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How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables

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How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables

Regardless of what kind of produce you purchase, you should still be taking the step to thoroughly clean before eating. It does not matter if your produce is organic, natural, or conventional it is possible that through the harvesting process, transport to the market or grocery store, and customer handling that germs and bacteria can be collected and growing. These all should be washed off before consuming to ensure that you are not getting sick.

Even certified organic produce should be washed because it can contain some pesticides since according to the USDA certified organic standards farmers are able to use more natural or conservative pesticides in a very limited and specific way for the produce to be considered certified organic. Or it could be exposed unintentionally to synthetic pesticides due to nearby crops or shared handling facilities that process both organic and conventional produce.

Due to the potential and probable contamination of your produce items, it is important to know how to wash fruit and vegetables properly.

Methods for How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables

How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables by Rinsing Under Water

This seems to be the #1 way that most people clean their produce. It can be effective at rinsing away dirt, pesticides, and bacteria. This cleaning method alone can remove some pesticides depending on what pesticides have been used, what type of produce you are washing, and if you are also rubbing the fruit or vegetable while rinsing.


Wash Produce Using a Fruit and Vegetable Scrub Brush or Cloth

These are great tools for cleaning some of the firmer fruits and vegetables you purchase and are better than just using water. They help to scrub away the dirt, bacteria, and pesticide residues. It is helpful to scrub the produce under running water to rinse away the pesticides, dirt, germs, and bacteria as you clean.

Most people are familiar with fruit and vegetable scrub brushes. They are smaller brushes that come in various sizes and shapes.

Flexible Vegetable Brush Fruit and Vegetable Brushes, Vegetable/Fruit Peeler with Brush Bendable Fruit Brush Scrubber for Food Veggies Carrot Potato Corn, 5 PcsFlexible Vegetable Brush Fruit and Vegetable Brushes

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Another option is a fruit and vegetable scrub cloth, like this Veggie and Fruit Scrub cloth from Norwex shown below. It is great for using the rough side to scrub hard fruits and vegetables such as apples, cucumbers, squash, peppers, and potatoes. It is such a great scrubber, it will actually scrub off the potato skin if you rub it too much! Some people use this cloth instead of a peeler to remove potato skins because it is so easy to do.

The soft side of the Veggie and Fruit Scrub cloth is great on more delicate produce items such as tomatoes, peaches, and grapes. It will also polish up items such as apples.

Norwex Veggie & Fruit Scrub Cloth Model: (Home & Kitchen)Norwex Veggie & Fruit Scrub Cloth

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How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Salt

Morton Iodized Table Salt, 26 Oz, pack of 2 Morton Iodized Table Salt

Studies have shown that washing in a 10% salt solution (1 part salt to 9 parts water) for 20 minutes can be effective at removing the majority of pesticides on various produce items. Here is how to use salt to clean your fruit and vegetables:

  • In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup salt and 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Soak fruit and vegetables for 20 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Air or towel dry prior to storage

Related: How to Clean Copper Mugs

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How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Vinegar

Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 5% Acidity, 16 Fl Ounce (1 Pint)Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar

Other studies have also shown that washing produce in a white vinegar solution for 20 minutes can be effective at removing the majority of pesticides on various produce items. Here is how to use vinegar to clean your produce from the grocery store:

  • In a large bowl combine 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups of water
  • Soak fruit and vegetables for 20 minutes
  • Rinse thoroghly
  • Air or towel dry prior to storage

If you are unable to soak your fruit and vegetables, a quicker option that is better than rinsing your produce alone is to spray your produce with white vinegar and allow it to sit for a few minutes to kill off germs and bacteria that remain on the surface. Be sure to give everything a good rinse after doing this so that your fruit and vegetables do not taste like vinegar.

Related: Septic Safe Drain Cleaner: Best Options for Unclogging

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How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda, 8 Ounce (Pack of 3)Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

This study shows that a low baking soda solution can remove all pesticides on the peel of an apple after soaking for 15 minutes, it seems that the baking soda solution is the best option for removing pesticides from produce. Although, it should be noted that it is unable to remove the pesticides that have been absorbed through the peel of the apple.

How to Clean Fruits and Vegetables with Baking Soda:

  • In a large bowl combine 1 tsp baking soda for every 2 cups of water
  • Soak fruit and vegetables for 12-15 minutes (15 minutes is preferred)
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Air or towel dry prior to storage

This option is also the most cost-effective, as baking soda is very cheap and it uses the least amount of cleaning agent per water volume compared to the other options. It also takes the least amount of soaking time to break down the pesticide residue and has a higher pesticide removal rate.

Related: How to Remove Rust from Knives with Baking Soda (and Other Natural Remedies)

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The Best Way to Wash Fruit and Vegetables

As you can tell by the natural fruit and vegetable cleaning methods listed above, there are a number of ways to accomplish this kitchen task. We find that the best way to thoroughly clean fruit and vegetables is a combination of the cleaning methods.

First, start by rinsing off any dirt, germs, and bacteria from your fruit and vegetables. Then, move on to the baking soda method as this is the best way to break down and remove pesticides or other residual chemicals on your produce. Be sure to soak for the full 12-15 minutes. Periodically, agitate the baking soda mixture to help the baking soda to dissolve into the water so that it can work on cleaning your fruit or vegetables.

After the baking soda water soak, if it is a firmer vegetable or fruit, give them a quick scrub with a vegetable and fruit brush or the Norwex veggie and fruit scrub cloth. If it is a more delicate item, such as strawberries or grapes, just give it a rinse.

If you have time and want to do a spray with white vinegar and let sit for a few minutes go ahead. This will ensure that all germs and bacteria that might remain are killed off. Remember to rinse so there is no vinegar taste when you go to eat your fruit or vegetables.

Related: Green Cleaner for Plants: Chemical-Free Insect and Pest Control

Tips When Cleaning Fruit and Vegetables

If looking to soak your produce, it can be helpful to wash most or all of what you purchase so it can be “ready to eat”. Some say that this opens the produce to collect bacteria again that could make you sick. Especially considering how quickly bacteria can multiple. If this is your preferred method, maybe give your fruit or vegetable an extra rinse right before consuming.

Others prefer to wait and wash their produce just before eating. But then you are introducing whatever bacteria that is already on the produce into your home and produce storage spaces, such as a refrigerator or counter.

Really it is your preference on how you manage your produce cleaning. Find a way that is convenient for you that helps to encourage you to actually eat it before any spoilage occurs.

Keep in mind for berries, you should wash just prior to eating. Washing before storing just adds moisture that can cause a quicker rate of spoilage. It is frustrating to go to the refrigerator for a quick healthy snack only to find you have to throw the whole thing away, especially if you shelled out the extra money for organic or spent the time to pick.

Also, remember to wash any produce that you will be cutting or peeling, even if you do not plan to eat the outside skin or rind. Examples would be watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, lemons, or carrots as you will be cutting through the skin and exposing your knife or peeler to any germs, bacteria, and pesticides that will then touch and cross-contaminate the flesh of the fruit or vegetable.

If you are not able to wait the full 12-15 or 20 minutes to soak your produce, a few minutes is better than nothing and will help to break down and remove some of the pesticide residues. And a short veggie soak would be better than cleaning with just water.

Things To Avoid When Washing Fruit and Vegetables

  • The sink is full of microorganisms, especially in and around the drain, that can contaminate your produce. Using a large bowl to wash your produce is a better option. Using large glass or stainless steel mixing bowls works best.

Stainless Steel Bowl,8.5QT Salad Bowl,Metal Bowls,Stainless Steel Basin,Heavy Duty Deeper Edge Mirror Finish Dishwasher Safe Bowl by Meleg Otthon (XXL) Stainless Steel Bowl, 8.5QT

  • Using dish soap or other soap products, such as antibacterial soap. These products are not designed to clean produce and some of the potential chemicals that they contain can leach into the porous skin of many fruits and vegetables. Or some soap residue may remain on the produce and then you end up consuming it.
  • Some produce cleaners or washes can have the same issue as soaps and overall tend not to be as effective as just rinsing the produce with water. If this is something you prefer to use, take the time to research the ingredients so you know what your food, and ultimately you, will be exposed to.

Related: The Best Non-Toxic Dish Soap

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Final Thoughts on How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables

Cleaning produce is an important step to take regardless of whether it is organic or not. Besides trying to remove any pesticide residues that might remain, it is good to remove any dirt, germs, and bacteria that might end up on your food.

Sometimes it might be easier to do a quick wash or soak for your produce, which is much better than doing nothing at all. And other times you might be able to take the time to thoroughly soak and wash your produce.

Know that you know some natural methods for how to wash fruit and vegetables properly, you can start incorporating them into your routine in the kitchen to ensure you have clean fruit and vegetables for you and your family.

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