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When Life Hands You Lemons... Get Cleaning!

Stew Tips 2

I always tell my students at the Steward/ess course that Grandma had the right idea – she used basic ingredients in the house, such as glycerine, soap made from animal fat (*see definition BOERSEEP) baking soda, vinegar, sunshine, love, some luck – and of course…  lemon juice!

When did we allow ourselves to be brainwashed by marketing to believe that chemically-laden laundry products will be better for our laundry, our kitchen, our bathroom and our health?  I am happy to see that there is great movement back to traditional cleaning methods and products, and more focus on preserving the earth and the ocean. 

In this month’s column, I will be discussing some of the best features of using lemon juice in and around the yacht, for cleaning, laundry and for your general health.  If you are worried about storage issues, you could always squeeze loads of fresh lemons and limes before the busy season and freeze the juice until needed. 

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Garburator:   If you have a garburator in your sink, put some finely cut lemon and orange zest and some lime juice into the hole, along with some baking soda and give it a good whirl - super refreshing!

Bug problem:  Keep flies, no-see'ems and mosquitoes away from a dining table, buffet set-up or picnic - stick cloves into lemon halves, drip citrus or lemon oil over the lemons and place around the food on buffet or lunch tables.

Lime scale removal:  Lemons are great for removing the build-up of lime scale around stainless steel sinks and draining boards. The lemon peel is also excellent at keeping chrome taps free from lime scale. Cut a lemon in half and rub it over the lime scale.  Leave the juice on for a minute or two and rinse with cold water and buff with a soft, dry cloth. DO NOT USE LEMON ON OR AROUND MARBLE, make sure the marble is covered and protected before using this trick!!

Kills bacteria:  Squeeze some fresh lemon juice into a spray bottle (strain out the pulp) and use as a natural anti-bacterial cleaner on stainless steel, plastic, corian, perspex counters. The acids in lemon juice kills off bacteria, it does not like the acidic environment lemon juice creates. Spray chopping boards, sinks, as well.  Flies also do not like the smell of lemons, so they are less likely to sit on the counters and surfaces.  Do not use near or on marble!

killing bacteria

Wooden and bamboo cutting boards:  Food odours and bacteria in wooden chopping boards (such as onion, fish, garlic) can be removed as follows - rub half a lemon liberally over the wooden surface. Let the lemon juice fully dry and then rinse it off with cold water. This will disinfect and remove odours.

Tarnished copper, aluminium and brass:   Dip half a lemon into some baking soda or salt and rub over the metal. Salt and bicarbonate of soda are mild abrasives and the acid in the lemon dissolves the tarnish. Rinse with cold water and buff with a dry, soft cloth to bring back the shine.

Copper or brass pans/pots:  You can also make a paste to coat a badly tarnished copper or brass pan. Mix together 50 ml of ordinary table salt and moisten it with enough lemon juice to make a firm paste.  Leave the mix for 10 minutes and then spread it onto your tarnished pot.  Rinse it in warm tap water and dry with a clean, dry cloth. You can repeat this a few times for bad tarnish.

Silver and brass:  This works well on tarnished silver cutlery. Mix lemon juice and baking soda into a thick paste and rub onto the silver or brass with a soft cloth. Give it 5 minutes to work and then wash well with warm water and dishwashing liquid.  NEVER LEAVE LEMON JUICE ON SILVER FOR LONGER THAN 5 MINUTES, it could harm the silver (called pitting).

lemon juice

Dishwasher Cleaner:  Using half a lemon gives you excellent result. Impale 2 lemon halves on the upside prongs (where you put the plates normally). Or just put them in the cutlery basket. Put a cup full of vinegar and a cup of baking soda (upright of course) in the dishwasher, and switch it on a short cycle. It will degrease and decalcify the machine, as well as leave a nice fresh smell.

Clean your microwave:  Place a few slices of lemon in a glass bowl. Run microwave on high for 30 seconds and don't open the door for about a minute after stopping. The steam will make it easy to wipe the inside and the microwave will have a lovely fresh smell.

Fridge odour reducer:  Fridges can get very smelly... Place half a lemon in a dish at the back of the fridge, as the lemon absorbs the bad smells for a few days. This is only a temporary solution though, you need to unpack and sanitize the fridge regularly!

Sink cleaner:  Lemons have a mild bleaching property. They can remove stains on sinks. Lemon juice can also remove soap scum and lime scale, and it is a disinfectant. The acids in the lemon are very effective in removing soap scum buildup. Use neat lemon juice and pour over the soap scum. Leave it for a few hours to do its work and then dry with a clean cloth. Rub half a lemon over the taps, rinse off and wipe with a clean cloth. This will disinfect and break down any lime scale buildup.

Remove fruit/berry stains from hands and worktops:  Squeeze a lemon into your hands and rub them together for a few minutes before washing them with soap and water. The lemon juice lifts the stains much easier than soap alone.  DO NOT USE THIS TRICK ON MARBLE/GRANITE!!  It will work well on laminate or corian surfaces.  Pour some freshly squeezed lemon juice onto the stain and then sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda over it. Let is fizz for an hour or so and gently scrub the stain with salt and a half lemon. Rinse and clean with fresh water.

Toilet bowl cleaner:  Because lemons are acidic, they are excellent antibacterial and antiseptic cleaning products. Baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar are perfect to replace harsh toilet cleaners. Add half a cup baking soda, half a cup vinegar and 1/4 cup lemon juice in the toilet; scrub with a brush and voila!!

Soap scum buildup in crew showers:  DO NOT USE NEAR MARBLE!!  Use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of vinegar mixed with 900 ml very hot water to help remove the scum. Use a spray bottle to coat the layers of soap scum and let the mixture do its job for about 20 - 30 minutes before wiping it off with a clean, damp cloth.  For really bad soap scum, you can apply the lemon juice neat and let it sit for a few hours. Wipe off afterwards and wash shower with clean water.

Clean discoloured plastic containers:  Food like curry can badly stain plastic containers. Rub half a lemon over the inside surface. Make sure you do this on a shiny day with no guests on board. Let the containers sit in the full sunlight for as long as possible. The lemon and sun should remove the stains from the containers.

Smelly drains:  Pour a glass of lemon juice and water down all your drains regularly to keep them smelling fresh. For added punch, add baking soda and vinegar to the mix.

 water drink fresh lemons2


Underarm stains on white/light cotton clothes:  Mix together a portion of half lemon juice and half water, scrub the sweat stain gently with a clean toothbrush and lemon water mix to remove the stains. You can also add some baking soda for some extra punch.

Removing fruit stains from clothes:  Works best if the stain is fresh. Sprinkle neat lemon juice over the stain before washing the item. Repeat if necessary.

Rust stain removal on clothes:  Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the rust stain. Squeeze 2 lemon halves over the salt and place the item directly in the sun. Leave there for a few hours, adding more lemon juice every hour. Brush the salt off, add more lemon juice and wash in the washing machine.

Remove mildew stains:  Sprinkle the stains generously with salt and liberally pour over fresh lemon juice. Put item out in sun to remove the stain. Leave in direct sun as long as possible, but keep adding fresh lemon juice to prevent the stain from drying. Brush off all the salt, add fresh lemon juice and wash in the washing machine.

Whiten white athletic shoes:  Spray the shoes with fresh lemon juice inside and out. Then place them in the direct sunlight to dry. Repeat a few times.


Refresh your face after a long charter season:  Lemons are particularly useful for combatting greasy skin, as they are great for unclogging pores. Lemon oil helps to balance overactive sebaceous glands, which are often what cause greasy skin, blocked pores and skin blemishes. To ensure your pores are cleaned thoroughly, steam your face as follows: Fill a bowl with boiling water and add the peel of half a lemon. With your face over the bowl and a small towel over your head, let the lemony steam penetrate your pores. Very refreshing!


Natural Face mask:  Mix 2 tablespoons oatmeal, 4 tablespoons plain yogurt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Mix ingredients into a paste and apply to skin,. Leave on for 5 minutes and rinse off with cold water.

Hair Conditioner:  Mix together 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 120 ml honey and 200 ml olive oil. Shampoo your hair with your regular shampoo and towel dry. Apply the lemon mixture to your hair and leave on for 30 minutes. Then shampoo and rinse hair as per normal.

Strong nails:  To soften your cuticles and strengthen your nails at the same time, add 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice to a little liquid soap. Add a few drops of warm water and soak your nails in this mixture for five minutes. This will leave your fingers feeling soft and your nails strong and healthy looking.

Dandruff control:  Try adding 2 tablespoon lemon juice to 120 ml olive oil. Gently rub the mixture onto your scalp in leave it for 15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and then shampoo and conditioner as normal.


Mix a few drops of lemon juice with egg white. Apply the mixture to yoru scalp and rub in. Leave the mix on your scalp for an hour before shampooing your hair with lukewarm water and then rinse. Repeat 5 times a month for dandruff control.

Sore and puffy eyes:  If your eyes are a bit puffy, from lack of sleep, try squeezing the juice of a lemon into a small bowl. Add two slices of cucumber to the juice and let the slices sit in the juice for a minute or two. Place one of the cucumber slices over each eye and relax. This will not only get rid of puffy eyes, but will also help to reduce dark circles.

Nosebleeds:  If you have a nose bleed, soak cotton wool in lemon juice and put the ball into the affected nostril. Leave for at least 10 minutes. The lemon juice will help seal the blood vessels and tighten the membranes in your nose.

Dry hands:  Squeeze some lemon juice (a full lemon) into a bowl of warm water. Dunk your hands into the mixture and keep there for 2 - 3 minutes. Dry your hands. Pour a little olive oil on your palms and massage the oil into your hands and fingers.

Aching and sore feet:  Stews spend all day and night on their feet... At the end of the day, make yourself a soak from a lemon or two squeezed into warm - hot water (not too hot, don't burn yourself!). For added benefit, cut up the lemon zest after squeezing and add the slices to the water.

Add some baking soda and soak your feet for 10 minutes. After soaking, massage your feet with olive oil or aromatic natural oil. A quick fix for sore feet - rub half a lemon over your feet to relieve pain and eliminate toxins.

oil and lemon

Swollen ankles:  Lemons can help strengthen the walls of veins and they are also a diuretic, which encourages the production of urine. This will help reduce fluid retention. To help prevent swollen ankles, include lemons, especially the juice and zest, in your daily diet.

Varicose veins:  The natural astringent and anti-inflammatory of the lemon will strengthen the walls of veins. To help reduce the appearance of varicose veins, mix two drops of lemon oil with three drops of cypress oil and two drops of lavender oil, along with 2 tablespoons of almond oil. Massage the mixture directly onto the area affected by the varicose veins. Repeat once a day until you start seeing results.

Burn marks:  What is the most common burn mark for a Stewie? Probably from the iron... As you know, burn marks can cause swelling, redness or even blisters.

You will need: lemon juice, tomato extract and almond oil

Rinse the burn under cool, running water and cover the mark with a clean cloth. Dampen the cloth with lemon juice and apply to the burn. This will help to cleanse the skin and lighten the burn mark. Repeat a few times with fresh lemon juice each time. Now rub tomato extract over the burn mark.

The tomato will naturally bleach the area. To complete the recovery process, apply some almond oil to soften the skin, improve the skin colour and remove what is left of the burn mark. This treatment should not only help to heal the burn, but also accelerate the skin lightening process. You can use the pulp of a tomato instead of tomato extract and coconut oil instead of almond oil if you prefer.

Sunburn relief:  As lemon juice is such an efficient astringent, its healing properties will help calm irritated, sunburned skin. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl and add three times the amount of water. Apply this gently and directly onto the sunburned skin using a cotton wool pad. For extra impact, you could add 3 drops of lemon oil to 2 tablespoons of almond oil and apply to the burned area.

Anxiety and stress:  This is difficult to do on a yacht, because crew cabins don't have baths, but on that odd occasion where you have a bath available, try the following:

Run a hot bath (as hot as you can bear). Put 2 lemon tea bags into a bowl. Half fill the bowl with hot water, add a dash of milk and then squeeze in the juice of a whole lemon. Pour this mixture into your bath and gently relax for 30 minutes.

Stress, which is often the cause of anxiety, can be reduced if you take in more Vitamin C. To increase your Vitamin C intake, squeeze the juice of a lemon into a glass, top up with water and drink first thing daily.

lemon jug

I once worked with a Stew who, whenever we were very stressed and busy, used to go around with cotton wool dipped in lemon oil, rubbing it under our noses, which she believed helped for stress. This is also something I read in my research, so thanks Ellie!!!

Sore throat:  Gargling is the solution for a sore throat. You will need to squeeze the juice of one lemon into a small amount of hot water. If you gargle 3 times a day with this mixture, the soreness will subside as the lemon juice works to tackle the inflammation.

Nausea:  Just smelling a lemon can often help a feeling of nausea. Whether it is because of something you have eaten, or because of sea sickness, cut open a lemon and take a deep breath. It should soothe your stomach and get rid of the churning feeling.

Until next time!


* Boerseep – Traditional South African laundry soap made from cold rain or distilled water, caustic soda and animal fat.  In early centuries, South African women made this and owning a cast iron ‘soap pot’ was a very valuable item - most families had their own secret recipe, passed on down the generations.  This method of soap making does not require boiling, it is stirred until the fat and soda dissolves and becomes soap.  Boerseep is suitable for all domestic uses, especially stain removal and laundry, especially for washing white clothes and fat stains.

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*Image Credits: Pixabay/Flickr/Flickr/Flickr/Flickr/

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