A Surprising Use for That Grapefruit You Have Sitting Around

January 15, 2018

Have you heard? It’s citrus season. In the midst of winter, lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes bring unexpected—but well-received—moments of brightness. Well, it seems citrus isn’t here just to bring light to our plate and our palates, but to our sinks, our glassware, and our porcelain as well. Just today, I pulled a hack from Buzzfeed; it recommends using a grapefruit to remove pesky watermarks and stains from sinks and counters. So, with a bit of gumption, a teaspoon of curiosity, and an armful of citrus, I headed to our staff kitchen to see if this hack would hold up.

The directions read as follows:

  • "Cut your grapefruit in half, and coat the halves in kosher salt. You can scrub the salt in with your fingers to saturate it enough to stick."

  • "Scrub the half into a heavily water-stained faucet or glass. The coarse salt will scrub off grimy build-up, and the citric acid will eat away water stains, leaving a fresh, natural scent."

Seems easy enough. For the sake of experiment, I grabbed a lemon, a lime, and an orange, as well. I wondered if they would have as strong of an effect as the grapefruit. I spotted a basket of well-worn Mason jars and grabbed four of the dustiest, rustiest I could find. Why, you may ask, was there a basket of aged Mason jars sitting around? Well, this is Food52, after all.

The dirty jars and citrus in all their glory. You can just see the grime. Photo by Valerio Farris

With four fruits and four jars, I began my trial. I started by coating each of the sliced citrus halves in a generous layer of kosher salt. This part was easy enough and actually produced four beautifully dusted slices.

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Next, I set about scrubbing each jar. I used a healthy combination of elbow grease and my newfangled tools to get at that grime. I started with the grapefruit. Almost immediately I started to see results: The salt acted as an abrasive and got at the gray layer on the jar's outside while the citrus juice smelled inviting and fresh. I didn't even have to brush too hard before most of the dirt came off and shine came back to the glass. I then scrubbed each jar with its corresponding fruit. Scroll to see the results:

The citrus hack: grapefruit edition.
The citrus hack: orange edition.
The citrus hack: lemon edition.
The citrus hack: lime edition.

I wasn't able to get inside the jars and scrub because, well, hands; but I did get the outside nice and sparkly. In some of the images, it's hard to tell, but a considerable amount of grease did come off—can you see the bit of shine on some of them? Of all the fruits, the grapefruit definitely worked best. Was it because of its juice or due to a larger surface area for scrubbing? Not quite sure. Either way, this is definitely a hack I'd recommend. It's super simple and relatively cheap with an ingredient you may already have lying around. Plus, it's completely environmentally friendly, which I'm down for. I'm not sure how it would work on a larger, more resistant stain, but something tells me with a some effort and conviction it might just do the trick.

Do you have any unique cleaning hacks we should know about? Tell us about them in the comments.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Kenna L. January 17, 2018
When I was a waitress, we would clean the inside of the coffee pots with
ice, salt, and the left over lemon wedges we didn’t use that day. Worked really well, no more coffe/tea stains.
Hilary January 17, 2018
I agree that the thought of using a perfectly edible fruit to clean things is ridiculous. I bet you could cut the grapefruit NORMALLY (OMG WHO CUTS GRAPEFRUIT LIKE IN YOUR PICS?!?!?😱😱😱), ate the segments, THEN did the whole salt/scrub thing you’d be just as well off.
Pamela D. September 4, 2020
I found myself in a constant distracted state wondering why the citrus was consistently cut pole to pole instead of across the equator. 🤷🏽‍♀️
BerryBaby January 15, 2018
I have used lemons but first squeeze the juice for a recipe. Then turn the lemon inside out for shining. Rind goes in the disposal and makes it smell clean and fresh.
Thisisnotmyname January 15, 2018
It isn't "completely environmentally friendly" to waste food in this way. If you have a lemon tree in your garden and can't get through all the fruit it produces, then this might be okay. Otherwise, this is disgustingly wasteful. Use a cloth and some water! If you really want the citrus scent, you could probably peel your citrus fruit then scrub the jars with the peel and some salt. But why on earth would you waste the actual fruit in this way?
pomommie January 15, 2018
Same thoughts.