fresh vegetables splashing in water before cooking

How to Make Your Own Highly Effective Fruit and Vegetable Wash

Every year, reports 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 to ensure the produce is safe for consumption.

fresh vegetables splashing in water before cooking

 

While it’s tempting to eat fresh produce straight out of the grocery bag, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Commercial produce sanitation may be up to speed with excellent guidelines and good oversight, let’s just say I don’t trust the produce handling practices of consumers. That bunch of grapes has likely been touched by many hands before it landed in my cart—unwashed hands!

I’m simply not comfortable with just running my produce under cold water, per the FDA’s recommendations. If you’re with me on that, consider making your own fruit and veggie wash to loosen debris, remove pesticides, and eliminate some of the bacteria that other grocery shoppers passed on to your produce.

While buying commercial products 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 ridiculously easy. And you’ll 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.

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

Smooth-skinned produce has edible skin. Examples are apples, grapes, and tomatoes. Spray these types of produce with the spray (above), thoroughly coating them with the solution. Allow the produce to rest for 30 seconds before rubbing the surface with your hands—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) for about 10 minutes. This makes sure that the acidic blend has time to kill 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.

 

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17 replies
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  1. Mandy says:

    Hi, thanks for all the great tips. Would there be a difference in using apple cider vinegar in place of white vinegar? More specifically in cleaning berries.

    Reply
  2. Jean says:

    I’ve been using the soaking method for all my produce for some time. I mix a fresh batch each time. I go through a lot of vinegar. I’ve been wondering if this is necessary. Could I re-use the same vinegar, water, lemon juice multiple times?

    Reply
  3. Donna says:

    Hi Mary, how long should the non-smooth produce soak for (in the sink)? The article didn’t specify.

    Thanks for another great recipe, honey!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I use the bottled version. I just keep that in the refrigerator and it lasts forever—and no pulp to clog up the sprayer mechanism.

      Reply
  4. Jennifer says:

    How about increasing one’s stomach acid, which is natural and should be at 1.5-3.0 pH, to instantly kill off any invading bacteria, viruses, parasites or prions that would otherwise enter the body? This would not only give the body its natural defense against these invaders, but would increase zinc in the body helping the immune system as a whole, and prevent dysbiosis (the imbalance of harmful to beneficial bacteria) that so many people in the U.S. experience. We have never “washed” our homegrown or organic produce purchased elsewhere except with water. We need microbes from the earth to feed our microbiome. Read “Eat Dirt” by Dr. Josh Axe.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      And … your homegrown produce isn’t sitting in a store or market where many hands are touching it, I assume 🙂

      Reply
  5. Warren says:

    Follow the link in the article to the FDA — it says “Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating, including produce grown at home or bought from a grocery store or farmers’ market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended.”

    Reply
  6. cherie St. Cyr says:

    Hi Mary I live in Mexico where ALL vegetables, fruits, eggs are to be disinfected. I use a commercial product that has colloidal silver. A friend was going on and on about using vinegar for disinfecting and my housekeeper told me it makes veggie rot quicker. Would you address this issue? Thanks

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Cherie … I’m not sure about vinegar specifically, but I don’t doubt it. I do know that washing with water starts the process with some fruits and vegetables and hastens their demise. So … I don’t wash my produce as soon as I bring it into the house. I refrigerate or store appropriately, and then wash as I’m ready to use it.

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’ve used this vegetable fruit wash for many years and keep it in a spray bottle under the sink. It has never become rotten. When it gets low I just fill with a new batch. Vinegar and lemon are both excellent preservatives. I wouldn’t worry about it. But store it in the refrigerator it you want.

      Reply
  7. Marion says:

    Hi Mary, because of the lemon juice, should this be kept refrigerated, or is it OK to keep at room temperature?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Marion … I’ve used this wash for my fresh produce for years now. The spray bottle sits under my sink and it’s never gone bad. When it gets low I make another batch. I am convinced that the preserving qualities of vinegar and lemon keep it from going bad. 

      Reply
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