You should definitely be cleaning fruits and veggies before eating them. By doing so you avoid unpleasantries like getting food poisoning.
FYI: According to the FDA, close to 48 million people get food poisoning every year, often the result of contaminated fruits and vegetables.
Should you wash fruits and veggies?
Yes. Raw fruits and veggies can be contaminated with harmful bacteria (like Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria) through animal contact, toxins in the soil, dirty water, or even poor hygiene while handling the produce — which may later make you sick. So, go wash them!
Being preggo, or having kids under age 5 increases your risk for getting food poisoning.
Food safety experts suggest sticking to plain water when cleaning fruits and vegetables, as there’s no evidence that commercial cleaners are more effective at removing bacteria or pesticide residue.
Cleaning your veggies with chemicals like bleach is also a dangerous idea, as ingesting cleaning chemicals can be lethal — so please, don’t do that!
Some research suggests that neutral electrolyzed water can be more effective at removing certain substances, but the general agreement is that regular ole tap water will do.
Here are some tips to become a pro at washing fruits and veggies. Roll the steps!
- Choose wisely. When you buy groceries, try to pick fruit that isn’t bruised or damaged, and if you’re using pre-cut items — like bags of lettuce — make sure they were refrigerated in the store and that they stay cold in transit to your home.
- Wash right before you eat. Washing before storing, can create a playground for bacteria, and we don’t want that!
- Wash your hands. Besides washing your hands with soap and water before you handle produce, make sure kitchen tools and surfaces you’re using to prep food are also spotless.
- Take the rotten out. Before washing your fruit and veggies, cut away any damaged or bruised areas.
- Wash before peeling. Sounds counterintuitive, but even if you’re dealing with a fruit, or veggie that needs to be peeled, you should still wash it before peeling it. This way you avoid bacteria from entering the flesh.
- Dry it out. Finish up by drying your vegetables and fruit with a clean cloth or paper towel to clear away any lingering bacteria.
Let’s get into the deets about how to wash different types of fruit and veggies.
- Thick-skinned veggies. If you’re dealing with produce with firmer skins like apples, and oranges, or root veggies like potatoes and carrots, start by brushing them with a clean bristle brush to better remove any dirt, or residue.
- Leafy veggies. When you’re preparing leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, leeks, and brussels sprouts, you’ll want to remove any bruised or soggy sections, then put them in a bowl of cool water for a few minutes, drain, rinse, and then dry.
- Delicate berries. For berries, or other delicate fruit, you’ll need to put them under running water and then gently use your fingers to remove residue.
Let’s separate the facts from the BS.
Q: Can I wash vegetables and fruit with vinegar?
A: There’s no evidence that vinegar is any more effective than water for cleaning produce. Plus, it can leave harsh deposits on food, so just pass.
Q: Can I wash vegetables and fruit with baking soda?
A: Some research suggests cleaning fruits and vegetables with baking soda might help remove certain substances. Still, experts agree that sticking to water is more than adequate.
Q: Do I have to wash organic vegetables and fruit too?
A: Organic farms follow strict USDA regulations, but that doesn’t mean you should skip washing it. Even organic farmers can’t guarantee their produce won’t be contaminated with bacteria (hello compost) while it’s in the ground or in transit to your kitchen table.
Q: Do I have to peel all vegetables with skins?
A: Nope, but a produce brush might come in handy to wash those tough veggies more efficiently.
Q: Can I peel vegetables and fruits without washing them first?
A: Not the best idea. If you do peel your produce, you should wash them first to avoid transferring bacteria from the outside to the inside as you peel.