Cleaning Fruits and Vegetables: Organic or Conventionally Grown

cleaning fruits and vegetables with vinegar

You may think that organic fruits and vegetables don’t need to be cleaned and inspected like conventionally grown produce, since they aren’t covered in pesticides.

However, you should always carefully clean and inspect all fruits and vegetables since there is a good chance other things besides pesticides and chemicals are lurking on their surface.

Although organic vegetables and fruit aren’t grown with pesticides or chemicals, they can be cultivated with natural soil enhancers and fertilizers such as manure, bone meal, and worm castings.

Plus, before you buy fruits and vegetables in stores, they could have been handled by farming staff, farming equipment, market employees and other shoppers.

Hopefully, the equipment and hands were clean, but you really just never know.

So, whether you buy vegetables and fruits that are conventionally grown (using pesticides), organically grown (without chemicals or pesticides), or whether you grow your own, you should always inspect and clean everything thoroughly before eating or cooking.

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to remove pesticides, germs, and bacteria by using inexpensive ingredients found right in your kitchen cupboard.

All you need to do is concoct a mixture of water, vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice and then use it as a spray, rinse or soak.

In the past, we provided several easy ways to Wash Your Fruits & Veggies With Vinegar to remove pesticides. Right now we’d like to share another recipe that uses vinegar to remove germs, bacteria, and pesticides:

Green Tips  for Cleaning Fruits and Veggies

  1. Combine the ingredients below in a large bowl.  The concoction will bubble and fizz a lot after mixing, so the bowl needs to be big.
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup white vinegar or cider vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons lemon
  2. Stir the mixture and then transfer it to a spray bottle.
  3. Spray on fruits and vegetables.
  4. Allow the mixture to sit for about five minutes.
  5. Rinse it off with water.
  6. Give items a final visual inspection.

We hope you’ll try the solution above to clean all fruits and vegetables. This recipe is especially important to use on herbs, vegetables and fruits that sit directly on top of soil or beneath soil to grow (rather than those that hang from branches or in bushes), like basil, carrots, potatoes, watermelons, carrots and squash.

It’s also really  important to wash all fruits and vegetables that have peels, even if you don’t plan to eat the peel. That’s because the knife can transfer pesticides, germs and bacteria that are located on the outside of your fruit or vegetable into the edible parts of the item.

42 comments to Cleaning Fruits and Vegetables: Organic or Conventionally Grown

  • marie

    how many percent of pesticides can be removed from the inexpensive green tips on how to remove pesticides from fruits and veggies? thank you. does boiling help in a way?

  • greenstrings

    Thank you for asking! You will remove 98% of the surface pesticides by washing or soaking your fruits and vegetables with vinegar and water. However, it’s important to note that only surface pesticides can be removed in this way. When pesticides are deep inside the vegetable’s cell matrix, they cannot be removed with a vinegar soak or rinse. Purchase organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

  • Tom Baker

    Would this be good for some with an acute pesticide allergy? I’ve been trying to find a way to deal with it, but I have yet to find source of truly clean organic food in my area and have no way to grow my own. The allergy hasn’t gone as far as being life threatening or dangerous.

  • greenstrings

    I’m glad to hear your allergy isn’t life threatening or dangerous!

    Unless you grow your own fruits or vegetables yourself, there’s probably no sure way to know if pesticides are used. That’s why everyone should clean fruits and vegetables even if they are classified as organic. That said, some cities now have areas designated for community gardens. Perhaps you can trade a service or product for fruits and vegetables that are grown without pesticides Or, you might be able to find a reliable source of organically grown fruits and veggies at an online store. Or, you might be able to find them in the frozen food section of your local grocery store. There are now also businesses that will deliver organic fruits and veggies right to your door. But…always wash them thoroughly no matter the source.

  • Kathy Crisp

    Will this help prevent Cyclosporiasis?

  • Julie Scheidegger

    I followed the recipe, but when I added the baking soda, the whole thing fizzed all over. Do you have a tip to avoid this?

  • greenstrings

    You’re right that the mixture does fizz quite a lot when the baking soda is added to the liquid! To keep your kitchen tidy and avoid waste, combine all the ingredients in a very large bowl or pot. After it stops fizzing, stir the mixture, and then transfer it to the spray bottle. 🙂

  • Ian

    Hi there, I use vinegar to clean everything in my house instead of using tons of chemical products. I found this article after Google-ing if vinegar would help to remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables. How do you know the mixture removes 98% of pesticides? Did you test a fruit or vegetable first and then test it again after using this mixture on it? Thanks!

  • Naphtali

    Can you wash ALL fruits and vegetables with this wash? Even veggies like potatoes and soft fruit like peaches? I want to soak them in my sink or in a bowl, how long should they soak for?

  • greenstrings

    Yes! For veggies that have tougher skin, I oftentimes use a kitchen scrubbrush for a quick swipe. And, I usully soak them for 15 to 20 minutes, and if I have time, occassionally I’ll soak them longer, just for good measure. For tender-skinned fruits like peaches, I use my hands gently massage them under running water as I’m doing the final rinse.

  • kerri griffith

    Soaking my organic broccoli, cauliflour, and apples in water and white vinegar as we speak!

  • Marlene

    Magical fizz overload = sodium acetate + bubbles of carbon dioxide.

  • Marlene

    people… use Apple Cider Vinegar… it’s best for this than is regular vinegar, due to the latter’s acetic acid impurities.

    Just saying…

  • VW

    HI, I am wondering if pure vinegar is even better then mixed with water? Thats what I use for everything in my home.

  • Heather

    Hi, I was just wondering how long you could keep that mixture in a spray bottle ie how many days/weeks? Thanks Heather

  • Linda

    Umm, hate to burst any bubbles on here about harmful bacteria on fruits and vegetables but I had thought that the whole washing your fruit with vinegar was also the answer to protecting my family from harmful bacteria. So my teen tested this theory for her science fair project and found that just rinsing with water was enough to rid the fruit and veggies of bacteria. The petri dishes with the sample from the vinegar wash were no different than plain water rinse. Right out of the container with no rinse yielded the most bacteria. So conclusion was to wash your fruit but a good rinse with tap water is needed. 🙂

  • greenstrings

    I’ve washed fruit and veggies without diluting the vinegar and didn’t experience any troubles. However, since we eat a lot of green and fruits, we find it more economical to dilute the mixture. Also, I wouldn’t use undiluted vinegar on fragile or thin-skinned fruits, such as strawberries or blackberries.

  • greenstrings

    According to The Vinegar Institute: Vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite. Vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change.

  • greenstrings

    In a 2003 study at the University of Florida, researchers tested disinfectants on strawberries contaminated with E. coli and other germs. They discovered that the vinegar mixture reduced bacteria by 90 percent and viruses by close to 98 percent.

  • Leigh Ann

    If I want to wash a lot of fruits and vegetables in a bath of a gallon or so of water how much vinegar etc should I add and would it work as well? Thanks, Leigh Ann

  • greenstrings

    Sure! It would work fine to wash a large batch of fruits and vegetables in a big bath of water and vinegar. Whatever amount of water you choose, the ratio is about 3 parts of water to 1 part vinegar. However, do the best you can with what you have on hand. Since a gallon is 16 cups of water, maybe add something like 4 or 5 cups of vinegar.

  • marion

    WILL SOAKING FRUITS AND VEGIES IN LEMON JUICE AND WATER WORK JUST AS WELL?

  • Bouk

    I dont understand how the bakingsoda cab add anything at all…
    By combining the acidic vinegar and the alkaline (base) bakingsoda, both in their seperate nature and usage loose their effectiveness and render useless by becoming a neutral concoction.

    When you write about the effectiveness of vinegar and water and it being 90 to 98 percent effective you do not speak of bakingsoda either.

    So I am very confused about your proposal and advice on bakingsoda. It’s usage is renederd ineffective when added to the vinegar, as the vinegar looses its acidic nature. This is also the bubbling and fizzling process…

    Why add bakingsoda???? Why add it if vinigar by itself works wonders?

  • Ramona Bradhurst

    Are they still organic if you rinse or wash in regular tap water? I am a produce manager and recently started carrying organics and a customer asked the that question. Thanks for your help.

  • Teri

    I have been using this mixture in a spray bottle for a couple of years and love knowing I am getting all my fruit and veges clean. But have a had a few people comment to me that mixing vinegar and baking soda together neutralizes each other so they lose there effect? Is this true?

    Thanks

    Teri

  • Phi

    Hi,

    I’ve read all the comments and I’m very excited to try it out ^__^,

    But I was wondering after using vinegar and baking soda on vegetables and fruits.
    Does it leave an after taste when you want to eat it ?

  • AnotherAcidAlkalineQuestioner

    Why do you think it is good to use baking soda and vinegar together? Just because they work individually doesn’t mean combining them will make them work better. Is that your thought or do you have another reason to think they are effective together?
    Either way it would be good if you updated the actual article to address the concern.

  • greenstrings

    I don’t notice an aftertaste. Anybody else?

  • greenstrings

    Vinegar is a natural acidic cleanser and baking soda is natural scrub. 🙂

  • Virginia Gould

    Have soaked all my veggies and fruits (don’t mix) for years in 1C. white vinegar + 1 Tbs salt in turkey roaster:
    Organics: soak 5-10 min. then pour off ‘dirty’ water. Refill roaster and ‘soak’ 5 min. more to loosen and rinse away any chemical traces.

    Non-Organics: soak fruits 15 min and veggies 20 min. Rinse & soak in clean water same time frame.
    This is necessary to give chemicals time to loosen then be rinsed away.

    Dry in mesh colander or strainer and wipe dry.

  • Virginia Gould

    Have soaked all my veggies and fruits (don’t mix) for years in 1C. white vinegar + 1 Tbs salt in turkey roaster. Then dump old water and refill pan to soak in clear water to remove any/a;; chemical traces – even w/ Organics. Organics may not have
    chemicals sprayed directly on them but are contaminated with workers ‘hands’, truck and road dirts, etc.

    See following times for both wash and soak::
    Organics: 5-10 min (apples vs grapes, etc.)
    Non-Organics: 15-20 min (lettuce vs kale, turnips, etc.)

  • Carl

    To the grocer: Being certified organic denotes no chemical pesticide or fertilizer usage when it was grown. It is not certifying anything that happens after a product leaves the farm. Tap water may or may not contain impurities a consumer does not want to consume. Grocery store washes, customer perfumes and sneezes, storage facility co-stored products, etc. will all threaten the perfect organic nature of a product, but the bulk of after-harvest contaminants will easily wash off with any non-chemical rinse method.

  • I’m still not sure about doing this with lettuce will it wilted please advise

  • Good Green Habits

    The vinegar soak will most likely not wilt your lettuce. Of course, it may depend on how crispy your lettuce is at the start. After you soak it, either dry in a lettuce spinner or pat it dry and you’re good to go!

  • James M

    “Being certified organic denotes no chemical pesticide or fertilizer usage when it was grown.”

    This is untrue. There are many organic pesticides that are used in organic farming, some of them are quite toxic. There are no synthetic pesticides used, however ‘organic’ doesn’t tell you anything about how dangerous it is. Many of these dangerous chemicals are organic: http://io9.com/5861680/10-of-the-most-dangerous-chemicals-in-the-world

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/organic-pesticides-can-be-worse-than-synthetic-study/article4322612/

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

    You should always wash fruit and veg because of this, whether organic or not.

  • Really good idea! I am always very careful when I clean my fruits and vegetables because with this mass production and the mass import you can not be sure how dirty the veggies can be! Thanks for sharing!

  • Barbara L

    Soaking products in water has a downside! Several websites and other sources state that vitamins and minerals are leached out of the fruits and veggies when they are soaked, and to only briefly rinse them under running water. So now I’m spraying them with the water/vinegar mix, letting them sit a few minutes, then rinsing off quickly with filtered water.

  • Hima

    After washing with this mixture if we cook food in a clay pot will it reduce the risk of pesticides deep inside pls reply thank you

  • carol drury

    or you can use the 2.5 acidic water availasble on an alkaline water machine

  • Kelly guindon

    Hi, Should I put the veggie wash in the refrigerator and I recently bought some kale sprouts – how should I wash & store them?. Please email me back with the information, I would appreciate very much!, thanks – Kelly.

  • RE

    I am not sure how relevant to the conversation of “cleaning produce” this is but, I have noticed many questioning how to remove pesticides within the produce. For those interested I recommend looking into lacto fermentation. I’ve found lacto fermentation of foods enormously beneficial, healthy, and very tasty to everyone tried them and they are quite easy to make. The bonus is some of lacto fermentation starter cultures (used to enhance the fermentation process) have a strain of good bacteria in them the helps break down if not remove pesticides.
    Also as a side note, having and taking doctor prescribed medication for hypertension (high blood pressure) I was very concerned about the amount of salt used in the lacto fermentation process. I have found a few things that have helped more than I can say:
    1). Per gallon of vegetables (as measured by the amount of veggies or fruits either alone or combined that it takes to fill 2 half gallon mason jars) I use 1 tablespoon of salt with 1 packet of “Cutting Edge Veggie Starter Cultures”. And no I am in no way affiliated with them or the product other than being completely happy using it.
    2). Even though (as stated above) I have cut down the recommended salt a lot in my fermented veggies and fruits I found to me there was still a salty taste. A very wise friend recommended I try straining the fermented foods from the liquid they fermented in really, really well and if that didn’t help enough I dice them up and add them to other foods that were not heated like: salads, sandwiches, etc. . Well the straining alone did the trick but the adding them to other non-heated foods (heat kills the beneficial bacteria in them) is incredible! And my Hypertension hasn’t worsened one bit!

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