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To Wash or Not to Wash?

I was talking to a friend this weekend who said she rarely washes her produce, and frankly, I was shocked. She said that since she always buys organic, she doesn't have to worry about pesticides, and wonders if washing really does any good anyway.

In fact, washing fruits and vegetables makes a difference whether you're buying organic or not. Even if your produce hasn't been touched by pesticides, it has been touched by lots of people and traveled through many different places. As a result, even organic produce could carry bacteria such as listeria and salmonella. For that reason, you should even wash fruits you peel, such as bananas and lemons, so that the bacteria isn't transferred from your hands to your food.

Though there's no guarantee that washing your produce will eliminate all chance of contamination, rinsing it under running water helps blast away impurities. For more on how and why to wash,


  • When washing fruit and vegetables, make sure your hands are clean, and cut away any bruised or damaged sections from the fruit or veggie.
  • It's also important to store perishable produce, such as strawberries and lettuce, in a sufficiently cool place so as not to breed more bacteria.
  • Since the outside tends to get dirtier than the inside, it does help to peel away the outer layers of a head of lettuce.
  • As for prebagged lettuce that is marketed as "prewashed" or "triple-washed," the FDA says you do not need to rewash it, but other experts say you should. Since it won't hurt you to rewash bagged lettuce, I say why not?

What's your take on washing produce? Do you wash all the fruits and veggies that come through your kitchen? What about prewashed salad mix and fruits that you peel?


Join The Conversation
gemsera gemsera 8 years
We have to wash our produce, 90% of it comes from our garden and is usually covered in slugs and dirt and various other goodies. No pesticides though :D
steamboatdog steamboatdog 8 years
I was just stating what the doctors have told us... which is not to be so crazy about cleaning our food and houses etc. They say natural cleaners are just as good as bleach and allow you to still expose yourself to some germs to build up a healthy defense. I'm not saying not to wash your stuff either, just relaying what I heard. I always rinse all my stuff with water and if it looks like it has eggs/spiders/gross stuff on it, I generally just throw it away because its grosses me out. For all you that clean your stuff so well... I hope you don't get lemons or limes in your drink (I don't anymore). I just read a study in Men's Health about how many germs are on them and how few restaurants clean them. Something like over 200 restaurants they tested across the country had contaminated lemons with some type of gross bacteria or fseis.
flyingroo flyingroo 8 years
CadiCon, Alton Brown had an episode of his Good Eats about mushrooms. He proved that even if you wash them they won't retain as much water as you think. If you still don't want to wash, peel the cap, it's easy and gives you peace of mind.
flyingroo flyingroo 8 years
No one mentioned all the bugs that land and sometimes lay eggs on the produce, or the snails and slugs that crawl on them! That alone should be a reason to wash it. If you want to be "more Catholic than Pope" you can use a weak solution of vinegar and water to rinse it. Also, wash your melons before cutting, and your lemons before grating the rind (if you'd only know how many people handled them before you bought them!) Steamboatdog, people on 3rd world countries are not healthier because they eat dirt, but because they eat more organic stuff. In these countries people cannot afford to buy many things, they grow them themselves.
Glittersniffer Glittersniffer 8 years
I tend to not wash anything that I don't eat the peel on. That's just laziness though. My problem is this...mushrooms! I love them so much, but every culinary person I've known has said not to wash them because that messes with the flavor. You're just supposed to wipe them with a damp towel. That makes me nervous...any recommendations?
Baby-Girl Baby-Girl 8 years
I wash everything too, except bananas. Who knew.
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
I wash produce in water before cooking it. My boyfriend doesn't though! Although I did cook new potatoes without washing them first... but they're being boiled so who cares.
Pallas-Athena Pallas-Athena 8 years
I wash everything!
gabiushka gabiushka 8 years
Yes steamboatdog, the enzymes in soil are helpful to our immune system, although this doesn't apply when the soil has pesticides. Health food stores should have these enzymes in form of supplements.
lizs lizs 8 years
I rewash bagged lettuce because otherwise it has a sort of bitter-tasting film on it that I can't stand. I give everything else a quick rinse, even though I eat all organic produce, because it can still be gross from shipping. I'm not a germophobe, but I wouldn't choose to eat something that a rat had walked on, either.
myystque myystque 8 years
Perhaps I should start washing but honestly I never wash anything, and I haven't gotten sick yet (knock on wood). I figure it's because I keep my immune system on the alert! ;)
hottpink hottpink 8 years
Does anyone know of a good "potion" to wash your fruits and veggies with?
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I definitely rewash bagged lettuces after all the recalls a few years ago, and other no-peel fruits and veggies. I don't, however, wash things like bananas or oranges. Whatever might be on there has never hurt me, and I'm just too lazy for that.
sundaygreen sundaygreen 8 years
I know about a dude who didn't wash his lettuce (bagged lettuce, at that) and he got horribly sick - to the point where he had to go to the hospital.
AMP AMP 8 years
I wash everything. Sometimes even with soap and water. Not for lettuce or things like that, it would be pretty hard, but like apples, oranges, etc.
steamboatdog steamboatdog 8 years
My mom just actually told me some interesting information she has heard from numerous doctors over the last few months. My brother just got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease so she has been going to lots of doctors with him etc. She’s also been asking what the rest of our family can do to prevent getting it, as it’s hereditary/genetic to some degree. The doctor’s biggest advice (along with eating yogurt) is eat more dirt. They said people in 3rd world countries have much lower rates (almost none) of diseases like Crohn’s and they believe it’s because they live in much dirtier conditions. If you always wash all your fruit, never use the 5 second rule, sanitize all your surfaces non-stop, you don’t allow yourself to interact with any germs and parasites, thus not allowing your body to build up a resistance to them. They told my mom to not be such a germaphob (she and my brother both are), versus me who always just rinses my fruit/veggies in water, eats things when I drop them on the floor etc. Surprisingly I’m the one who rarely ever gets sick, while my brother has had many sicknesses and now this. Obviously, germs aren’t the only factor, but it was interesting to note that several doctors told us to eat more dirt and worry less about germs on our food. Sure you run the risk of salmonella or something like that, but that’s pretty rare and do the benefits outweigh the risks? And if you have a tiny bit of it on your apple, will you necessarily get sick if you have a healthy immune system? I guess it varies for each person and its for each person to decide. I'm going to keep on just rinsing my food and enjoying it.
Red-Sharpie Red-Sharpie 8 years
I don't rewash bagged lettuce because then it's too wet for my salad (no salad spinner here). I wash everything else though, providing there's water available. I've been known to eat a pint of strawberries on the way home from buying them though...
gabiushka gabiushka 8 years
Kia I was going to say that a mix of water, baking soda and vinegar is great to wash produce since it is supposed to help to get rid of pesticides. You should soak your produce for about a half hour.
kia kia 8 years
I need to get better about standardizing how I was produce in my kitchen with a weak vinegar solution. I am really inconsistent. A lot of stuff comes from my garden or local farms, but still I need to develop better habits.
ffemt1201 ffemt1201 8 years
I just raided my parents' garden this past weekend and you bet your butt I washed the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash! yum!
Dana18 Dana18 8 years
I didn't realize that we should wash bananas too!
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