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Study: How to Wash Fruits And Vegetables


Lots of research has been done looking at the best way to wash fruits and vegetables. Does tap water suffice? Should we use vinegar, should we use specific vegetable wash solutions?

The first question is why the need to wash?

When fruits and vegetables are picked they are handled by several different pairs of hands in the fields and orchards, then in the warehouses, and finally again in your grocery store. Bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. Coli may all be lurking on your fruits and vegetables, whether they are organically grown or conventionally grown. These bacteria all cause food-borne illness and need to be washed away from your produce.

You need to get those fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, but not the insects, chemicals and bacteria that come along with them so make sure you wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

In their article, Kilonzo-Nthenge et. al evaluated multiple methods for washing vegetables, including presoaking the vegetables, running them under tap water, brushing them, using paper towels, and also using vinegar and lemon preparations.

All in all, they concluded that soaking in cold tap water was not significantly different than using other preparations, such acidic solutions (think vinegar or lemon). In addition, they found it helpful to rub or brush the vegetables.

Whether they come from your garden, the market, or the store—fruits and vegetables should be washed just before serving. They should never be consumed without being washed.

  • Wash produce under clean, potable, running water.
  • Use a vegetable scrub brush on produce with a firm skin such as carrots, potatoes, melons and squash.
  • Always wash produce, such as squash, melons and oranges, even if you don’t eat the outer rind. Bacteria on the outer surface can be transferred to the inner flesh when the item is cut or peeled.
  • Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables and wash produce thoroughly under clean, potable, running water-making sure all dirt has been removed.

So, whether you are just eating an apple (and aren’t they great right now?) or making home-made soup or stir-frying vegetables, be sure to scrub them under water to get them good and clean before you eat them.


Study Kilonzo-Nthenge A, Chen FC, Godwin SL. Efficacy of home washing methods in controlling surface microbial contamination on fresh produce. J Food Prot. 2006 Feb; 69(2): 330-334.  http://www.nutritionevidencelibrary.com/worksheet.cfm?worksheet_id=250940

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