Clever Ways to Use a Lemon You Never Thought of Before

Lemons sure do have their place in the world. They’re a staple at every roadside lemonade stand. They’re great for garnishing that much needed post-work cocktail. And we’d be remiss not to mention their legendary role in some of the tastiest treats around. But have you ever wondered what else a lemon can do for you? Probably not. Turns out, though, there’s a slew of unconventional uses that just may make your life a tad bit easier.

Small but mighty, this sour citrus packs a powerful punch in the way of household hacks, homeopathic remedies, and more. And its superpowers stretch far beyond the abstract value of seeing the glass half full. In fact, there’s much more you can do with lemons than make lemonade alone. Take a look at this infographic from On Stride Financial, for instance. We know you’re waiting with bated breath (more on that come No. 12), so without further ado, let’s add a little zest to your life. Here are 15 clever ways to use a lemon you haven’t thought of before.

1. Exterminating insects

Lemon trees with ripe fruits, decorating house exterior.

You don’t want bugs around your garden, especially the lemon trees. | iStock.com/AnikaSalsera

Nobody likes pesky little critters, especially when they come in the form of an infestation. So many insects, so little patience. But fear not, because there’s a solution. Well, OK, there are a few solutions. But for anyone who likes using organic products — and for the sake of this article — you’ll be happy to learn lemon juice may be the answer. Ants and beetles alike, it’s time to meet your maker. According to SFGate, “Lemon juice, for example, can sometimes help control small infestations of garden pests, such as ants, aphids and leaf beetles.”

2. Disinfecting cutting boards

Raw mackerel with tomatoes and chopped onions

Your cutting board plays host to lots of raw food. | iStock.com/tacstef

While the kitchen may be a great place for socializing, it also tends to be full of germs, no matter how often you wipe down the counters. From handling raw meat to chopping freshly caught fish, there’s a whole host of germs just begging to be left behind. But you’re not going to fall prey to this. Why? Because now you know you can use lemon to get those icky cutting boards back to their pre-uncooked meat glory. Don’t be fooled by thinking wiping them down with a sponge alone will do the trick, because we all know just how dirty sponges get on their own. Instead, combine a sprinkle of lemon with a dash of salt. For more tips, check out the step-by-step process posted on the Kitchn.com.      

3. Cleaning the microwave

Cleaning of Microwave Oven

It’ll be easy to wipe down the microwave after using the lemon method. | iStock.com/ tab1962

Your microwave can be a breeding ground for bacteria, but it’s nothing a little lemon can’t solve. More specifically, Good Housekeeping recommends combining one cup water and one chopped-up lemon in a microwave-safe bowl. Turn the microwave on high for a few minutes, and let it cool. You’ll be able to easily wipe down the inside once the mixture has done its job, loosening all that stuck-on splatter.

4. Removing berry stains from your hands

Incorporating berries into your cooking or baking can be messy. | iStock.com

This might sound like a pretty niche point, but if you’re a berry-loving enthusiast, this is a pro tip worth keeping in the back pocket of your gardening pants. According to Lifehacker, “Some lemon juice, either on its own or combined with other things, will help return your hands back to normal without the need for any hardcore cleaning products.”

5. Keeping fruit from browning

apples on a cutting board

Once you slice an apple, it can get brown quickly. | iStock.com

On Stride Financial’s infographic says you can rub lemon juice on an avocado to keep it from browning, along with soaking apple slices in a water-and-lemon-juice combo. The possibility of keeping guac from going bad? Yeah, we were jumping for joy too. But before we get ahead of ourselves here, be aware this technique is up for debate.

For instance, Grace Parisi put a couple avocado-saving theories to the test. In her article, published on Today, Parisi experimented with rubbing the meat of the avocado with lemon juice before wrapping it in plastic. She concluded the end product was only slightly less brown than using plastic wrap alone. Additionally, using lemon juice on apples has proved relatively successful, according to EasyLunchboxes. Given the mixed reviews, you’ll just have to test this one out for yourself.

6. Substituting for salt

Seared scallops with herbed lemon oil

Lemon is a great substitute for salt. | ALDI

It’s no wonder there’s an obesity epidemic going on — our country loves munching on salty snacks and junk food galore. But there’s a better way to get your fix; lemon is a great salt substitute. When your food needs a little boost, take to the zesty flavors of a good, clean lemon. Not only will you be skipping the sodium, you’ll be putting that lemon that’s been sitting on your counter to good use.  

7. Polishing copper

Lemons on grey wooden

Polish your copper using a lemon for a clean, fresh shine. | iStock.com/5second

Just when you thought the only place for a lemon was in a copper mug, you may be surprised to learn it serves a purpose on the outside, too. That’s right, you can take a lemon, again with some salt, to your copper items, and they’ll be shining like new before you know it. It’s no secret copper can become riddled with fingerprints and appear old and worn in no time at all, which is why this method comes in super handy. And if you still need convincing, just ask the experts at Martha Stewart.

8. Removing rust stains from clothing

dirty shirt hanging

Rust stains are no match for a little lemon treatment. | iStock.com/erllre

On the note of things looking worn and dingy, if you have an article of clothing that’s somehow acquired rust stains, lemon can once again save the day. Keep in mind, you’ll need to saturate the stain in salt and lemon juice. After letting it soak and sit in sunlight for a couple hours, toss it in the washing machine. It’ll be good as new in no time.

9. Strengthening your nails

woman in a nail salon receiving a manicure

Lemon can help strengthen your nails. | iStock.com/Ridofranz

We use our hands all day long, so it’s only natural our nails, nail beds, and cuticles all take a beating. However, there’s an easy way to combat the daily toll life takes on your precious little fingernails. Try soaking your nails in a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. Or, you can combine lemon juice and aloe vera, as Bustle suggests. The aloe vera will keep your nails moisturized, while the lemon juice, which is packed with vitamin C, will help keep your nails strong and healthy.  

10. Whitening your teeth

toothbrush next to lemon slice

There’s a cheaper way to whiten your teeth. | iStock.com

Everyone wants white teeth and clear skin (more on that in a minute). But what nobody ever wants to do is spend a small fortune on teeth whitening at the dentist. Luckily, there’s a home remedy you can whip up right in your kitchen. “Mix baking soda and lemon juice, and apply it to your teeth with a clean Q-tip,” Women’s Health Magazine says. “Then, use your toothbrush to scrub your teeth and rinse.” So go ahead, flash those pearly whites with pride.  

11. Reducing blackheads

woman squeezing pimple in front of mirror

No more pesky blackheads with a DIY lemon remedy. | iStock.com

Those pesky little blackheads have no place on your face. And one way to get them to hit the road for good? A little lemon power, that’s how. If you’re worried about taking an alternative method to your already-sensitive skin, don’t be. There are a couple different ways you can incorporate lemon into your beauty regime. If you’re feeling fancy, as in creating a scrub of your own, check out DIY Remedies for some suggestions.

12. Making a mouthwash

man covering his mouth

Lemon juice can come in handy when you have bad breath. | iStock.com

Rinsing your mouth with lemon juice probably isn’t the first bad-breath-go-to remedy that comes to mind. But if you’re in a pickle — or just ate a bunch of pickles — a little squirt of lemon will have you feeling fresh in no time. So, no need to go back to the office stinking of your tuna sandwich lunch; just keep a little lemon juice at your desk.   

13. Reducing dry scalp and dandruff

Woman brushing her hair with a wooden comb

A dry scalp is a pain, but not for much longer. | iStock.com/Tinatin1

No one has time for dandruff. If you’re someone who suffers from a dry scalp, you’ll be happy to hear there’s another way to target those bothersome white flakes, a method that doesn’t involve a specialized shampoo. In fact, Reader’s Digest says, “Lemon’s acidity helps balance the pH of your scalp, which helps keep dandruff at bay.”

14. Removing warts

woman examining foot

Warts are gross, but lemon can help treat them. | iStock.com

We can thank the highly acidic nature of lemon juice for this at-home remedy. Blame it on the public swimming pool or the gym locker room — however you got a wart, it’s there to stay. Well, at least until you do something about it. Warts.org recommends soaking a cotton ball in lemon water and applying it overnight. Although it will take some time, the wart will eventually fade away.  

15. Softening hardened paint brushes

pot of boiling water on stove

Boil water with lemon juice, and your paint brushes will soften up in no time. | iStock.com

Few  things are more aggravating than buying a brand new brush, using it once, and having to throw it away. But not anymore. Gone are the days of tossing paint brushes along with those dated living room wall colors of the house you just moved into. As luck would have it, all you need to do is boil water and lemon juice, place the hardened brushes in the pot, and let soak for about 15 minutes. You’ll then be able to rinse as usual, keeping them on hand for your next painting project.