Citrus Enzyme Cleaner Recipe

Have you heard of citrus enzyme? Me neither until I read about a month ago how it cleans a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. and everything.

And you know me – I want easy peasy but natural ways to clean. I even made my own soft scrub for scrubbing my  bathtub because I hate the smell of commercial brands of scrubbers.

So when I read that a citrus enzyme can basically clean anything, I had to try it. But then I heard that it required 3 months of fermentation! That’s like a whole trimester of pregnancy! For a baby, I’d understand but not for a cleaner. Besides, my house can’t wait that long.

Then, I wondered if I can cut that time down by forcing it to ferment faster.


Well, after weeks of tweaking here and there, this is how I made my citrus enzyme.

You’ll Need:

  • 2 Liter Wide Mouth Bottle -I used an old orange juice bottle from a neighbor’s recycling bin. Yeah, I do that a lot – steal from neighbor’s recycling bin. I chose this brand because it had a wide mouth and it was easier to squeeze the peels in.
  • 2 C or Enough citrus fruit peels to fit half the bottle. Oranges, Lemons, Lime,
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar (Note: a reader said she used white sugar and it was fine too.)
  • 1 Tsp of active yeast
  • 1 Liter of water
  • Funnel – to add brown sugar
  • Strainer or cheese cloth
  • 1 C Apple Cider Vinegar AFTER the enzyme is done fermenting

Pick a bottle that has a wide mouth and make sure to follow the proportions in this recipe. Do NOT double the recipe in this bottle. Chop up any citrus fruit scraps into chunks that will fit into the opening of the bottle. Add water, sugar, yeast, and shake for about 30 seconds. Then, close the cap LOOSELY so the trapped air can escape and not build up in the bottle.

You’ll see the foam on the top in a day or two because of yeast fermentation. Shake the bottle daily for the first few days to mix the yeast and let out the air.


Do you see the bulging right side from gas build up?


After about 2 weeks, the enzyme will look opaque. Strain the pulp and the peel.


Add apple cider vinegar to the liquid and store the liquid in a glass jar. You can create an all-purpose cleaner spray bottle with 1:10 ratio to water and clean away to your heart’s content!

Or, you can use the concentration amounts that are appropriate for other cleaning uses.


Here is how to use this enzyme in laundry detergent laundry detergernt WITHOUT Borax  and dishwasher detergent dishwashing soap WITHOUT Borax.

Why bother with citrus enzyme? What’d the big deal?

My main purpose for making citrus enzyme is to add it to my dishwasher. And I’ll tell you why tomorrow. But believe me when I tell you – this citrus enzyme cleaner WORKS on so many other things, in addition to dishwashing!!

And, citrus enzyme cleaners is great because it’s:

1. Natural
2. Cheap since you are using up kitchen scraps
3. Effective
4. Easy to make

It is great:

  1.  for dishes and laundry (use 1/4 cup of enzyme)
  2. for washing bathrooms and toilets. grime comes off easily (1 part enzyme to 10 parts water)
  3. for removing stubborn stains and odors (colored fabrics and floors-used undiluted)
  4. to clean vegetables and fruits (1 part enzyme to 10 parts water)
  5. clear blockages in kitchen sinks and drains (use concentrated or blended pulp/sludge of enzyme)
  6. as a natural insect repellent (use undiluted) for ants, cockroaches
  7. for mopping floors (1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)
  8. as fertilizer for plants (use 1 part enzyme to 20 parts water, or use the leftover mop water)
  9. as a skincare product, e.g. facial cleanser or toner (1 part enzyme to 2 parts water)
  10. wash cars – cars will look as if they have just been polished! (1 part enzyme to 20 parts water)

Convinced yet? Thought so. More reasons to eat citrus fruits!

What do you use citrus enzyme for?


  1. says

    chemicalfreeme  I clean with vinegar too but fermented citrus oils is stronger than just vinegar….so I’ve been told. But I’ve taken short cuts before and just added citrus peels to vinegar to make the cleaner as well.

  2. chemicalfreeme says

    Hi! I was wondering why you can’t just use apple cider vinegar without the sugar and yeast. I heard you can clean with apple cider vinegar and that raw unfiltered cider vinegar has enzymes.

  3. GreenInOC says

    Hi Karen, just strained my first batch!

    It does smell though – do you think adding some Lemon Essential oil will cause a problem (or even work!)?


    • says

      GreenInOC Yes, it does smell a bit but it dissipates fairly quickly after you spray. But if you really don’t like the smell, you can try the EO. I don’t normally buy it just to use it for this purpose. But I know some people are very sensitive to the smell – like my hubby – so any disguise will be fine. I’d guess you’d have to use a quite a bit for the whole bottle though…:(

  4. dbsrbb says

    While I made my own baby wipes when my now teens were little, and have been using vinegar for cleaning the floors for a long time, I have only been experimenting with green cleaning recipes for a short time.   Now I am totally sold but have a new problem.  I have to admit, I work full time and have someone clean my house every two weeks.  I was able to get her to switch to “whole foods” green cleaning products, but they usually have some Spanish translation.  Really making a full switch would take a lot of translation into Spanish.  Are there websites that have these recipes translated?  I really feel for her and those in her industry as they are exposed to these horrible chemicals every day.  It would be great if there were an educational campaign about cleaning with natural products for the professional Spanish speaking cleaners who are really at risk.  They are exposed 10x as much as the average person.  Any suggestions on resources?

    • says

      dbsrbb Oh my goodness. You bring up an excellent point. I get my house cleaned thoroughly by my kids’ old babysitter when I need a ‘real’ cleaning but I’m lucky that she speaks English. I was happy to convert her to use non-toxic cleaners I make and she says she uses it when she cleans her own house now. 
      But you gave me an idea to have my eBook translated it in Spanish! For the time being though, you can put any site pages, including my posts, through Google translator and show your cleaner what it says. But I’ll let the community know when my eBook will be available in Spanish. Thanks for a great suggestion!

    • says

      dbsrbb Guess what I found! Here are two Spanish site links that explains about toxic cleaners.  and in Spanish –>
      Hope that help!

      • dbsrbb says

        ecokaren dbsrbb 
        Great.  I will share this next the next time I am with my cleaner.  She was receptive to using vinegar and baking soda and gets it so that is a great start.  While I am waiting for my citrus enzyme to ferment, I made something for the bathroom with borax, vinegar, tee tree oil, castile soap and water and she liked using it.

        • says

          dbsrbbThat’s great! hope the links are helpful. Did you see my soft scrub formula? It works! doesn’t even use Borax and it works! 
          I’m sure she’ll love the fact that these natural cleaners don’t smell while she’s using them! 
          Good Luck!

  5. AshleySutton says

    I have used a homemade dishwasher detergent and it is leaving all of my plastic containers with a film. Will the enzyme help get rid of this film?

    • says

      AshleySutton I use this recipe for my dishwasher and it doesn’t leave any film.
      I do add citrus enzyme cleaner if I have it. But even if i don’t, the recipe works every time!

    • says

      Hi Susan,

      I stored mine in a plastic spray bottle and used it for general cleaning. And I left the remainder in a glass jar and used it for dishwasher, since it contacts food.

      Hope that helps.

  6. Silvia says

    Hi Karen,

    I followed your recipe 2 weeks ago and my cleaner is now ready for use. A few days ago I noticed, though, that between bottle shakes, the yeast started sitting at the bottom. The liquid is bubbly and has a bit of a fizz, so I’m assuming it hasn’t really died. Do you think it’s good to use?
    Also, I used white sugar – didn’t have any brown at hand – and the fermentation started straight away!

    • says

      Hi Silvia,

      It’s ok to have a little bit of yeast remaining. It will continue to fizz until it’s done. At some point, it will stop fizzing but you might still have some settle at the bottom. If you waited 2 weeks, it should be ready to use.

      Thanks for the tip about white sugar. I updated the ingredients!

      Good Luck !

      • Silvia says

        Fantastic! Thank you Karen, both for the recipe and the answer, you’re an inspiration. I am really looking forward to trying it now!!

    • karen says

      I followed a recipe that used brown sugar so that’s what I did. But I’m going to try the white sugar for my next batch. My guess is that it doesn’t matter. Sugar is for the yeast to ferment so it shouldn’t make a difference.

  7. Rochelle says

    Karen, do you really use a stronger concentration on your face than on your toilet? Or….did I read that wrong? heeheee

    • karen says

      I did use that portion when I wrote it but I diluted it even more…… a tbsp to a bathroom size cup of water.

      And I found out that a straight shot of the cleaner in the toilet works rather than diluting it…what’s the point of diluting it when there is water in the toilet already. :)

  8. says

    But I would like to say, my 3 year old wanted to help clean (score!!) and it was so nice that not only was it “natural” but all the ingredients are basically edible too (not that I’d recommend it…)

    • karen says

      How nice that she wants to help you clean! Enjoy the help while it lasts. I have to pay my kids to help me clean. now that they are teenagers! Grrrr….

      And I agree about the cleaner being totally natural and safe….naturally fat house smelling, but totally safer than a frat house.

  9. says

    Alicia I thought the same thing. Obviously it doesn’t smell like pledge, but…. I used it on my floors last night and it still smells a bit like a frat house at times. It did clean well, but I think I’ll dilute it more next time. Do you store in the fridge?

    • karen says

      omg….”frat house” is not exactly what I going after with this recipe. So sorry to hear that.

      Yes, it’s not exactly Pledge but it shouldn’t smell like a frat house. :(

      Did you dilute it to 1:10??? Maybe you should dilute it even more?? My enzyme cleaner doesn’t last long enough to warrant storing it in the fridge. I use it in my bathroom, laundry (I use straight vinegar as fabric softener so it washes out the citrus enzyme smell), floors, counters, everywhere. But when I use it on the counter, I use the diluted version from a spray bottle. When I use it on the floor, I put about 1/8 C of the enzyme and about 3 gal. of warm water. When I use it in my toilet, I use about 1/2 C straight in the toilet bowl. Maybe I should add this to my post so my readers don’t get confused what amounts to use.

      The trick is to kinda ‘play’ with the amounts to your liking.

  10. Alicia says

    I finished the recipe today (let it ferment for 2 weeks, strained it and added apple cider vinegar). However, I’m not too pleased with the scent. If I use it for a cleaner, I feel like it will make my house smell like fermented fruit – not a pleasing smell, in my opinion. I followed the recipe to a “t” (except I used a washed out orange soda bottle instead of a wide mouth container). Is it supposed to smell like this?

    • karen says

      Hi Alicia,

      I know what you mean by the scent but it dissipates very quickly. I was skeptical too but my wash or my house DOES NOT smell foul when I use it. It’s like using vinegar to clean – the smell evaporates rather quickly. I think the fermentation process changes the citrus smell but the the “fermented fruit” smell doesn’t last.

  11. Laurie says

    I followed the recipe 2 days ago and set the bottle outside in the sun to help speed the fermentation. Now, 2 days later, I’m not really seeing the same amount of bubbles rising to the surface, and the liquid is already fairly “opaque.” If it has stopped bubbling, then have I done something wrong? Did the sun kill the yeast? Any thoughts? Don’t know if I should go ahead and pull the batch, assuming it fermented that much more quickly and is usable, let it sit for another week and a half, add more sugar, or start from scratch.

      • says

        Hmmm….I wonder if the yeast was a bat batch? Sometimes when I ‘proof’ yeast for baking, they are not as active as they should be. Temperature might be an issue too….can’t be too hot, otherwise, they die. Don’t throw away this batch of enzyme though….It should theoretically take 3 months to ferment without yeast. Yeast suppose to speed it up a bit; that’s why I’m using it in this recipe.

        Start a new batch with yeast (and use it in 2 weeks) but keep this one and use it a couple of months later.

        Hope that helps.

        • McKenna says

          I suspect the yeast, too, but wanted to verify it with you. I have already saved orange and lime peels for the next batch (had to put them in the freezer, as I don’t have enough at any one time). I’ll buy new yeast — this batch is old, though within its expiration date — and try again.


  12. Caroline says

    I looked at the 3-month recipe you used as a basis for this and it mentioned pineapple. We just got a fresh pineapple and tossed the skin (?) in the scrap pile but I wonder now if pineapple “rinds” or kiwi skins would be useful in this recipe as I seem to recall one cannot use fresh pineapple or kiwi in jell-o as the ENZYMES will prevent gelling.

    • says

      Hi Caroline,

      Pineapple does have bromelain, which is a proteolytic enzyme that acts as anti-inflammatory. It also acts like meat tenderizer, being an enzyme. But I don’t know what, if any, effect it would have on cleaning properties.

  13. says

    This recipe looks very doable! I wonder what its shelf life is, i.e. does it go bad after awhile, or will it last quite a while?

    • karen says


      I end up using it up before it goes ‘bad’ so I really don’t know what the shelf life is. I literally us it for everything. Floors to dishwasher to washing machine. So I end up using it up before I notice any mold or foul smell. If you are concerned about it going bad, may be you can refrigerate it while using it? Just a thought.

  14. Lillie says

    I have been using my own enzyme cleaner for a couple of years now. I keep a separate bottle of baking soda to shake over what I am cleaning for an added scouring effect. Very glad to be using this firstly because it is natural and safe, and also I am doing my bit to reduce some chemicals into our precious earth.

    • says


      Baking soda shaker is a great idea! I always drag by box with me. Thanks for the tip! I should buy one of those sugar or cheese shakers!

      • Lillie says

        Hi Karen
        Apologies for this long overdue response.
        I just contain my baking soda in a used clean water bottle. Guess there’s no need to buy a separate sugar or cheese shakers. I think the baking soda powder may clog up those holes?
        Anyway, have fun cleaning! (I do try! 😉

      • Ann Fennell says

        I use flip-top spice shaker jars for baking soda, the cat litter deodorant (arm & hammer), inulin fiber to shake into my green tea & other foods, & other such things.

  15. says

    Hi Karen,

    I’m going to try it with my tangerine peels from our tree. I only have a few peels at a time, so can I stick them in the bottle and when it reaches the desired amount, then add the rest? Or, would that affect the mix if they dry out…or mold?


    • karen says

      Hi Shelly,

      I always started with enough peels to make a batch. Because of the yeast, I didn’t want to take a chance in changing the ratio. I don’t know how it would ferment if you start with just a little with the amount of yeast that’s in the formula. I guess you can try it but I can’t guarantee that it would ferment correctly.

      I know that’s not what you want to hear but….go eat some more citrus! Make lemonade, limenade, and eat some more oranges! LOL…

        • karen says

          I never tried dried peels so I don’t know if they would get reconstituted when you add water. If they do, it would be concentrated. I just don’t know if they would get back to its original state for it to release any of its oils.

    • jean radcliffe says

      If you anly have a few peels at a time….. Maybe puting them in the freezer till you have enough to make a batch. Just a thought

    • karen says

      You can use regular White Distilled Vinegar too. I just like ACV because it’s an added fruit acid. But any acid will do.

    • karen says

      What do you mean an ‘airlock’? I just loosen up the cap and check it once in awhile and it has been fine.

      • dee says

        When you use an airlock you never have to worry about pressure buildup because it has a water seal but is airtight.

  16. says

    This sounds so easy to make. Only question – do I have to use oranges in the formula or can I just use lemon/lime? I’m one of those lucky gals who has a husband that likes to help clean the house but he’s allergic to oranges so I certainly don’t want to knock him off…while he’s doing the cleaning anyway heehee.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • karen says

      Hi Jenn,

      Any citrus fruit will do. If you can’t use oranges, use lemon and lime. Even grapefruit should be ok….unless he’s allergic to grapefruit. 😛

  17. dwhite2762 says

    This is fabulous. I have been making my own laundry soap for awhile with borax but I wanted to make something easier for the dishwasher. The recipe that I had before called for citric acid and it was hard to find. I’ll start making this right away. I hadn’t heard of it but I’m on board already. Thanks.


    • says

      Ooops….sorry for that omission.

      I added ACV to the strained enzyme before storing it a separate jar. Sorry. I should add that to the post. Thanks for catching that.

  18. Lizzie says

    I love this idea and am itching to try it! Do you know if the citrus attracts ants on the surfaces you clean? I’d think anything related to fruit would be tempting for the tiny ants I’m trying to stave off.

    • says

      I hear ya about ants. So far, so good. Haven’t had any ants on my kitchen counter since using the spray.

      It’ll be interesting to see how it works in the summer though.

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