Damn Good Food

6 Tips for Cleaning Your Produce

Have you ever wondered whether or not you should invest in a commercial produce cleaner or what the studies suggest? Read on for 6 quick tips to help you navigate this subject and make the best choice for you are your family. I promise, it's simple.

During one of our Q&As a few weeks back, someone asked a really good question about washing their fresh berries, something I hadn't spent too much time thinking through, given that I usually try to buy organic, but in the middle of a pandemic (and really always) there is more to think through than simply pesticides on your produce. Washing your produce with tap water may be something you do today, but after digging into the research I wanted to share 6 tips to help you navigate this subject. I will keep it short and sweet because I know your time is precious, so let's dig in.

  1. All produce whether organic or not, should be washed before you peel, cut, or ingest them to remove bacteria. No matter how strong of protocols a distributor has, there will be humans handling produce in order to get it from point A to point B. Also, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you touch or wash the produce, this is common knowledge, but just a quick reminder! 
  2. Cold tap water is a tried and true method, while you may have seen friends, influencers, etc. use commercial cleaners, distilled vinegar, or lemon juice, according to Healthline, “The FDA and CDC strongly urge consumer not to take this advice and to stick with plain water.” The reason?  There haven’t been any studies that prove to be any more effective at cleaning produce than distilled water (which is filtered water) and they may leave behind additional deposits. Studies from The University of Maine compared three different cleaning products to distilled water and saw no additional impact.
  3. If you feel inclined or want to take an extra step that isn't harmful, you can make a homemade produce wash by mixing one part distilled white vinegar with three parts water and let your produce soak for two minutes before rinsing with cold tap or distilled water. Vinegar may change the taste or texture of produce, but Cook's illustrated, conducted a study to show this will kill up to 98% of bacteria, where a scrub brush removed 85% of the bacteria.
  4. Which bring me to my next point, it's worth investing in a produce scrub brush or some sort of soft brush to gently rub produce that has skin (apples, potatoes, etc.), as friction was shown to be best for removing bacteria and residue. For skinless and more delicate produce, such as berries and broccoli with more crevices, it's best to soak in water for 2 minutes and then rinse with cold tap water.
  5. It's best to wash your produce right before you eat it and let it dry completely before storing it back in the fridge. Dampness can encourage bacteria growth and spoilage.
  6. Washing produce only removes the dirt, microbes and pesticides on the surface, not microbes that can survive cold water or pesticides that have leached into the produce while it was growing. The best way to avoid pesticides is to buy certified organic produce. Of course this can be spendy, so do the best you can and take a look at The EWG's 2020 dirty dozen and clean fifteen, which will help you determine the non-organic fruits and veggies that are highest in pesticide residues. Check out this blog post to learn more.

I have never been a germ freak, more so the opposite but when germs are front and center of all we do, I have definitely spent more time thinking through the importance. My moto is to do your best with the knowledge we have and let the rest go! This is just a small part of your health and wellness routine. Do your own research of course and let me know if you find anything that goes against this advice or if you have anything to add!