No need for commercial produce wash. Instead, wash your produce with this DIY fruit and veggie wash.
While pesticides are definitely bad for the environment, they have revolutionised the way we eat over the past century.
After all, pesticides have helped farmers increase yields and reliably deliver an abundance of quality produce all year long.
The cornucopia is a luxury many millennia of ancestors never experienced. Step inside a store and buy tomatoes in winter and fresh dragon fruit from Asia and capsicum from Brazil.
Yes, there are definitely environmental downsides to this type of shopping, but it is a modern marvel all the same.
We no longer fear famine (in most countries) caused by pests and disease like the Irish potato famine.
However, just as pesticides aren’t all bad, they’re not all good either.
They’re not good for the environment, degrading the soil and poisoning water supply.
And they’re not so good for our health either.
“Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time. However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed. Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children.” 1
We can avoid consuming pesticides in our food by eating organic produce.
The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen
The problem is that going organic can be expensive and impractical for many people.
One alternative is to only buy organic produce from the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list.
The Dirty Dozen list includes the 12 most heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables. If your budget allows it, you can buy these 12 items organic and ‘conventional’ produce for everything else. This reduces the cost of organic.
The EWG also includes a Clean Fifteen list, which includes the least sprayed fruits and vegetables.
If like us, organic produce isn’t affordable, you can wash conventional produce to remove much of the pesticide residue.
(You should also wash organic produce as well to remove bacteria and dirt – the method is exactly the same as outlined below).
There’s no way to remove all pesticide residue. While most of the pesticides are on the surface of the produce, some of it is absorbed in.
But you can remove a lot and the remaining amounts will be small compared to the health-giving benefits of eating lots of fruit and vegetables.
Do You Need Commercial Fruit and Veggie Wash?
There are plenty of produce washes on the market. And they’re not cheap. But the easiest and cheapest way to wash produce is in a bowl or sink of water.
“There is little or no difference between tap water rinsing or using a [commercial] fruit and vegetable wash in reducing residues of the nine pesticides studied.” 2
It’s important to note that it’s not the water so much as the friction – the actual rubbing – that removes residual pesticide.
So when washing produce, give them a rub under running water. For hard-skinned vegetables like carrots, you can use a scrubbing brush.
Some produce, like apples, are covered in wax to extend their shelf life. Pesticide residue can get trapped under the wax and water alone does not remove the wax and therefore does not remove the surface residue.
That’s where vinegar comes to the rescue.
Vinegar For The Best Fruit and Veggie Wash
Vinegar is also very effective for getting produce clean. Vinegar reduces surface bacteria by up to 90% and viruses up to 95%, outperforming commercial produce washes. 5
To clean produce using vinegar, combine 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water in a basin or clean sink and soak produce for up to 20 minutes. Then rinse and rub under tap water.
- 3 Parts Water
- 1 Part White Vinegar
- Bowl or Sink
- Wait to wash your produce until just prior to use. Washing and then storing fruit and vegetables will reduce their shelf life.
- Soak vegetables in a vinegar solution (1:3 ratio) in a basin or clean sink for up to 20 minutes. For delicate fruit like berries, you can make up the vinegar solution in a spray bottle and give them a spray instead.
- Wash delicate fruit and vegetables under running tap water or in a clean bowl of water. For hardier fruits and vegetables give them a rub or for vegetables like carrots, give them a scrub with a brush.
- Trim outer leaves of lettuce, cabbage etc. If you like, you can peel and discard the skin, which holds the most residue, although the skin is also where the most nutrients are too.
Washing won’t get rid of all pesticide residue on fruit and vegetables. But this DIY fruit and veggie wash will reduce the pesticide load so you can enjoy healthy fruit and vegetables with peace of mind.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.