Washing Produce (The Frugal Way!)

It’s summer and that means it’s time for an abundance of 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 get them, 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 simply not enough. Take these tips for cleaning all your fruits and veggies well and inexpensively.

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 suds those that you plan on peeling; Sometimes you want to eat the skins and enjoy the added health benefits or juice the fruits and vegetables. In those cases a Vinegar bath can help remove germs. 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  4 cups) and ½ cup of White Vinegar ( apple cider vinegar will work as well)  Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes . Some Fruits like grapes, pears, nectarines and apricots need to soak less while Cucumbers and carrots can soak longer. Remove from the basin and rinse again until vinegar smell subsides.

Washing Produce - Little House Living

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 sufficiently clean it. Pineapple, Oranges, Avocados and other fruits and Veggies with inedible skin fall into this category. To properly clean these healthy treats utilize any soap and wash the fruit or vegetable approximately 15 seconds. Even though you won’t be consuming the rind or skin germs are 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.

Lettuce and 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. To clean these fruits and veggies rinse well first with running water, using a clean veggie brush to remove loose dirt trapped in crevices ( a tooth brush works well also) . Follow the 4/.5 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.

Though studies have shown cleaning with vinegar reduces surface bacteria by 98%, far more than soap or water, remember that remaining bacteria begin growing after cleansing. It is important to eat the fruit the same day as you wash it. Vinegar, while one of the best options for washing produce 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 it is best to purchase organic for all your edible skinned fruit or veggies.

Are you washing produce correctly? 


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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 🙂