Who would have guessed that something we usually toss in the trash could whiten teeth, polish a table, make skin glow, keep pets out of the trash, spark a fire and so much more? You already know you love what’s inside lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits, but as it turns out, their outsides are just as wonderful and even more useful! That’s why we compiled the savvy ways the fruity leftovers can help you decrease waste, save money and live better. Keep reading to learn what citrus peels can do for you
Polish wood furniture
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.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by to-do’s? A steamy bath will help you unwind, and there’s an easy way to make it even more relaxing: Tear up the peels from a lime, grapefruit, or tangerine 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. Ahh, that’s better! (Tip: Citrus peels are more than just a stress buster. Click through to see how a citrus rind extract tamps down heartburn at night.)
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 lime 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!
Stop brown sugar from hardening
You want to make a cobbler with the fresh peaches you got from the farmers market, but your brown sugar has gone rock-solid. The secret to ensuring it stays soft: 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, after which you can simply toss and replace.
Get shoes smelling fresh
If your sneakers are smelling a bit off after a day of running errands in the unpredictable summer rain, try this: Set a few citrus 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
Struggling to erase the ugly brown stains that your morning tea leaves on your ceramic mugs? Try a salt and lemon peel combo to remove the spots. Just sprinkle salt on the inside of a lemon peel and use it to scrub away the discoloration. Why it works: Abrasive salt combined with lemon juice’s citric acid removes stains right away.
Uncover glowing skin
Give dull winter skin a beautiful boost with a DIY face mask. To do: Grate the peel of a grapefruit, then mix it with ¾ cup whole milk yogurt. Rub the mixture onto your face and let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. The slightly abrasive grapefruit 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 peroxide-infused 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.
Stubborn acne on your back is the last thing you want to worry about when you finally don your swimsuit for your first pool day of the season. Before you run to the store for a harsh topical cream, go to your kitchen and grab some citrus peels. The citric acid on the outside of lemon and lime peels unclogs pores, thwarts excess oil production and kills bacteria for clear, blemish-free skin. To try it: Rub the citrus peel on your back for 1 minute; rinse after 15 minutes.
Get a fire roaring
On cool summer nights, nothing is more relaxing than the warmth of a cozy bonfire under the stars. To spend less time trying to get the logs to catch, add some dried citrus peels. Simply throw them into the fireplace and carefully light. The peels’ flammable oils will burn longer than paper kindling, making them catch quickly. Added bonus? The burning peels will release a fresh scent.
How to dry citrus peels:
Let them sit out overnight, or spread them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them for 25-30 minutes in a 200°F oven. You’ll know they’re fully dried when they start to stiffen and curl.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.