Who would have guessed that something we usually toss in the compost bin could whiten teeth, polish a table, make skin glow, keep pets out of the trash, spark a fire and so much more? Orange peels truly are amazing, so next time you enjoy one of these juicy treats (in season now!), hang on to the rind and use it to do one of these things …
Get a fire roaring fast.
On chilly nights, nothing is more relaxing than the warmth of a cozy fire. To spend less time trying to get the logs to catch, let a few orange peels sit out overnight until they’re dry. Then throw them into the fireplace and carefully light. The peels’ flammable oils will burn longer than paper kindling, making them catch quickly. You can curl up in no time!
Polish wood furniture in a pinch.
Your sister is on her way soon, and you want to give your table a quick shine. If only you weren’t out of furniture polish. To the rescue: an orange peel! Simply rub the white side of the rind on the table, then wipe with a clean cloth. Oils in the peel will help moisturize the wood just as well as polish.
Evaporate stress in a flash.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by holiday to-do’s? A steamy bath will help you unwind, and there’s an easy way to make it even more relaxing. To do: Tear up the peels from an orange or two and toss them into the warm water before climbing into the tub. Their strong citrus scent will quickly trigger the release of calming chemicals in the brain. Aah, that’s better!
Pet-proof a trash can.
This time of year, Mittens can’t resist rooting through the kitchen garbage to look for scraps. To keep her away, sprinkle a few fresh orange peels on top of the trash. The citrus aroma is too strong for animals’ sense of smell, so they’ll want to keep their distance. Bonus: This trick will also help mask unwanted kitchen odors!
Get shoes smelling fresh.
If your winter boots are smelling a bit off after a day of running errands in the rain, try this: Set a few pieces of orange peels (white side down) inside the shoes and let sit overnight. The peel will soak up odor and moisture like a sponge, plus it will leave behind a pleasant and fresh citrus scent.
Erase stubborn tea stains.
A hot cup of tea hits the spot on a cold day, but the drink often leaves behind a brown stain. To lift it, sprinkle salt on the white side of an orange peel, then use it to scrub. The peel’s citric acid, combined with the abrasive salt, will scrub away the tannic acid in the stain.
Ward off holiday weight gain.
Everyone loves Christmas cookie season! To enjoy the treats without the gain, add one tablespoon of fresh orange zest for every three cups of flour in your favorite cake or cookie recipes. The peels contain polyphenols that have been shown to stimulate fat burning, so you can indulge in your desserts guilt-free. (Bonus: The peels will add a hint of citrus flavor to your baked goods.)
Easily uncover glowing skin.
Give dull winter skin a beautiful boost with a DIY face mask. To do: Grate the peel of an orange, then mix it with a bit of the orange’s juice and a quarter cup of canola oil. Rub the mixture onto your face and let sit for one minute before rinsing with warm water. The slightly abrasive orange peel pieces will gently scrub away dead skin while the oil will add moisture, resulting in a beautiful spa-inspired glow!
Whiten teeth on the cheap.
Good news! You don’t need pricey, irritating products to brighten your smile. Instead, simply rub the white side of an orange peel on your teeth for 15 seconds. Repeat daily as needed. The peel contains a compound that is known to lift surface stains on teeth as well as whitening kits — without damaging the enamel or your bank account!
Stop brown sugar from hardening.
The secret to ensuring your brown sugar stays soft throughout the holidays: Simply place a slice of orange peel in the box or tape it to the inside of the container where you store the baking staple. The rind will slowly release oil that will keep sugar moist for up to a month. (Then simply toss and replace.)
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.