How to Properly Wash Fruits and Vegetables

Posted on September 19, 2017

By the time you bring home your food from the grocery store, it has already gone through quite a journey- From being picked in a field, stored in a facility, transported on a truck (or airplane), and placed on your grocery store's shelves, there's no saying how many hands have touched your food. Add to that bugs, dirt, pesticides, and produce waxes and it is clear that your fruits and vegetables need to be washed before you eat them. But what's the best method for washing produce? And should you follow the same process for berries as you do for carrots?

Rinsing produce in water alone can help to remove dirt and bugs, but it will not do anything to remove bacteria, pesticides, or waxes. There are commercial produce washes available for purchase, but they may not be suitable for all types of produce, and some may even contain ingredients that you don't want on your fruits and veggies. Instead, you can save money by making your own produce washes with supplies you likely already have at home.

These homemade fruit and vegetable washes effectively remove the unseen bacteria, pesticides, waxes, and other residues that may be lingering on your produce. What's more, washing your produce may even help to prolong it's shelf life as some pesticides can cause fruits and vegetables to decay more rapidly.

Washing Lettuce and Leafy Greens
  • Dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt into 1 cup of water
  • Add 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

Start by rinsing your leafy greens with water. Make sure to wash between each leaf thoroughly, as leafy greens are likely to have dirt or bugs, especially toward the base of the stem or hiding in the folds of leaves.  After rinsing, place the greens in a colander and spray each leaf thoroughly with your lettuce wash. Let sit for 45 seconds, then rinse off or soak in water for 60 seconds. Drain well and let dry on food grade towels or in a salad spinner. Make sure leaves are completely dry before storing.

Washing Berries
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice to 4 parts water

Since berries bruise easily and can take on the flavors of items they come into contact with, they can be difficult to wash properly. Be sure to be extra gentle when washing berries.

Place your berries in a colander and spray thoroughly with berry wash. Gently roll around in the colander, but do not toss. Transfer to a bowl and soak in water for two minutes. Return to the colander to drain, and then dry on food grade towels.

Washing Skinned Produce (and Everything Else)
  • 1 part white distilled vinegar to 8 parts water

Many types of skinned produce, such as apples, squash, and cucumbers, may be coated with a light wax. Many food distributor add waxes to these items as they help to slow the aging process, ensuring that the produce still appears fresh by the time it reaches your grocery store.

To wash produce with skin, or any other produce not mentioned here, start by preparing a large bowl with one part white vinegar to eight parts water. Allow the produce to soak in the solution for 20 or 30 minutes, scrub gently, and then rinse. Drain the bowl and then dry on food grade towels.