I’ve never been a fan of the smell of chemicals, no matter how ‘effective’ they may be. For some, the smell of bleach is a good thing because it screams ‘clean’. As for me, I get a metal taste in my mouth and a headache with the chemical smells, so I’m not much of a fan no matter how strong their cleaning properties are. Personally, the scent of lime, lemon, coconut, vanilla and mint are some of my favorites to fill the air with, and when it comes to cleaning, the citrus smelling products have always made me smile. That’s probably why in the past I’ve always leaned on purchasing the ‘natural’ products that come with the citrus smell. Recently, however, I have come to realize that many of those products still include ingredients that I don’t necessarily want to have in my home, so I’ve been on a quest to make my own cleaning products. That has resulted in my researching and experimenting with a homemade citrus enzyme cleaner.
I don’t know if anyone really thinks about the effect that chemicals have on their health until they are faced with health issues that demand a change in how they live their life and the products that they would normally choose and use. It is amazing, if you sit and think about it, how full of chemicals every piece of your life is; from food to skincare to cleaning products. As I try to remove the harmful products from my family’s life one by one (and trust me, there are plenty!), I have come to the next thing on my list which is changing all of the cleaning products to healthier alternatives, like using a citrus enzyme cleaner. I’m using my citrus enzyme cleaner in my laundry, in my kitchen, on my floors and in my bathroom to see how well it works and what affects it has on stains, odors and overall cleaning.
There seems to be two schools of thought on the recipe for your typical ‘citrus enzyme cleaner’. One takes three weeks to make, and the other has a three month waiting period. The shorter three week version of a ‘fermenting’ period of your batch of citrus enzyme cleaner requires that you add 1 teaspoon of yeast to the recipe. By adding the yeast, you are supposedly speeding up the fermentation process that the citrus enzyme cleaner needs in order to be potent enough and fully effective. The longer version does not use yeast and requires a three month ‘fermenting’ period before it is best to use.
I have now tried both methods – the three week batch and the three month batch. I can honestly say that with the three week batch for me, the queen of ‘the smell’, all that I smelled when I used the citrus enzyme cleaner was the yeast and a very strong fermented smell. Not very appetizing for my likes, and it didn’t smell fresh and clean to me. I also didn’t seem to notice it being very effective in the bathroom and seemed to leave a film on the counters in the kitchen. Of course, the first time that I made the yeast batch, I only used citrus rind as some recipes call for, and didn’t know about the other options that included using pineapple, papaya and kiwi rinds, peels, and skins that I know understand are needed for good cleaning properties.
Although the wait time is longer using the three month method, I can honestly say that the blend of citrus and pineapple has a ‘tropical’ smell to it which I love, less fermented smell, and it is a much clearer, cleaner batch of citrus enzyme cleaner. I just recently put full strength three month citrus enzyme cleaner directly on a blood stain, then added a 1/4 cup to the wash, and the stain came out like a charm! I’ve also noticed that if I have it full strength in a spray bottle, I can add a little bit of citronella essential oil to spray it on the floors to help with the bugs that we deal with here in Costa Rica (and I mean BUGS!). Another bottle with full strength citrus enzyme cleaner and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar cleans up the kitchen counters and stove, cutting all of the grease nicely.
So it all sounds good, but ‘how’ and ‘why’ does it work you ask? Here’s what I’ve discovered. Most citrus enzyme cleaner recipes are a little misleading, because if they only have the citrus, they are only grease cutters, not all around cleaners. There aren’t any enzymes in it, nor are enzymes being created without the use of yeast. The citrus peels (lime, lemon, orange, individually or mixed for whatever you have or whatever scent you want) have things called terpenes. Terpenes give the solution the ability to cut grease, as well as the pleasant scent.
If you use the three week yeast method, the yeast will eat up the sugar, which will create an alcohol. That is what gives the ‘yeasty’ or ‘booze’ smell that I described above. The yeast has enzymes which after eating up the sugars can be a good cleaner, but you get the ‘fermented’ smell, which not everyone is a fan of having throughout their house.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t ‘make’ enzymes or ‘ferment’ enzymes into being. They come from living cells, and are either there, or they’re not. Fruit enzymes only come from fruits that contain protease, which is a protein enzyme that is used in meat tenderizer. Protease is found in papaya, pineapple (in a form called bromelain) and kiwi. The protease enzyme is what does the cleaning part.
Because it takes time to make each batch and wait, I don’t as of yet have a lot of different batches under my belt to fully explain what works best when, how, and for which thing. I will keep attempting different batches as time goes on and will try to update which combination that I like and what I find works best. The recipe below is for an actual enzyme cleaner because I am including the protein enzyme, protease in it with the pineapple, papaya and kiwi. Stay tuned!
Citrus Enzyme Cleaner
2 cups diced lemon, lime, and orange citrus peel (in whatever combination for whatever scent you want for grease cutting ability (include pineapple rind, papaya peel and kiwi skin for cleaning enzymes and a yummy tropical smell).
1 liter water
1/2 c brown sugar
3 liter bottle
strainer (for use after the batch has fully fermented)
(I collect citrus all of the peels and rinds throughout the weeks and place them in a bag in the freezer until I have collected enough to make one batch at a time. How much you can collect depends on how often you are using those fruits in your every day life (for instance the rinds from your gluten free sweet and sour sauce!). I actually like to make a triple batch and just do it all at once one day and have enough to fill a gallon container of concentrate to pull from as I wait for the collection of enough peels for the next round of cleaner.)
- Chop, dice, or my favorite, lightly blend your peels, rinds and skins in your blender (my Vitamix works in a few seconds!) to get 2 cups full of the fruit.
- Using a funnel and a 3 liter bottle (or whatever kind of bottle you have that equals about 3 liters to give room for expansion during the fermenting process), put the 2 cups of fruit into the bottle.
- Next, place 1/2 cup of brown sugar into your funnel – it probably won’t go down on it’s own, so that’s why I do it at this step so that the water I add will liquefy it and allow it to go through the funnel into the bottle a lot easier.
- Pour 1 liter of water through the funnel, washing down the brown sugar along with it.
- Put the lid on tight and give it a good shake.
- I mark the date on my bottle so that I can keep track of each batches fermenting period.
- Place the bottle in a dark location in a spot that you will remember easily because you have to attend to it quite a bit the first week or you will have an explosion of fruity sugar mess!
- Each day for the first week, carefully undo the lid, slowly, letting a tiny bit of air out at a time, making sure the fermenting liquid doesn’t rise to the top too quickly and explode like a carbonated drink. After releasing the air pressure, tighten the lid again and give it a good shake.
- After the first week, you can drop the air release and bottle shaking to about once per week. Try not to forget, because the pressure keeps building usually for the entire three months if it is a good batch!
- Once you have completed your three month waiting period, strain the fruit and liquid into a gallon jar or bottle. This will be your cleaning enzyme concentrate. You can distribute it by straining one more time into other spray bottles full strength, combined with other ingredients, or diluted for your needs. (I’ve found that the double straining allows for a clearer, cleaner final liquid.
- Use the citrus enzyme cleaners any way you see fit. It is safe around your food, your children and your pets, so be creative and find out new things that it can do for you and keep you chemical free!
I’d love to hear the different uses that you all find for the citrus enzyme cleaner, so be sure to comment below and let me know how it’s working for you as well!