Want to eat clean store-bought veggies or fruit, free of dirt, debris, and bacteria without spending your money on specialty soaps? Read on! We’ll cover how to properly clean your fruits and vegetables with a vinegar-based DIY veggie wash or a homemade produce spray.
Like using all-natural products? Learn how to *safely* clean your dishwasher using vinegar!
Do I really need to wash fruits and vegetables before eating?
Yes, you absolutely should! No matter what you buy, organic or not, our produce gets contaminated in so many different ways during food production from growing to packaging and shipping. This is why a DIY veggie wash or produce spray is so handy.
Pesticides and other chemicals are purposefully made to be waterproof so they aren’t washed off in the fields. Produce is even coated in a wax substance sometimes to make them look better on displays in the stores.
Let’s also factor in all the hands that touch our produce, transport them and pack them into barrels, crates, trucks, planes, and everything in between. Then there are the bugs, mice, and other rodents… I’ll stop there.
Many people get sick from food-borne illnesses every year, and properly washing fruits and vegetables with a produce spray or DIY veggie wash is one of the best ways to reduce our risks for food-borne illnesses.
What about organic produce?
Yep – even organic produce may contain some chemicals. Organic produce bought at the store is NOT free of all chemicals as many seem to think.
Store-bought organic foods do contain far, far fewer harmful chemicals and pesticides than regular produce, making it a great way to eat cleaner produce if you’re able to afford it, but it doesn’t mean you should skip washing them.
Because store-bought organic produce may still contain unwanted bacteria, it’s important to make sure it’s also washed properly.
Do you need to use vinegar to clean produce?
You don’t need to use vinegar for an effective wash, but it is great for removing bacteria and can be helpful with certain types of produce, like leafy vegetables or berries. Rinsing and rubbing our produce with simple tap water is actually the most effective method of washing produce, but using something like vinegar amplifies the effect when you pair it with the traditional water-and-rubbing method.
Are store-bought produce washes more effective?
No! Chemical rinses and other treatments for washing raw produce are often advertised as the best way to clean fresh fruits and vegetables at the home, but it’s sadly not the case.
The University of Maine studied three popular fruit and vegetable wash brands and found that not only did many of them contain chlorine (to kill bacteria on the produce), but in lab testing, they were no more effective than using distilled water.
A study from the Department of Analytical Chemistry also found that four fruit and vegetable wash products were found to be no more effective at removing eight of nine pesticide residues from produce than rinsing under tap water alone!
Now, there may be some brands that would perform better than others and some may even be natural – but considering it takes 2 minutes to DIY your own natural, effective vegetable & fruit wash at home, why spend the unnecessary dollars and risk using an ineffective solution?
Should I soak fresh berries?
Many people say you shouldn’t wash berries until just before you eat them because the moisture shortens their shelf life, but it’s not uncommon for berries to carry mold spores from the store causing them to deteriorate very quickly. The mold carried on one berry can spread through a whole basket of berries in a flash.
Good news: You can easily kill off mold and bacteria with a quick vinegar and water bath. The key is to not allow berries to stay submerged for longer than a minute and ensure they’re completely dry before storing. You can also use the produce spray method for an even safer approach.
The only exception to this rule is raspberries. Those should only be washed just before eating because they’re far too sensitive to water.
Two tried and true produce-washing methods with vinegar
Vinegar is known to help cut down on bacteria as well as remove a good amount of surface dirt and residue on fresh produce – so let’s dive right into my two favorite ways to use it to wash produce:
Vinegar produce wash methods
Have you tried this recipe? Leave us a review!
- 1 Large bowl or spray bottle
For vinegar soak
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
For produce spray
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
Produce vinegar soak
- Fill a clean sink (or a large bowl) with three parts water and one part vinegar. Try to get the water temperature as close to that of the produce that you want to clean.
- Submerge your fruits and vegetables in the water, swishing them around for a few seconds before letting them soak.
- For fragile produce like blueberries or mushrooms, remove them after 3 seconds to 1 minute. Note that raspberries should only be rinsed right before eating and should never be submerged in water. Certain crops like mushrooms may need a bit of scrubbing to remove stuck-on dirt. For leafy or firmer produce like apples, spinach or squash, gently give them a scrub with your hands and let them soak for 5 minutes.
- As soon as they’re done soaking, rinse the produce well with water. To dry, lay the produce out on a kitchen towel until completely dry or hand-dry.
- Once dry, immediately store your produce in your refrigerator. Make sure it's fully dry! Wet produce will turn to mush quickly. When storing, place a paper towel with your produce in a container and ensure there is airflow so condensation can evaporate.
For produce spray
- Combine the 3 ingredients in a spray bottle and give it a good shake.
- Spray each piece of fruit or vegetable liberally.
- Let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse with water.
- Prepare as usual or dry before storing in the refrigerator.