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Style & Living Food and Drinks

You’ve Been Making a Major Mistake With Lemons Your Whole Life

Here's how to use lemons for beauty, health, cleaning — and so many other benefits, in the kitchen and beyond.

By Rachel Grant

Welcome to The Feast’s new “How to Hack” series, bringing you unexpected and brilliant new uses you never knew you needed for ordinary household objects. Actress and social influencer Rachel Grant kicks it off with new ways to use kitchen items.

Many chefs claim the lemon is second only to salt as a flavor enhancer, yet for hundreds of years lemons were not widely cultivated as food. The lemon tree was mainly grown as a decorative plant and its fruit left on its branches. Lemon juice and lemon oil were used for medicinal purposes, aromatherapy, and other surprising exploits.

Lemon acidity led to its use as a spermicide — an early form of birth control involving sponges soaked in lemon juice — and various cultures used sliced lemon halves as cervical caps! Even legendary lover Casanova detailed his experiments with the lemon cap contraceptive and given his many affairs, the father of just two children, might have been successful. Before the discovery of vitamin C, lemons were administered to sailors as a cure and preventative for the vitamin-deficient disease scurvy. Lemon juice functions as invisible ink — a technique that goes back more than 2,000 years. Once dry, a message written on paper with lemon juice is undetectable until subjected to heat. Effective as such, it was a standard supply for spies funneling information during the American Revolution and Civil War as well as World Wars I and II. (The more you know!)

Lemon is an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, B-complex vitamins and many valuable minerals such as potassium, zinc, calcium, copper and magnesium. In 1931, herbalist, and writer Maud Grieve wrote: “The lemon is the most valuable of all fruit for preserving health."

So, when life gives you lemons, remember you can always make a lot more than lemonade!

Here are 12 incredible new ways to use lemons for health, beauty, cleaning — and so much more.

1. Clean dirty dishes, glass, and bathroom scum.

Lemon juice makes an excellent cleaner and easily removes grease and grime on dishes, surfaces, and even bathroom scum. Rubbing a lemon wedge on dirty dishes transforms them to squeaky clean and leaves glass with a streak-free finish — plus it’s much kinder on your hands than dish liquid. It can also work in your dishwasher in addition to dish detergent. Simply secure sliced lemons to the top rack of your dishwasher to get that lemon-fresh Jet-Dry clean.

2. Improve a sore throat or bad breath.

For a natural sore throat remedy, simply gargle with some lemon juice! The astringent juice helps shrink swollen throat tissue and will ward off viruses and bacteria by creating an acidic environment. You can also fight bad breath with lemon juice if you don’t have a mint on hand. The acidity in the fruit helps break down pungent smells and helps neutralize the smell of even potent garlic breath!

3. Use it as a natural weed killer.

Instead of harmful chemical weed killers, use lemon juice to remove those pesky weeds — particularly the ones that sprout out in between cracks. Just grab a lemon wedge and squeeze the juice directly onto the weed. The citric acid has a burning effect when squeezed on weeds and will be even more effective on a hot, dry day.

4. Cleanse face, tone, and brighten dark spots.

For a natural face cleanse and exfoliation, simply use lemon juice mixed with water. Lemon juice will reduce excess oil, remove dead skin cells, tone, and brighten your face! A lemon juice water solution also makes a superb makeup remover and citric acid will help lighten dark spots and blemishes. Just apply directly to skin and rinse with water. Lemon juice has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, so you can also zap acne and black heads by dabbing it on affected areas. Your skin should improve after several days of treatment.

5. Whiten clothes.

To whiten your clothes and remove stains naturally, apply lemon juice directly to the stain and wash water. You can even add one cup of lemon juice to you machine load along with your usual detergent. Your clothes will come out much brighter and will also smell lemon fresh. Citric acid in lemons helps break down stains and gets your dull whites back to bright — and unlike bleach, lemon juice is safe to use with colors.

6. Disinfect cuts and scrapes.

You can stop bleeding and disinfect small cuts by squeezing lemon juice directly onto the cut or by using a cotton ball dipped in juice. (Yes, it will hurt.) Leave it for a while, then gently rinse with water. This is a handy, quick tip if you cut or burn yourself while in the kitchen. As an antiseptic and astringent, lemon juice keeps wounds from getting infected and will help stanch bleeding. It also encourages cell turnover, which means your skin heals more quickly and with minimal scarring.

7. Highlight hair.

For salon-worthy highlights, use lemon juice on your hair. Cut a lemon in half and apply the juice on the areas you wish to highlight, then sit out in the sun for that sun-kissed color. Lemon juice acts as an accelerant to the sun’s natural highlighting abilities magnifying the amount of lightening the sun can achieve.

8. Hand sanitizer.

Most hand sanitizers contain triclosan, otherwise known as a pesticide! It's time to try this homemade and inexpensive remedy. Yes, lemon juice is an excellent natural hand sanitizer and one small slice is all you need. Many restaurants serve water with a fresh lemon slice. Before or after your meal, you can squeeze the lemon juice into both hands, rubbing vigorously until the juice dries. Not only will your hands smell fantastic, but they will feel baby soft from lemon's natural alpha hydroxy acids.

9. Soothe sunburn.

Make a skin-healing remedy by mixing lemon juice with water to soothe sunburn. It’s a fantastic natural remedy for sun damage on your face, neck, and chest. Citric acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that encourages cell production and rejuvenates the skin. However, when using lemon juice for sun-damaged skin, watch out for burning or irritation after application. Leave the juice on for no longer than 30 minutes then wash it off. If you do feel burning or irritation, stop using lemon juice and let your skin heal.

10. Sanitize and deodorize a cutting board.

Your kitchen cutting board is used to chop garlic, onions, raw meat, and fish. No wonder it smells! To sanitize and get rid of the odor, cut a lemon in half and scour the cut side all over the board while squeezing out the effective lemon juice. Leaving it to sit for a couple of minutes will help brighten the board, then rinse with water.

11. Use as a natural deodorant.

Avoid using aerosol deodorants and use a lemon instead! Cut a lemon in half and rub it on your underarms for a minute or two to feel fresh. For emergency deodorant when you’re on the go, you can snag a slice from your drinking glass! Lemon juice contains powerful antibacterial properties that help to kill bacteria and works as a natural deodorant. The lemon juice will also lighten any dark patches on your underarms and will remove dead skin cells. If you have sensitive skin, use a mixture of lemon juice and water.

12. Prevent guacamole from browning.

You’ve made guacamole and you don’t want it to turn brown. Simply squeeze a liberal amount of lemon juice all over the guacamole and it’ll stay green as well as add to the flavor. This technique is very effective and applies to fruit salad too!

So don’t be a lemon... it’s time to juice it up! 

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