Easy Homemade Produce Wash For Fruits & Veggies

There’s a misconception by some that vegetables and fruits that are about to be cooked don’t really need more than a quick rinse to wash off dirt before being added to the pot. The theory is that since it’s about to be cooked, any sort of bacteria or bug it may have will be killed in the heat.

Another misconception is that if we’ve grown the food ourselves in our backyard gardens, we know that we’re clean and we aren’t using dangerous pesticides or have rats scurrying about dropping feces. So some think, again, a quick rinse will do the trick.

This is such a dangerous way to handle food and couldn’t be farther from the truth. We *do* need to wash WELL every piece of fresh produce that we plan on consuming whether we’ve grown it or not.

The dangers range from Salmonella to E. coli infections to Listeria and even Hepatitis A…and more…some very serious foodborne bacterial illnesses.

It’s advised that those who are more vulnerable need to be extra careful: pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Why worry about what we’ve grown ourselves? Our gardens can be contaminated by the neighborhood cat, some unknown nasty in the soil or even from a bird flying over the yard and dropping infected seeds in our plots.

There’s just no good reason not to be careful, protect ourselves and those we are cooking for by properly washing fresh fruits and veggies.

Even if we’re only planning to eat the inside of the fruit (think avocado), we still need to wash the outer peel before cutting since dragging the knife through the fruit will drag whatever’s on the outside into the fleshy inside and contaminate it.

Here are the very minimum essentials:

–First wash hands well with soap and water
–Next rinse each item under running water and rub them all over with your fingers while washing thoroughly

If you want to be more diligent, here’s a helpful guide with some cleaning recipes.


Mix ingredients listed below then pour in clean spray bottle. Spritz on fresh produce generously. Sit for 5 minutes then rinse off well.

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 TBS baking soda
2 TBS lemon juice

Note: Make sure to first combine ingredients in deep container since there will be some fizzing action.

There are also these tips and recipes to try:

*Ensure the sink is thoroughly cleaned or use a plastic dishpan just for this purpose

  • Sprinkle items with baking soda then gently scrub. This method safely removes dirt and residue. Mentioned previously on this page.
  • Vinegar/Water Spritz (50/50) works well.

Note: Rinse and allow to soak for a few minutes in clear water after treatment.

To Full Sinks (Water) Add…

  • 4 TBS apple cider vinegar.
  • Parasite buster: Add 1/2 teaspoon of chlorine bleach and soak items for 30 mins.
  • 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide (3%) per gallon of water and leave items for 20 mins.
  • A few drops of your favorite liquid dish detergent (for handwashing dishes), leave items for a few minutes before scrubbing. Good residue remover.
  • Arrange fruit and veggies first before filling. For every gallon (16 cups) of water used, add 4 drops of grapefruit seed extract and 2 TBS of salt.
  • Produce Bath: Combine 1/2 cup vinegar and 3 TBS salt (stir until dissolved) then add to sink. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove, pat dry.

**Note: After treating allow to sit for at least 10 minutes in clear water.

Did You Know: You should wash the outsides of melons before cutting through them? If you don’t, the knife will drag the pesticides/dirt/bacteria from the outside rind into the melon as you cut. The outside rinds can carry some seriously nasty cooties. See Melons: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers (pdf).

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    • Nancy

    Hi, I just keep a shaker bottle of baking soda next to my sink. I like that it gentle scrubs the fruit and veggies. Since I usually buy organic, I feel that this works well for us, and it’s simple.

    *Tipnut Edit: Comment re-added, mistakenly deleted

      • Laura N.

      I just want to point out that organic does not mean bacteria/virus free…it means chemical free…lots of hands have touched your produce…maybe even more @ the farmers market…

    • Kim

    Thanks so much for this recipe. I have 3 guinea pigs who go through a ton of parsley and of course it needs to be thoroughly washed. This is a real money saver 🙂

    • Wong

    Just a follow up question. How long can these homemade produce wash last? I mean will they go bad after a few days sitting in room temperature?

      • Sara

      Why not just keep veggie wash in the refrigerator? 🙂

    • Paula

    Would also like to know how long this homemade veggie wash will last or be effective sitting at room temperature or even put into the frig?

      • Margaret

      would also like an answer to this question. Thanks

        • TipNut

        Sorry but I don’t have an answer for that, maybe someone reading this can help. The vinegar and lemon juice should be good deterrents for spoiling or bacteria growth, but I don’t have a lab to test this!

      • BlogZilla

      I would imagine you don’t have much to worry about when it comes to the shelf life of this homemade veggie/fruit wash because of the ingredients. It’s a combination of natural acids and abluents whether petrochemical or botanic.

    • Chea

    Has anyone found an answer to this? Do you know how long you can store this wash before it goes bad?

      • Herbmama

      I’ve used a lemon juice, vinegar & water wash for my produce for a couple three years now & my bottle sits on my counter & it’s never gone bad…when it gets low, I buy another lemon and make up another batch. The lemon & vinegar keep it from going bad. HTH

    • Melissa Forbes

    It should last a long time since vinegar and lemon juice both kill bacteria. I know vinegar kills 98% of germs but I do not have an exact on lemon juice.

    • CJ Hamilton

    Hmmmm, sorry to throw cold water on this, but…. The vinegar is an acid. The baking soda is a base. Combining them neutralizes one or the other depending on the ratio. That begs the question, what is the active ingredient — acid or base? Bacteriologists will tell it is the acid. Forget the NaHCO3 (baking soda) and the lemon juice for that matter, and increase the dilution.

    By the way chlorine (as in Clorox) can do just as good a job and is lots cheaper. Hmmm, does that mean if you municipal water is chlorinated, it will kill nasty little bugs. Yep, it will. That’s why it’s there. And it’s free. Well, almost free.

    By the way, some bacteria THRIVE in acid.

      • Carolyn

      Increase dilution to what ratio? Thanks as it sounds like you have done your homework! Buying that veggie/fruit wash is just too expensive these days and probably not anything special in comparison to what one could do themselves.

      • The Savvy Sister

      I would never use chlorine bleach on anything to wash it including clothes. While it kills lots of bugs, it also forms organochlorides & THM’s (trihalomethanes) which are known cancer causers. For those that are trying to be healthy, chlorine (clorox etc) has no place in any kitchen or home.

      Plain water (which contains chlorine anyway) and friction has been tested to be just as good as any wash. Rub for 2 minutes, dry, done.

        • Fredrica Thompson

        I agree. Chlorine is bad news. If you do a little research you will find that chlorine including that which is found in tap water is especially bad for women suffering from hypothyroidism and other thyroid illnesses. This is due to the fact that the four halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine)compete for attachment to the receptors in our bodies. If someone who is already low in iodine consumes food or drink containing any of the other halogens it will exacerbate their problem. Just fyi. That’s not even getting into all the other problems caused by chlorine.

    • Karenluvslife

    I just spray mine with vinegar, leave for a bit then rinse. do you think that does a good job of cleaning of residues?

    • Lorrie

    Is it ok to spray veggies and fruit with vinegar(not diluted) and then rinse with water? Just trying to eliminate another spray bottle. I have one for chlorox, vinegar, olive oil etc etc

    • Lynne N

    Tip Nut you saved my lots of typing. Thanks for placing this here.

    • Cara

    Just used the fresh vegetable soak…. AMAZING! I can’t believe how brown the water was after I removed the veggies. Thanks

    • rebecca searles

    Does anyone have a good idea on how to quickly dry all the fruit and vegetables before I put them in the refrigerator. I’m afraid they will rot. I usually use green bags but I can’t put them in wet.

      • Andrea

      Use a salad spinner. Does not bruise and spins it virtually dry, especially leafy greens or salad. Then pat dry with a paper towel.

      • celia hanna

      Sometimes I obtain produce that has some items that are mashed like cherry tomatoes, kiwi etc. Before I use the following clean & dry method, I lay one or two clean towels on the kitchen table with a small fan.

      After culling out the spoiled fruit, I wash the rest,rinse,shake off the excess water and lay them out on the towels.

      The fan is situated centrally next to and facing the length of produce. When the fan is turned on, it ossilates (sp?)creating the drying action on the produce. You can use this method while doing other kitchen tasks so that you can be there to change the positions of the fruit to insure uniform drying.

      As far a leafy vegetables go, I shake off excess water, wrap them loosely in a light kitchen towel, bag them in plastic bags,create a balloon by allowing air into the bag, twist the top & tie with a twist tie.

      Of course, these little greenhouses take up space. I hope this helps.

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