The Biggest Mistake You're Making When Washing Produce

It might be time to rethink how we've been washing our produce. Especially when considering those foods that make the Environmental Working Group's 'dirty dozen' of items that carry the most pesticide residue, what's the best way to wash them? And are those expensive veggie washes and produce sprays really worth the extra money?

Most experts would say no. While washing all produce – organic or not – before preparing it is very important for reducing exposure to dirt, bacteria, and pesticides, good old plain water has proven itself to be just as effective as commercial sprays – and it's far cheaper (via Eating Well). In fact, washing produce under cool running water, along with using a vegetable brush on sturdier produce like melons and cucumbers, has been found to be 90 to 99 percent effective in removing the nasty pathogens that we don't want hanging around (per Washington Post).

Using water to clean produce is good enough

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises against using detergent, soap, or commercial produce washes. Most produce has skin that's permeable enough to absorb residue, which could end up wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The problem with soap is that while it's great for cleaning your hands, it's just not meant to be eaten. Of course, neither is detergent. As for commercial produce washes? Their safety is unknown, according to the FDA

Ben Chapman, food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University and proprietor of the food-safety themed Barfblog, explains "Bottom line from the literature is that rinsing produce is doing something, washing with soap is really not doing anything more, and can only increase risk as soap residue is not intended to be consumed and has led to toxicity/nausea in certain cases" (via Washington Post).

To safely and easily wash produce, start by washing your hands, and making sure that any surface that will come into contact with food is clean. Then, hold the produce under clean running water. For firm produce, also use a vegetable brush to give it a scrub. Then gently blot dry with a clean paper towel (per FDA). Then enjoy, knowing that your food is nutritious and as clean as can be.