Hand washing vegetables.

5 Myths About Washing Produce (+ The Right Way To Do It)

Nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs in America every year.

Several large illness outbreaks have been caused by contaminated produce—including spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.

We’re going to break down the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations when it comes to cleaning produce.

Myth: The most important step to clean produce is finding the right soaking solution.

Fact: The most important first step is washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after washing produce.

Sing it with me, “Happy birthday to you…”

In all seriousness, ensure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you’re using to prepare your produce are also clean first!

Myth: You need to soak your produce in a solution for half an hour to get it clean.

Fact: According to the FDA, washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended.

This is because soap is designed for cleaning surfaces and hands, while detergent is designed to clean clothing—not formulated with consumption in mind.

A three-year study by researchers from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station discovered that rinsing produce under cold water immediately reduced pesticide residues for 9 out of 12 pesticides.

Some people advocate using soap, vinegar, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure. In reality, they are not any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water—and may even leave additional deposits behind.

The best way to clean produce is with H20 and a good ol’ rub.

Myth: You don’t need to wash peelable fruit.

Fact: Whether you eat the skin or not, rinse produce before you peel it.

This way, you ensure that dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife or your hands onto the fruit or vegetable.

In addition, slice away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.

Myth: You need an extensive cleaning routine when you get home from the store.

Fact: Produce is most fresh if you wash it right before consumption. Pre-washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment that promotes bacterial growth.

Hand washing carrots with plastic-free plant based cleaning brush.

General rules of thumb:

  • Firm produce: The FDA recommends washing with a dedicated vegetable brush. Fruits include apples, lemons, pears, and root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Residues can be removed from their pores better with a brush.
  • Delicate produce: Wash with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit. This includes produce such as berries and mushrooms.
  • Leafy greens: Remove the outermost layer, submerge in a bowl of cool water, and swish it around to remove the grit before draining and rinsing with fresh water. This includes spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, leeks, and brussels sprouts.

Myth: Pre-washed produce still needs to be rinsed.

Fact: Pre-packaged food may have pre-washed written on the packaging—the guidelines used in the packaging facilities are incredibly stringent.

If you wash the produce, you may contaminate it because you'll introduce it to multiple touchpoints in your kitchen.

Your best bet? Skip the wash. Save water!



Glenda Lewis, an expert on foodborne illness with the FDA, says consumers should store perishable produce in the refrigerator at or below 40°F / 4°C.

Now that common produce-washing myths have been debunked, will you change anything about your produce routine? Perhaps you will use fewer resources or see your fruit and veggies lasting longer.

Recommended products for produce cleaning and shopping



  • Patty said:

    Thanks for the info. Very helpful

    September 19, 2022

  • Marianne said:

    Agree with everything here except when it comes to grapes. Putting grapes in a big bowl, I do a baking soda wash (to scrub off the greasy pesticide film that water doesn’t rinse away), then a vinegar wash (fuzzy acid bubbles dissolve the base of the baking soda and the pesticide), then cold water rinses (to rinse out any residual vinegar and debris) until each grape is literally! squeaky clean. Before refrigerating I dry each one (clean dry cloth obviously) and place in a large container with a clean dry cloth on the bottom and on the top before closing the lid. It’s more labor intensive (I try to get bigger grapes 😂) but it keeps the grapes in clean, dry, perfect snacking and lunch-packing condition for well over 2 weeks. Plus you get to remove any broken or rotten grapes that would quicken the breakdown of intact grapes. If I don’t hand-dry the grapes before storage, or if I keep the unwashed grapes in the fridge for days, the grapes will get mushy quickly and end up in compost. This method keeps them conveniently ready for immediate use for a surprisingly long time.

    Also, I still use a bit of dish soap to clean any fruits with removable skin. The dish soap gets rid of the wax coating on apples and the dirt on everything else, and rinses squeaky clean. I know dish soap isn’t intended for consumption; it’s meant to break down dirt and oils, then be rinsed off completely, which works for thick-skinned peelable produce (and plates and utensils).

    I haven’t used the vegetable brush yet, but I did get one to try! If it does a better job of getting the apples squeaky clean all by itself, I’ll let you know.

    September 19, 2022

  • Cynthia Helton said:

    Great information! And I thought at 75 I knew it all!!!

    September 19, 2022

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