Every year, says the Center for Disease Control, nearly 48 million people become ill from foodborne contamination, including sickness caused by fresh produce. To avoid this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends washing produce thoroughly with a fruit and vegetable wash to help kill bacteria and ensure produce is safe for consumption.
Walk into any grocery store these days, and more than likely you’ll find more than few choices of commercial fruit and veggie “washes” displayed between baskets of kumquats and kiwis, all promising to save your family by making produce safe for human consumption.
Stop! Before you spend even a few bucks for a fancy container with glowing promises, consider that you can make your own highly effective fruit and vegetable wash for just pennies.
While buying a commercial product to do this might sound great because it’s convenient, check the ingredients. You’re likely to find an ironically high number of chemicals with a price tag to match.
Mixing up your own fruit and vegetable wash is not only cheap—it’s also ridiculously easy. As a bonus, you’ll always know exactly what’s in it.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE WASH
- 1 cup cold tap water
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Mix these ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle. Spray your produce 2-3 times, let it rest for two minutes, and then rinse off with cold, running tap water before consuming. This recipe multiples and stores well.
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Note: According to Colorado State University Extension, blending lemon juice with the vinegar mixture makes it more effective by increasing the acidity. This can help kill a greater number of bacteria, including E. coli. Washing berries with a vinegar solution offers additional benefits—it prevents them from molding within a few days of purchase. When shopping, always try to choose unbruised and undamaged produce.
Smooth-Skinned Produce. Tomatoes, apples, and grapes are examples of smooth-skinned produce. Spray these types of produce with the spray (above), thoroughly coating them with the vinegar solution. Allow the produce to rest for 30 seconds before rubbing its surface with your hands and not an abrasive scrubber. Rinse under cold, running water to remove all vinegar taste. This prevents you from breaking the skin before the fruit or vegetable is completely clean, which could expose the flesh to contaminants.
Rough, Firm-Skinned Produce. Broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, melons, potatoes, berries and other produce without a smooth or soft surface are slightly more difficult to clean. They require a soaking in a 1 to 3 ratio of vinegar and water mixture (1 cup vinegar to every 3 cups of water). This ensures the acidic blend kills all bacteria. For heads of cabbage or other leafy greens, separate the leaves for thorough cleaning. Use your sink as the container for the water and vinegar mixture and you will have plenty of room. After the soak, rub gently and rinse under cold, running water.
One last thing: Don’t assume you can skip washing produce with inedible rinds like oranges, melons, squash and pineapple. Cutting or peeling the produce can transfer contaminants to the edible flesh.