The juice squeezed from the fruit of a lemon tree is a tart, acidic liquid used in cooking, beverages, and cleaning. While lemon juice is often touted as anti-bacterial, it doesn't actually kill germs. In general, when lemon juice is used in combination with other products, like baking soda or salt, it is the scrubbing action that dislodges grime and kills the germs. There are other more effective ways to kill germs in your home, though, so save the lemon juice for the kitchen.
Lemon juice doesn't kill germs, but it does work as a stain remover as well as a surfactant to help water more effectively rinse contaminants from your fruits and vegetables.
Positive Aspects of Lemon Juice
While lemon juice isn't effective in killing germs, it has many positive aspects. In the kitchen, lemon juice is a flavorful addition to desserts, pies, and beverages. One ounce of lemon juice stirred into your glass of water provides 20 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and 1 percent of your potassium needs and adds only 6.7 calories to your daily eating plan.
In addition, adding lemon juice to tap water before boiling helps detoxify the water. When chlorine is used to disinfect tap water, it affects other elements in the water, such as bromide and iodide, resulting in disinfection byproducts. Adding lemon juice to the water before boiling reduces these potentially toxic byproducts.
Effective Methods of Killing Germs
Killing bacteria and viruses requires scrubbing and sanitizing. Use soap and water and scrub with a scrubby cleaning pad, rag, or sponge to remove grime and kill germs in the home. Commercially prepared disinfecting wipes are effective too.
To sanitize a variety of surfaces, combine equal parts water and 70 percent rubbing alcohol or pour undiluted rubbing alcohol over paper towels or a rag. Use this solution to wipe down counters, doorknobs, faucets, and other household surfaces. You can also use the water and rubbing alcohol solution with a microfiber cloth wrung almost dry to wipe keyboards, TV remotes, tablets, and cell phones followed by a dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture. Always use cloth, not paper towels, when wiping down electronics.
Chlorine bleach, while not recommended for use on metal surfaces, is also effective against germs. Mix 5 tablespoons of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Use it as a spray or pour it on a rag to wipe counters, toilets, bathtubs, light switch covers, and other nonmetallic surfaces and then allow them to air dry. Avoid spilling bleach solution on soft surfaces because the bleach will damage natural and synthetic fabrics and carpets, leaving white spots.
Other Uses for Lemon Juice
When combined with baking soda and/or salt, lemon juice makes an adequate cleaner for many surfaces. It is the juice's acidic nature plus the abrasive grains that make it a pleasantly scented cleaner to remove dirt and grime. Lemon juice also acts as a stain remover for hard surfaces and clothing. Leave half a lemon with the cut side down or a lemon juice and baking soda mixture on the stained area for several hours or overnight. Then, scrub and rinse well before allowing the area to air dry.
Use a solution of 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1 cup of mineral or vegetable oil and 1/4 cup of melted beeswax to make a nourishing furniture polish. Rub the polish over the wood to clean and replenish it and then buff with a clean, dry cloth to remove excess oils and make the wood glow.
Lemon juice is helpful when rinsing fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. While the lemon juice doesn't kill germs, it works as a surfactant, making the rinse water more effective in washing off dirt and other contaminants. In addition, soaking chopped apples, bananas, and other fruits for three to five minutes in a solution of 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 quart of water helps slow enzymatic browning on the cut surfaces, keeping your cut fruits looking fresh and tasty.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Citrus limon
- USDA FoodData Central: Lemon Juice, Raw
- Texas A&M Today: Can Adding Lemon to Water Make It Safer To Drink?
- Utah State University: Ask an Expert: Cleaning With the Coronavirus in Mind
- University of Georgia: Green Cleaning: Recipes for a Healthy Home
- University of Illinois Extension: How Do I Stop My Apples From Turning Brown?
Ruth de Jauregui is the author of 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden. She writes numerous home and garden articles for a variety of online publications. She got her start as a book and cover designer in San Francisco for William (Bill) Yenne at American Graphic Systems. In addition to designing books, she wrote her first book, Ghost Towns. With several nonfiction books under her belt, de Jauregui recently published her first novel, Bitter.