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9 Unexpected Ways Orange Peels Are Way More Useful Than You Think

Updated: Mar. 16, 2023

The fresh scent and essential oils in oranges make orange peels an excellent natural cleaner and air freshener.


How to use orange peels for just about anything

If you’ve just finished eating a juicy orange, do not throw out that orange peel! What you might think is a common food scrap actually has quite a few nifty uses around the house. Read on to find out what they are.

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Refresh your fridge

Does your refrigerator smell sour? A few orange peels thrown into the mix can sweeten up the scent in no time. Meg Roberts, president of cleaning service Molly Maid, suggests filling an orange rind with salt and leaving it in the fridge. “The salt will absorb odor and moisture in the refrigerator’s air, while the fruit will leave behind its citrus scent,” she says. Once the salt becomes damp, take the peel out and replace it with a new one as needed. Here are 27 other annoying smells you can neutralize with items in your kitchen.

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Clean wood surfaces

Not only will repurposing your orange peels to wipe down your wood surfaces leave your tables and cabinets clean and shiny, but they’ll smell great, too. Combine your leftover citrus peels with vinegar to create an all-natural, non-toxic cleaner with this recipe from the Kitchn: Fill a mason jar halfway with orange peels, pour vinegar over the top until the jar is filled, and then let the mixture sit for at least two weeks. After letting it soak, strain the concoction to remove the peels, pour it into a spray bottle, and you’re good to go!

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Polish stainless steel

Similar to their effects on wood, orange peels remove water stains by cutting through them with their tough, natural oils. A few rubs and your stainless steel surfaces should be good as new.

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Keep your closet smelling clean

If your closet begins racking up that old, musty smell, Roberts suggests placing orange peels in old pantyhose and sticking them with your clothes. “Like potpourri, these can be placed anywhere in the closet, whether it’s on a shelf or in drawers,” Roberts says. To keep your closet smelling fresh, replace the orange peels as they dry out.

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Condition your locks

We all know that the loads of vitamin C found in oranges helps build up your immune system, but who knew it could work wonders for your hair, too? To make a homemade orange peel conditioner, just throw an orange—with its peel still attached—into a blender, apply the serum to the full length of your hair, and enjoy your soft, smooth new ‘do, suggests beauty blog beautytipslife.

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Soften brown sugar

Any baker knows that leaving a bag of brown sugar in your pantry can lead to rock-hard clumps, but fortunately, orange peels can help prevent this. Citrus peels are hardwired to maintain moisture, so keeping a few pieces in with your brown sugar will allow the peel’s moisture to spread throughout the container. Simply toss a few slices of peel into your box, and watch the sugar return to its state of softness in just a few hours.

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Remove stinky sink odors

Need a quick fix for a stinky sink? Toss a few orange peels down your garbage disposal to eliminate any odor in a pinch. According to Roberts, orange peels naturally contain oils and juices that cut through the grease and grime that can build up in garbage disposals, leaving your drain spotless and smelling great. Make sure you never put these things down a garbage disposal.

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Repel bugs

According to sfgate.com, orange peels contain a 90 to 95 percent concentration of limonene, a chemical that is toxic to mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs. Placing snippets of orange peels around your yard or near your doors and windows is a simple and inexpensive way to keep pesky bugs and mosquitoes out. For individual use, simply rub the peel on areas of your skin to steer clear of bug bites.

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Build a better bonfire

Putting your old orange peels to use can help you have the tallest flames on the block. The natural oils found in orange peels are flammable and offer a slower burn than a typical fire starter, like twigs or newspaper. And they smell a lot better, too! Next, find out more extraordinary uses for household staples you already own.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest