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How to Clean Produce Naturally and Save Money

How To Clean Produce Naturally

Want to know the first thing I do after I get all my groceries put away each week?

Take a nap. (Umm, just kidding. I’d like to on some days after a long shopping trip with three little kids!)

Actually, the first thing I try to do when I get done putting away groceries is to clean my produce. I’ve found that if I spend about 10 minutes prepping my fruits and veggies for the week, I waste less food and eat more fruits and vegetables throughout the week.

This is a guest post from Rachel of Thriving Home blog.

Save Time and Money with Natural Produce Wash Techniques

I honestly think the method I’ll share with you of cleaning my produce is one of the best changes I’ve made in my kitchen! I can’t wait to tell you more. In this post, I will explore

  • Why we should clean our produce (i.e. Is it really even necessary?)
  • The most effective, natural way to clean produce
  • How this produce-cleaning method saves money

Ready to get some awesomely clean produce and save some money? Nice. Here we go then.

RELATED: Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen List & Produce Food Stockpile List

Why Should I Clean My Produce?

I’m not trying to freak you out too much, I promise. But, I think it is worth considering for just a moment why we need to clean the lovely produce we purchase.

1 – Think about where your produce came from–the ground.

You might ascribe to the “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt” philosophy, but you may want to rethink that notion when it comes to dirt that may be near cattle or other animals that poop. Animal run-off can make it into the ground and onto the plants we eat, and that can be really dangerous (E. Coli, for example). Unless we grow it ourselves, we likely don’t know the conditions of the farm where our produce was grown.

2 – Think about how many hands have touched your produce so far.

The person who picked it, someone in some warehouse or factory who sorted it, the produce guy at your grocery story, little kids who come by in their shopping cart, etc. The point is many people who may have nasty germs to share have touched your apple or lettuce.

3 – Think about the pesticides that are on your produce.

Unless you buy organic produce, there is a high likelihood that your fruit or vegetables are still coated in the chemicals that repelled or killed bugs and mold. And, those my friends, are NOT a good idea to ingest.

So, is your fruit or vegetable contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and/or nasty pesticides? The answer is probably yes to one or more of these.

Bottom line: We need to wash our fruit and vegetables before eating them or serving them!

Why Should I Even Eat Fruits and Vegetables If They’re So Dirty?

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, ok? And let’s not get too OCD about all this.

Fruits and vegetables are essential for our good health, as I wrote about in this post. In fact, the Environmental Working Group who publishes the Dirty Dozen list assures us, “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” Do not give up eating fruits and vegetables to avoid contaminants.

Instead, let’s think about how we can eat lots of CLEAN produce.

How Can I Clean My Produce Effectively and Safely?

I am excited to share an effective, all-natural, and easy method of cleaning produce which a Cook’s Illustrated’s study and a report from NY Times confirmed works! This method removes more pesticides from and kills more germs on our produce than a store-bought veggie wash, soap and water rinse, or just a water rinse. In fact, the NY Times article reported that the following method “reduced bacteria by 90 percent and viruses by about 95 percent.”

The main idea and recipe is this: Use a combination of white vinegar and water to soak or rinse your produce. One study says use 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Another said use 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar. I usually use somewhere between those two recommendations.

You have two options for using the vinegar/water cleaning method:

  • Option 1: You can make a spray bottle up with your vinegar and water mixture, spray your produce and then rinse it with water for at least 30 seconds.
  • Option 2: You can do what I do, which I find easier since I can do big batches at once. I simply soak my produce in my water/vinegar concoction for about 2+ minutes and then rinse them well under water for 30+ seconds. If it is a fruit or vegetables that I can rub, like an apple or pepper, I do that too, since the studies showed that the action of rubbing also helps remove grime.

Some of the produce I’ve effectively used this cleaning method on have been broccoli, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, apples, berries, and grapes.

Here are a few samples of what I’ve soaked lately:

Example #1: Apples

How To Clean Produce Naturally

I soaked all the apples we picked at a local orchard in my clean sink. I stirred them around and rubbed them with my hands. After they soaked for about 10-15 minutes, I rinsed them with water, dried them on the counter, and stored them in the fruit drawer in the fridge. They have lasted a long time, and I can eat one straight from the fridge anytime.

Example #2: Grapes

How To Clean Produce Naturally

Again, I just soaked for several minutes, stirring them around some, and then rinsed them well under running water in a colander.

Now, you MUST see the before and after shots of the vinegar/water solution I used to clean my grapes.


How to Clean Produce Naturally and Save Money


How to Clean Produce Naturally and Save Money

Can you believe how much nastiness comes off the grapes? These were conventional, domestic grapes so I’m sure a lot of that is pesticides as well as just filth. The grapes look shiny and crisp and taste delicious after they are cleaned this way!

Example #3: Raspberries

This is perhaps my favorite new find. Maybe you’ve heard to only wash your berries right before you eat them, so they last longer. Well, that has never worked for me. I had almost given up on buying my husband’s favorite fruit–raspberries. It seemed like they were mushy and moldy within 24 hours of purchasing them. But, ah-ha! I found a way to make them last and get them clean.

How To Clean Produce Naturally

Cleaning raspberries (or any berries) using the vinegar/water soak can inhibit mold growth and make them last MUCH longer in the fridge. It works so much better than just rinsing them right before eating.

To wash them, I soak the berries in the vinegar/water solution for a few minutes and then gently rinse them in a colander, being very gentle so as not to smash them.

I’ve found that another key to helping berries last longer is to store them like this

How to Clean Produce Naturally and Save Money

Here’s exactly how I store my berries so they last longer:

  • After washing your berries using the method above, set your berries out on a towel to dry on the counter.
  • Next, place a paper towel or towel at the bottom of a container that has a fitted lid.
  • Spread the berries out in one layer, making sure they aren’t stacked on one another.
  • Place another paper towel on top of the berries
  • If you have more berries, you can set even more on top of this paper towel to make a second layer. But, you’ll need to top the second layer with another paper towel.
  • Put on the lid.
  • Store them in the fridge and they last for days and days this way!

How To Clean Produce Naturally

Can Cleaning Produce This Way Save Money?

Yes! This trick has actually saved me money, for four reasons.

1) Now that I can clean my produce effectively, I feel a little better about buying conventional produce over organic at times.

Although I’m a big believer in buying organic produce when possible, especially those from the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, it can be SO expensive!!! We LOVE strawberries, blueberries, and so many other kinds of produce that are some of the “dirtiest” and cost an arm and a leg when grown organically. So, now that I can reduce the chemicals and bacteria by cleaning them really well, I buy conventionally grown for our favorites that we can’t afford organically.

2) My produce lasts longer, especially the berries.

By using vinegar/water soak and storing them between paper towels in a container in the fridge, as I mentioned above, the berries last much longer. No more throwing away of moldy raspberries or strawberries after 24 hours in my fridge.

3) I am much more likely to eat my clean produce, instead of letting it go bad.

When it’s clean and within sight in my fridge, I am much more likely to throw together a salad with lunch, eat an apple for a snack, or munch on grapes with my breakfast. I rarely have produce go bad anymore.

4) Vinegar is so cheap–much cheaper than any Fruit and Veggie Wash you might buy at the store.

Plus, those store-bought washes are not proven to be any more effective than water and rubbing according to Cooks Illustrated. Vinegar, however, is more effective than water!

More Tips and Some Favorite Recipes

If you liked this article, you may be interested in a few other simple kitchen tricks I’ve learned:

Easy DIY Fruit Fly Traps

DIY Stainless Steel Appliance Cleaner

Or you may enjoy a few of our simple, real food recipes from our healthy, kid-friendly Recipe Index such as:

Mediterranean Layered Dip

Mediterranean Layered Dip

Veggie & Grassfed Beef Meatballs (+ Meatball Sub recipe)

Healthier Meatball Sub Recipe

Coconut Flour Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Coconut Flour Pumpkin Chocolate Chips Muffins

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

I often find very helpful suggestions in the comments section on KS. So, I want to be sure to ask for your suggestions…

Do you have any all-natural kitchen tips to share?

How To Clean Produce Naturally
Rachel Tiemeyer from Thriving Home

Rachel is a stay-at-home mom of three young kids and part-time Family Events Director at her church. She also co-authors the blog Thriving Home, where she shares healthy kid-friendly recipes, parenting resources and encouragement for moms, and tips for natural living. Find out more about Thriving Home here or you can follow them via their Facebook page or weekly email update.


Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

38 thoughts on “How to Clean Produce Naturally and Save Money”

  1. One type of produce washing that i rarely see mentioned is melons. I always scrub the rind with dish detergent before cutting into the melon so any contamination on the rind doesn’t transfer to the fruit via the knife when i cut into it.

  2. Hey 🙂 Thanks for a great article ! I personally always use eco&more’s fruit wash for my fruits, it manages to remove all the nasty stuff while still being all natural, and I find that pretty cool !

  3. Thanks for the tips. I especially like your cleaning method. I have heard of vinegar and other washes (i.e.: food grade hydrogen peroxide) before, but you presented your method in such a simple and practical way that I could definitely implement this into my current regimen without feeling like I have to dedicate a whole lot of time to the process. Thanks again Rachel for sharing! This made my day! 🙂

  4. Ronald Pomykala

    Seems to me that if the FDA, NIH or other appropriate entity would do a scientific study like document how much pesticide quantitatively exists on certain vegetables and fruits purchased; and follow that up with measured solution soaks, like vinegar etc. at different soaking time, and remeasured the veggies and fruits again for pesticide residue, we would learn just what works and what does not.
    Voila! Now we know the facts rather than our assumption.
    Get your congressman to propose that, which may in effect have a positive and cost benefit to our nations health and longevity.

  5. Dear Rachel,

    I would like to thank you for your post I found it very informative. I had a question for you and I hope you may know something about this topic. Do you happen to know if the vinegar and water soak removes the aluminum in the fruits and veggies? I am wondering if it won’t be able to since it might be in side the flesh of the fruit or vegetable. If you happen to know anythjng about this please let me know.


    1. Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship

      I don’t think you’re going to remove any heavy metals with a wash, no.

  6. Just one very important comment… use “organic vinegar,” because if you don’t you are just putting a ton of “GMO” chemicals back on your produce, since regular vinegar comes from GMO corn. Best price–“Sprout’s brand organic white vinegar” in a clear plastic bottle, costs a couple of dollars for 32 oz (quart). Spectrum is another company who makes organic white vinegar. Theirs is in a glass bottle, but costs considerably more (quart).

    1. Penelope L. Penderhausen

      Thought this was of interest, Heinz® All Natural Vinegar

      Heinz® Distilled White and Apple Cider Vinegars are all natural, made only from corn or apples and crystal-clear water.

      A note regarding the Heinz All Natural Promise: Heinz sources all of its corn here in America, and most American-grown corn is developed from bioengineered seeds. However, Heinz tests its final Distilled White vinegar product using conventional methods. These test results show there are no remaining traces of GMO in our finished product.

  7. “studies showed that the action of rubbing also helps remove grime.”

    I thought common sense did this.

  8. Pingback: Natural Produce Cleaners » Mommy Culture

  9. Question –
    do you put lid on the berries?? I thought I had read that most berries need to breathe? or they get moldy really fast? just curious….I was washing in the vinegar wash I just learned about (aweome and thank you!) but wasnt sure about the whole close it with a lid thing. thanks

    1. Yes, I had heard that, too. But, if you put the paper towels below and above the berries it is fine to close the lid. This method has worked perfectly for me this way many times!

  10. I use lots of veggies, this will help meto eat clean fruits and veg,,, thanks for tip,,,, I use lots and lots of bananas,, and use to wash with water but now before I freeze for morning smoothie’s I ll clean the right way,, by the way freeze banana’ IN ZIP LOCK BAGS OUT OF peal JUST AT RIGHT STAGE, works great

  11. For what it’s worth, we are living in Nepal now and if we ate the raw fruits and vegetables here, we would be VERY sick. So, the thing that we use to soak our fruits and veggies is Grapefruit Seed Extract. It is an AMAZING product and I am SO thankful for it. I believe it has saved our lives, because most people here iodine here to wash their fruits and veggies. And while iodine might be okay for a while, long term use of so much of it just isn’t that healthy for your body. But, it’s pretty much the same procedure of making a wash, using only about 20-25 drops of extract in a big bowl of water and letting them sit for 20-30 minutes. One bottle of it seems to last forever! Thank you God for Grapefruit Seed Extract!!

    1. Thanks Rachel! And thanks Terah for sharing this information! I am trying to find a healthy way to clean our veggies and fruit. We are visiting Nepal soon. Take care and thanks again!

    2. Yes! GSE is the best cleanser, imo. I’ve been living in Mexico and Guatemala for the last 7 years, and I never get sick. I wash all my fruits and veggies (except avocados and limes; if the rind is not edible it’s in the freebie zone!) with GSE. Note: large surface area fruits and veggies need more time in the wash bowl, especially broccoli lettuce & strawberries, blackberries & raspberries); just give the bowl swooshes and stir up/flip over the yummies every few minutes. It’s also important to let most of the veggies dry out before putting them away in the fridge. But not broccoli! Stays fresher longer if it’s still moist; poke holes in the bag with a fork and it’ll last a good long while.

  12. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing. I use vinegar for so many things and have often wondered if it would be effective to wash produce with. Now I can take the veggie wash off my list!

  13. Not all produce should be washed. In fact, most produce lasts longer without being washed because the skin contains elements that are designed to keep produce fresher longer. The humidity left on the veggies after washing makes them rot faster. The white film on the grapes is lactobacilli which is beneficial for the gut. It’s what helps grapes turn into wine. You can notice the same white film on cabbage, even the inner leaves that were never in contact with the ground. Also, tomatoes should not be washed or refrigerated. I grew up in a small mediterranean country, and we never refrigerated any veggies or fruit. We shopped a lot more frequently, though.

    1. Ivy,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience and knowledge. I have heard about the film on grapes, but my main concern still lies in the fact that so many people have touched them and the conventional ones have pesticides. Do you know of a way to retain the beneficial part but remove the nastiness?

      Also, good reminder that tomatoes especially shouldn’t be washed ahead and should sit on the counter. I’m sure there are others, too, I’m not thinking of that would be the same.

      I’m guessing the reason we have to refrigerate our produce more frequently in America, unless purchased at a Farmer’s Market, is that it has sat on the shelves or on a truck for quite some time, so it goes bad faster. Wish I lived in the Mediterranean and could eat like that!

      1. Just because it is sold at a Farmers Market doesn’t mean it is really local, much of it is still trucked in and you really don’t know where it came from unless you personally know the vendors. I have seen sweet corn sold as local when it isn’t even in season. I grew up on the farm . The can fool city folks! Pumpkins shipped in by the semitrucks , then sold at the local pumpkin farms.

  14. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This tip is the most helpful one I have seen in a while. I am inspired to wash all my produce upfront. I do think it will help me consume more of it, if it is ready to go. I also especially love the hint about the berries. I still have a few raspberries on my bushes, and while they are organic, I might try the vinegar rinse to see if they last longer.

    1. Oh, so glad it was helpful! I’m a bit jealous you still have berries on the bushes. Ours have been long, long gone in Missouri.

  15. I loved this post! Thanks so much for all the great ideas and recipes. I can’t wait to try them.

  16. Kimberly Sleeth

    I’ve been doing this for a while and feel much better about the cleanliness of my produce. 🙂

    How do you store your produce? I always leave them in the plastic bags I put them in at the store. I figure that’s better than piling all different types of things on top of each other. But I don’t like the idea of the plastic either. What’s the best way to store things?

    1. I’m just speaking from my own trial and error here. While I’m not crazy about using plastic either, I do reuse large ziplock bags with a damp paper towel in them for things like clean greens and green beans. I store my clean and cut up veggies, like broccoli, carrot sticks, and pepper slices, in a glass container with a little bit of water in the bottom. I usually cover it with a towel to keep in some moisture, but also allow it to breathe a little (avoiding mold). This assures I have them in plain sight for snacking, tossing in a salad, or steaming for dinner. I hope that helps give you some prep and storage ideas. Anyone else have suggestions??

      1. Kimberly Sleeth

        Thank you. I stored them atop some paper towels in the bins. It looks nice and worked well. 🙂

  17. I’ve gotten lazy about washing my produce very well. And I used to do it when I brought it home but now it sits in the fridge for too long. *sigh* This will motivate me to use vinegar, and get it done! Thanks.

    1. Believe me, I have had many days like that, too! Part of my reason for writing this post was to motivate myself to keep at it. 🙂

  18. Thanks for this guide! We just returned from living in China where our house helper would help me wash produce in a mixture of water + flour! Especially easily contaminated/polluted tender produce like strawberries or grapes. She explained that the flour supposedly helps pull some of the dirt off produce as well…have you heard of this technique? I always did the vinegar wash and am glad to see that confirmed here!

    1. Interesting. I haven’t heard of flour before, but maybe it provides some abrasion to help scrub the produce while washing. Was it messy? Did you feel like it worked?

      1. It actually works very well. Especially when you use that on grapes, blueberries and strawberries. You can clearly see the dirt comes off of the fruits and floating in the Flour+Water solution. It disgustingly satisfying haha!

  19. I love this. I need to do better.

    The picture of the grapes reminds me of when a cousin found a live lizard in their grapes from a certain warehouse store. We just can’t know what has been on our foods!

    1. Oh, that is so gross! I’ve definitely found small dead insects in things like lettuce or broccoli but never a live lizard. I can confidently say I would not try to salvage that bunch of grapes…although my kids might enjoy the new pet.

  20. I wash our fruit and veggies that way. Usually just after I bring them home. It’s amazing how much gunk is in the water when I’m done!

  21. Thanks for the great article, Rachel! I’m pretty lazy about washing my produce; rinsing with water just seems silly and I’ve not been aware that vinegar has been proven. You’ve inspired me to get it washed before I even put it away. Plus, if it helps produce last longer, why not?? I already buy vinegar by the gallon!

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