Properly cleaning your fruits and vegetables can not only help protect you from potentially harmful bacteria including salmonella, E. coli, and listeria but can also help reduce your pesticide exposure when eating conventionally grown crops. For clean produce, you do not need to purchase a produce specific cleaning product as there are many better and safer ways to clean your produce with ingredients you probably already have at home to make your own DIY Produce Cleaner that I will discuss in this post.
You can use any one or a combination of the following ingredients to effectively clean your produce. I also show my favorite method for cleaning produce from my book Easy Green Cleaning which uses a combination of the ingredients listed. With all these produce cleaning ingredients you have the option to soak the produce in a solution of the ingredients and water. A better method instead of soaking to avoid cross-contamination is to place the produce on a clean surface like freshly cleaned sink or dishcloth spray the produce with the solution or solutions, let sit for 10-20 minutes then rinse clean in cool preferably filtered water. Scrub if needed before rinsing with either baking soda or a scrub brush.
After washing let the produce items dry on clean dishcloths and spin any leafy greens through a salad spinner. It is important all produce is dry before returning the items to the fridge. Putting a cloth napkin in with your leafy greens can also help assure they stay fresh longer. Here are some healthy and natural ingredient options for cleaning your produce:
Clean Produce with Vinegar
Produce can easily be cleaned using a method of 1 part white distilled vinegar to 3 parts water. Vinegar’s acidity will not only kill the bacteria but also help with chemical residue. Once you fully rinse the produce item clean you should no longer be able to smell or taste the vinegar.
Wash Produce with Baking Soda
Baking soda is a great method for cleaning produce because it is the most effective of all the options for removing pesticide residue as well as any waxes that may be on the produce. To use just add 2-3 tablespoons baking soda to water. Baking soda is a great scrubbing agent so any produce with dirt, waxes or tougher skins can be scrubbed clean by applying just a little water and baking soda into your hand or directly on the produce to create a paste then scrub away.
Clean Produce with Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide is a highly effective method for washing produce to kill any harmful bacteria. When using this method I recommend you use a 3% food grade version. You can find 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide but to save money I personally like to purchase 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide and dilute it down to 3% (35% hydrogen peroxide is caustic and must be handled with caution).
Wash Produce with Lemon Juice or Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon juice or lemon essential oil is best added to a vinegar or baking soda solution vs being used on its own. Lemon essential oil is the only essential oil I recommended for cleaning produce. If using you want to make sure it is a high-quality version like this one here. To use either of these options you can just add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to your premade solution or 5-7 drops lemon essential oil. Using lemon or lemon essential oil to clean your produce may even help it last a little longer.
Clean Produce with Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract which can be found here is another beneficial bonus ingredient to use when washing your fruits and vegetables. Grapefruit seed extract is a superior natural antimicrobial and a little goes a long way. Adding 3-5 drops to a premade vinegar or baking soda solution is a great way to boost those ingredients ability to kill harmful bacteria on your produce.
My Favorite Method for Washing Fruits and Vegetables:
This is my preferred method for cleaning produce from my book Easy Green Cleaning as it will safely and thoroughly remove any dirt, bacteria, and most pesticide residue from your fruits and vegetables. I do this method about once a week after grocery shopping and prior to storing. I start by scrubbing any produce that has thicker skin, is waxed or conventionally grown by just applying a little baking soda and water to the palm of my hand and scrubbing away. Then I spray all items first with the Citrus Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner in my book which is a mixture of vinegar, water, lemon essential oil and grapefruit seed extract (you can use plain vinegar and water as a replacement). Next I spray all the items with the 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide and let sit 10-20 minutes before rinsing the produce clean in filtered water. This method of using vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in combination (never combine vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together in the same bottle only use one after another) is the most effective method for killing virtually all harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli.
Quick Method for Cleaning Produce
If these methods seem a little too time intensive for you when you just want to quickly eat an apple or add a carrot to your salad you can just use one of the above methods to quickly spray down the produce item and let sit for 30 seconds or scrub with baking soda before immediately rinsing clean. Although it may not be as effective as letting it sit for a longer period of time it will make the item safe enough to eat or cook with.
-Elizabeth Hemmings, author of Easy Green Cleaning
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