The Best Way to Wash Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Have you noticed a sharp increase in food safety recalls this year? According to Food Safety Magazine, there were at least 382 food product recalls in 2018 alone1. Enter 2019, and the same trend seems to be repeating; from the romaine lettuce fiasco—which sent caesar salad lovers and health nuts across the country into a panic, to recent reports about E. Coli in avocados, it’s been an unusually bad stint for American food safety. But this brings up an important point about the modern-day necessity of cleaning your fruits and veggies—especially those to be eaten raw.

Below, you’ll learn why it’s so important to clean your fruits and veggies (beyond just bacteria), discover our top three, non-toxic DIY and premade fruit and veggie washes and disinfectants, and how to best wash different types of produce.

WHY WASH YOUR PRODUCE?

A few years back, reports came out questioning the effectiveness of DIY and premade fruit and vegetable washes. The recommendation was to instead use water and friction for best results.

Here’s the thing: water and friction work GREAT for removing many pesticide residues, dirt, and some bacteria from hardy fruits and vegetables and is an appropriate cleaning method for produce that will be cooked. But, rinsing with water won’t remove all harmful bacteria2, especially on delicate produce like leafy greens or berries which won’t hold up to scrubbing (and it doesn’t take much harmful bacteria to make you sick). Thus, taking a little extra time to use an effective fruit and veggie wash can indeed make a big difference.

Beyond bacteria, here are three more reasons to take fruit and veggie washing seriously:

Reason #1: To remove as much dirt, sand, and soil as possible

Yes, some dirt is good for building immunity, but unless you know all about the  dirt your produce has been grown in, it’s best to remove it entirely.

Reason #2: To remove external pesticide residues

Conventionally-grown produce, especially those listed on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list,  have been shown in random testing to contain unacceptable levels of pesticide residues[1]. Long-term exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, birth defects, and severe disruption of the immune system and GI tract32]. The effects are even more pronounced in children, and evidence suggests parental pesticide exposure can affect future generations4.

Notice we said “to remove external pesticide residues”. Unfortunately, no amount of vegetable cleaner can remove pesticides that have entered a plant via the roots or seeds; which is why we recommend buying organic or certified naturally-grown produce whenever possible. If this isn’t an option, then steer clear of the Dirty Dozen in favor of the Clean Fifteen, and wash everything according to our instructions below (organic or not).

Reason #3: Removal of germs and parasites

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations’ “Top 10 List of Food Borne Parasites”, produce is a hotbed for parasites such as tapeworm, protozoans, and small intestinal roundworms5.

Think this isn’t a problem for North Americans? Sadly, it is. Due to our consumption of imported produce, plus parasitic issues in our own soil, fertilizer, and water supplies the CDC estimates millions of Americans are infected with food borne parasites every year6. Thus, thorough cleansing of produce to be eaten raw is essential, even those fruits and vegetables with thick skin. The recent avocado scare taught about this, as knives will carry germs or parasites from avocado skin to the flesh. Same goes for melons, citrus fruit, winter squashes, or any thick-skinned fruit or vegetable.

Now that you understand why it’s so important to deep clean your produce, let’s look at our top 3 favorite fruit and veggie washes.

OUR TOP THREE WASHES

#1: Branch Basics Concentrate at “All-Purpose” or “Foaming Wash” dilution

#2: Distilled white vinegar

#3: Hydrogen Peroxide 3%

These three products can clean and disinfect all your fruits and vegetables without harmful chemicals.

the best ways TO WASH PRODUCE

Depending on the type of fruit or vegetable, organic or non-organic, eaten raw or cooked you’ll either want to wash it or soak it. This will help remove dirt, germs, pesticides, parasites and more.

Fruit and Vegetable Washing Instructions:

  • For non-organic OR organic produce with firm skins, such as avocados, melons, citrus fruits, squashes, zucchini, cucumbers, apples, etc. to be consumed raw
    • Spray skin directly with All-Purpose or foam with Foaming Wash, lightly scrub, then rinse with cold water
  • For organic varieties intended for cooking
    • Lightly scrub clean and rinse with water

Soaking Instructions:

  • For fruits and vegetables with firm skin:
    • Rinse produce to remove dirt
    • Add fruit or vegetables to bowl with water to cover and ¼ cup vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
    • Let soak 3-5 minutes.
    • Rinse with cool water and eat, cook, or store.
  • For leafy greens, berries, soft and delicate fruits:
    • For organic intended for cooking, place in soaking water, gently wash off dirt, rinse with clean water, and cook.
    • For all non-organic intended for cooking or eating raw, and organic intended for eating raw, rinse off to remove dirt,  fill your bowl with water to cover and ¼ cup distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Let soak for 3-5 minutes, rinse with cool water and eat/cook/store.

Unless you grow all your own produce, there is much we cannot control about the food we eat. However, by using our top three fruit and vegetable washes, following the  cleaning tips above, choosing organic or naturally-grown when possible, avoiding the Dirty Dozen, and opting for the Clean Fifteen, we can greatly reduce our risk of ingesting harmful bacteria, pesticides, parasites, and more.

To healthier, cleaner, and safer produce for all.

  1. https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/a-look-back-at-2018-food-recalls-outbreaks/
  2. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947579/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813803/
  5. http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/237323/icode/
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/npi/index.html

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One Comment

  1. Thank you Allison for your extensive info on washing fruits and veggies. I have been using BB for that for years now, but your other two acceptable cleansers are good information, too.

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