How To Wash Pesticides Off Fruit & Vegetables

By on October 10, 2013
washing fresh produce

It’s always better to buy organic, but If you’re not able to, learn how to wash pesticides off fruit and vegetables with this easy guide.

Since the publication of the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” of fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pesticides, we’ve all become more aware of the need to avoid these foods or to buy organic instead.

But some of these foods are too expensive to buy organic or too tricky to grow. In these situations, the only answer is to reduce the pesticide content.


Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Detergent

Agricultural pesticides do not come off with water alone (or farmers would not use them). Luckily, just adding washing-up liquid (detergent) to water and generously swishing the fruit or vegetables around for a couple of minutes can often lift off much of the pesticide residue. (You can test this by dipping organic grapes in water, and comparing this with dipping pesticide-laden grapes in water, and then in soapy water. The pesticide content is immediately obvious.)

Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Vinegar

Some people swear by vinegar, and use one part vinegar to three parts water. This is great for removing bacteria, and may help break down wax, too. The editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine tested this theory by using four different methods to clean pears and apples: a vinegar and water solution (3:1, water:vinegar), antibacterial liquid soap, scrubbing with a stiff brush, and just using plain water. Not only did the vinegar mixture work the best, it was far, far better when measured for bacteria — it removed 98% of bacteria, compared to just under 85% for scrubbing. The quickest way to do this at home is to keep a bottle of vinegar with a spray-top — just spray the fruit or vegetables with vinegar, then rinse under a tap. If you’ve got longer to spare, leave fruit or vegetables soaking for 10-20 minutes in a vinegar/water solution, then rinse.

How To Wash Pesticides Off Fruit: fruit cleaner

Using a Commercial Fruit Cleaner

There are many commercial fruit cleaners available on the market, some of which are made up of 100% natural produce – normally some form of citric acid. These claim to remove wax, pesticides and 99.9% of bacteria (including e.coli, salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, etc). If you avoid the ammonia-based products, and opt for these natural ones, they are safe, leave no smell or taste,

Make Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Cleaner

You can opt for a simple detergent- or vinegar-based wash (see above), or make a super-wash, using either of the following mixes:

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 cup (250ml) of water. Put the mixture in a spray-topped bottle. Spray the fruit or vegetables, leave to sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse well.
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons white vinegar (distilled works best), 1 cup (250ml) water in a spray-topped bottle. Spray the fruit or vegetables, wipe and eat.

For particularly waxy fruit or vegetables, try this:

  • 1 cup (250ml) water, half a cup (115ml) vinegar, 1 tablespoon baking soda and dash of grapefruit seed extract. Spray this onto the produce and leave for an hour before rinsing and eating.

This is often the best way to substantially reduce the pesticide load, especially from apples, which are the most contaminated of all the fruits and vegetables. Pears, nectarines and peaches can also be peeled, as can many vegetables. Wash the fruit or vegetables well before peeling, or you can transfer pesticides (or bacteria) to the peeled fruit or veg.


Discarding Outer Layers

Eat only the inner layers of produce that you won’t be cooking, such as lettuce and other salad vegetables (including onions). Discard the outer layers, as these will have more pesticides on them from crop spraying. Assume that the outside layer of any fruit or vegetable will have absorbed most of the pesticides (though some will have also have been absorbed from the soil), and wash/peel or discard these outer layers whenever you can.

Sources include:
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