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How to Wash Fruit and Veggies to Get Rid of Bugs and Bacteria

Whether your produce comes from a chain grocer or a farmers' market, properly washing your fruits and vegetables is an important step.

Written by
Jenna Mignano

Washing your produce is an essential step. If you shop at a chain store or even a larger market, your fruits and veggies were likely sprayed with pesticides—and even if they're organic, it took many, many hands to get them to the produce aisle.

Conversely, if you frequent a farmer's market or farm stand, your natural goods come with the accompanying characteristics: namely, bugs and dirt. And again, the hands.

Are You Sure I Need to Wash Fruit and Veggies?

Yes, you need to wash fruit and veggies in order to remove any residue from fertilizer, pesticides, and bugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says washing produce helps to reduce your risk of contracting some of the most common foodborne illnesses like Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the only time you don't need to worry about a rinse is if the item comes pre-washed—packaged salad packs, for example. But even produce with a peel should still be washed.

How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables

You may have seen one of many viral videos featuring intricate produce-cleansing steps and gadgets, each showcasing the murky water or dozens of bugs floating above afterward. But unless you're in it for the showmanship, there's no need for a super complex cleaning routine.

The FDA recommends beginning by thoroughly washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Next, rinse your fruit and veggies in cold to lukewarm water, gently rubbing the produce with your hands to physically remove any residue. This goes for produce with peels, too, like bananas and avocados.

There are also a couple of tools you can utilize for some help during this process: For firmer produce, you can use a scrub brush. For small fruits and veggies (like berries or beans), use strainer to contain the food during the washing process.

According to the CDC, there's no need to use soap, detergent, or a special produce wash during this process. However, soaking your produce in baking soda and cold water offers an easy option if you want to go the extra mile. Just add one teaspoon of baking soda for every two cups of cold water and allow the produce to soak for up to 15 minutes.

Of course, when thinking from an eco-friendly perspective, it's important for us to consider your water footprint. There's no need to fill up the entire sink with water just to wash your produce. Remember to utilize only as much water as you need, and to not leave the faucet running when unnecessarily.

How to Make Your Produce Last

Washing produce as soon as you get home is tempting (and fine!)—just make sure you dry well, as excess moisture can shorten the shelf life of some fruits and vegetables. If you're concerned about longevity, wash your produce as you're ready to cook with or consume.

If you're looking to make your produce last, consider trying out an eco-friendly Veggie Saver Produce Bag. Simply dampen the bag, toss your produce in, and enjoy its longer lifespan. Additionally, it's a great way to minimize waste.