Washing Produce (The Frugal Way!)

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Want to make sure that you are getting your produce clean? Here are some tips on washing produce to make sure it’s safe for your family.

Want to make sure that you are getting your produce clean? Here are some tips on washing produce to make sure it's safe and healthy for your family.

Washing Produce

It’s summer, which means it’s time for abundant fresh fruits and veggies.

Maybe you grow your own produce or maybe you purchase it from the Farmer’s Market. Maybe you do neither and stick with store sales on seasonal produce. No matter which way you buy or get your produce, it still needs a good cleaning since anything from dirt to pesticides can remain on your produce no matter how shiny it is.

As clean a good rinse in the sink will make them appear, for some people like young children, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems ( or simply those who don’t want to do battle with E-coli or Salmonella), a water bath is not enough. Take these tips for cleaning all your fruits and veggies well and inexpensively.

Sliced cucumbers in a white bowl.

Washing Thin-Skinned Fruits and Veggies

Cucumbers, Carrots, Tomatoes, or any fruit and veggie where skin eating is common need to be treated with a bit more care. While you can also peel these foods, sometimes you want to eat the skins and enjoy the added qualities or juice the fruits and vegetables.

How to Clean Cucumbers, Apricots, and Other Thin Skins

A vinegar bath can help remove buildup from pesticides. Many people use vinegar to wash clothes, counters, or other surfaces naturally, but good, old-fashioned white vinegar is a great cleanser of fruits and vegetables with edible skins.

Give the item you are going to eat a good rinse in running water. Fill a clean basin with fresh water (For every 4 cups or water, use ½ cup of White Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar will also work.)  Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes. Some Fruits like grapes, pears, nectarines, and apricots need to soak less while firmers fruits like Cucumbers and carrots can soak longer. Remove from the basin and rinse again with fresh water until the vinegar smell subsides.

Something to note, there is a false statement that has been going around for a long time sharing that if you wash in vinegar, your produce will last longer. This simply isn’t true and has been disproven by food scientists. If anything, vinegar will less the lifespan of your produce because it’s removed anything on the fruit that might make it last. In order for your produce to last the longest, do not wash at all until ready to eat.

Orange Peels

Washing Thick-Skinned Fruits and Veggies

If you aren’t eating the skin of the fruit or vegetable, a wash in soapy water is enough to clean it sufficiently.

How to Wash Citrus, Avocadoes, and Thick-Skinned Produce

Pineapples, Oranges, Avocados, and other fruits and Veggies with inedible skin fall into this category. To properly clean these treats, utilize any soap and wash the fruit or vegetable for approximately 15 seconds. Even though you won’t consume the rind or skin, germs can be deposited through picking, shipping, and grocery store handling.

Even thick-skinned fruits and veggies can be coated with pesticides, and as you peel unclean ones, you deposit those substances onto the fruit and into your body. Soap-suds remove unwanted substances that are insoluble and escort them safely down the drain.


Washing Lettuce, Spinach, and Cruciferous Fruits and Veggies

These rough-skinned fruits and veggies are hard to clean and are some of the worst culprits of foodborne illness. How many times have you heard of a Spinach recall due to E-Coli? At least once a year, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, or E-coli outbreaks occur.

How to Wash Spinach and Leafy Greens

To clean these fruits and veggies, rinse well first with running water, using a clean veggie brush to remove loose dirt trapped in crevices of broccoli and similar plants (a toothbrush works well also). Follow the 4/1/2 cup ratio of Water to vinegar for Thin Skinned Fruits and Veggies and let soak 10 minutes. Agitate every 2 minutes with a clean hand to help the water and vinegar cleanser get into the crevices. Rinse thoroughly with cool, clean water.

Fresh Frugal Cauliflower

Though studies have shown cleaning with vinegar reduces surface bacteria by 98%, (Source), far more than soap or water, remember that the remaining bacteria begin growing after cleansing. It is important to eat the fruit the same day as you wash it.

While one of the best options for washing produce, vinegar doesn’t remove a lot of the pesticide residue, and some thin-skinned fruits and veggies adsorb the compounds. In cases where pesticides are a concern, purchasing organic for all your edible skinned fruit or veggies is best.

Washing Peas

Best Produce Wash to Buy

If you’d rather have a produce wash or spray to clean all of your produce with, I recommend BioKleen Produce Wash. I’ve been using Biokleen for many years and have always felt like it’s done a great job cleaning my fruits and veggies. It’s also a budget-friendly option. Just put a small amount into a spray bottle, fill the rest of the bottle with water, and you will have plenty of produce wash for a long time.

More Tips on Buying Frugal Produce

Are you washing produce correctly? 

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Me and Kady

Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to freedom on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.


This post on Washing Produce was originally posted on Little House Living in August 2013. It has been updated as of August 2023.


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  1. I recently bought a Norwex fruit and veggie cloth and I love it! It removes the wax from the skin of store bought apples and cucumbers and anything else. The less textured side can be used to clean soft skinnned fruits and veggies. It kind of creeped me out to see how clean it gets zucchini and the realization that we have been eating pretty dirty produce and that no amount of just washing would have removed what the cloth removes. Apples taste completely different without the wax! I still do a wash to remove bacteria, etc. afterward.

  2. Wow! I regularly clean our fruits and veggies with water and a brush, never even crossed my mind to also use vinegar! Will have to think twice the next time I go shopping and clean our fruits and veggies 🙂

  3. Another option…
    Grapefruit Seed Extract!
    A few drops in water. Soak or spray produce. Also good surface cleaner.