I love a good re-purposing recipe and this DIY enzyme cleaner is one of my all-time favorites. When it comes to kitchen scraps, I normally just toss them in the trash (I blame our food-crazed pup for our lack of compost bin). But this all-purpose cleaner actually takes leftover food scraps and converts them into a super effective enzyme cleaner you can use on everything from counter tops to laundry (I would avoid light colors, but everything else is fair game). Simply let them ferment for a few weeks to extract the enzymes and voila! An all-purpose cleaner that really does it all. Here’s how to make your own.
DIY Enzyme Cleaner from Kitchen Scraps
First things first: start collecting your scraps.
A lot of the foods we eat on a regular basis, like oranges, lemons and pineapples, have naturally occurring enzymes on their skins, so any of those would be great for your homemade cleaner. Last time I made this I chose pineapple skins because they contain protease, the same protein enzyme used in most commercial cleaners. But this time I went with old grapefruit and lemon rinds because I love the way they smell in homemade cleaner.
But this recipe doesn’t discriminate. Use apple peels, citrus rinds of all kinds or even the skins from kiwis, mangoes or papayas. Just be forewarned, I haven’t tried all those scraps myself so I can’t tell you how well they work. If you try them, I’d love to hear how it turns out.
Once you’ve gotten your hands on about 2-3 cups of old rinds or fruit skins, you’ll want to let them soak in a sugar-yeast solution so the bacteria can ferment the sugars into alcohol (a potent germ-fighter) and extract the enzymes—AKA the building blocks of the perfect everyday cleaner.
I let my enzyme cleaner ferment inside a glass jar as opposed to a plastic bottle since I try to avoid plastic whenever possible. But fermentation has a tendency to cause pressure to build up inside whatever container you choose. If you’re using glass, you’ll need to ‘burp’ your container (remove the lid to release the built-up gas) more often than when using plastic. This will help prevent an explosion.
I burped my container once a day and it was fine, but I also used a super heavy duty Weck jar that’s made to withstand some pressure. If you’re using a thinner jar, burp it twice a day to be on the safe side. Or use a plastic soda bottle, which only needs to be burped every other day. It’s safe to use another kind of container, just make sure the lid forms a tight seal and it’s thick enough to withstand some pressure.
Just a quick note about homemade enzyme cleaner: while it does use yeast and sugar to make the cleaner, once the sugar runs out and the solution is mostly made up of alcohol, the bacteria culture should stop growing or die off altogether. That means that you shouldn’t have bacteria growing on your plates or counter tops after using your cleaner. And assuming you let it ferment long enough, there shouldn’t be any sugar left in your cleaner to attract ants or bugs.
Try to use up your enzyme cleaner within a month or two. At which point, you can try your hand at making another of our favorite homemade cleaners or make a fresh batch using different scraps.
DIY Enzyme Cleaner from Scraps
Yield 4 cups
- 2 cups citrus rinds or other produce scraps
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon bakers' yeast
- 2 liter plastic soda bottle or glass canning jar (I couldn't find the exact Weck jar I used but a 1-gallon kombucha jar should work)
- Place the produce scraps in the base of your jar and add the water (if using a soda bottle, puree the scraps and filtered water in a blender to make a fine slurry that can be poured into the bottle. If you need to add more water to make it pourable, that's fine.)
- Add the yeast and brown sugar.
- Screw on the lid and give it a good shake to mix everything together. Place in a warm, dark cabinet to ferment.
- Once or twice a day, shake the mixture and unscrew the lid to release any built-up pressure inside the jar. If you don't, eventually your jar could explode, so it's best to keep an eye on things.
- After 4 weeks, strain the liquid into a glass spray bottle. Wrap the solid scraps in a piece of cheesecloth and squeeze it to get any lingering enzymes.