (or even an entire lemon wedge) on the top rack of your dishwasher — just be sure to remove the seeds because they can clog the pipes. And, keep in mind, citric acid may tarnish metal items such as silverware and fade patterned dishware if used too frequently.

Other genius cleaning tips for leftover lemons

Lemons aren't just good for the dishwasher. They have many other household cleaning uses, especially for naturally cleaning your kitchen. It's particularly effective when lemon is combined with vinegar, another natural cleaning agent. You can either squeeze lemon juice into a 1:1 mix of water and white vinegar, or let the peels sit in the water-vinegar mix for a period of time, which will infuse the citric acid. Then, put the concentrate in a spray bottle, and you'll have a go-to solution that can tackle countertops, sinks, and more.

Or, use a bowl of lemon water to clean your oven. Take used sliced fruit and add to a bowl of water, and place it inside your oven, typically preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave for an hour to do its magic — as the solution warms up, all the remnants stuck to your oven walls and floor will loosen — and then you can use a rag to dip into the warm lemon water to fully scrub it all off.

Whether you choose to eat them or clean your dishes with them, it's hard to deny the usefulness and versatility of lemons in your home.