Have you ever wondered what is the best way to wash your fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides? We already know everyone should be eating more fruits and vegetables, but did you know your produce could harm you if you don’t wash it properly?

Washing your vegetables and fruit is crucial to prevent the contraction of any food borne illnesses, as well as substantially reducing your exposure to pesticides. Almost no produce today is 100% pesticide free. Even if you buy organic, there may be some traces of harmful pathogens.

Easy steps to reduce your pesticide exposure are to buy organic and local produce when possible, and to properly wash your produce.


Sara St Dennis


Food Preparation


March 28, 2018



What Is The Best Way to Wash Your Fruits and Vegetables?

Using baking soda and water.

A new study conducted by the University of Massachusetts suggests that baking soda and water may be the most effective cleaning agent in eliminating pesticide residue from our produce when compared to other common cleaning methods.

Consumer Reports wrote, “Submerging apples in a baking soda solution for two minutes removed more pesticides than a two minute soak in the bleach solution, or two minutes of rinsing in running tap water. But it took 12 to 15 minutes in the baking soda solution to completely get rid of the pesticides used in this study.”

Why Is It Important to Wash Your Fruits and Vegetables?

Almost all produce is sprayed with pesticides to kill off weeds and other unwanted vegetation. Think about all of the people who have already handled your produce as well. There is also dirt that is often not washed off of fruits and vegetables before being put on the shelf, and no one wants to eat dirt.

It is important to wash your produce properly so that you do not ingest any harmful chemicals and bacteria. Consuming unwashed fruits and vegetables can mean consuming toxic pesticides and pathogens, which is detrimental to your health.

If produce is not washed properly before consumption, there are potential risks to human health and risks of developing food borne illnesses, such as E-coli. This study by the National Institute for Microbial Forensics & Food and Agricultural Biosecurity, provides some more information on the growth and risks of food borne pathogens in produce.

How To Wash Fruits and Vegetables Effectively

1. Wash your hands with soap and water to ensure no bacteria is transferred from your hands to the produce

2. Rinse the produce under cold running water and rub the exterior with your hands to remove the dirt and surface microorganisms

3. Fill your sink or a large bowl with cold water, add 4 tablespoons of baking soda, and place your fruits and vegetables in the water for 15 minutes

Note: Avoid cleaning berries this way as they may become soggy, just rinse under cold running water instead.

Why Are Pesticides Used on Produce?

Pesticides are sprayed on fruits and vegetables to aid preservation, as most produce can take up to 1-2 weeks to be shipped to your local grocery store, and 1-2 more days to be stocked on the shelves.

By the time someone buys their produce from the store, it has already been 2-3 weeks since it was harvested from the ground. Not exactly “fresh” if you ask me.

Our fruits and vegetables are usually shipped in dark delivery trucks, with minimal to no sunlight nor fresh air, so without the use of pesticides, our produce would go rancid before they even reach the grocery store.

Pesticides are also used to keep the produce free from diseases, bacteria and insects. Without the help of pesticides, food crops could not grow as easily making some fresh fruits and vegetables less available.

Does Organic Produce Contain Pesticides?

A lot of people make the incorrect assumption that organic foods contain no pesticides, and unfortunately that is not the case. Both organic and conventional farmers use pesticides, organic growers just tend to use natural pesticides rather than synthetic chemicals.

Although organic growers use natural and strive to use less pesticides overall, this study suggests that traditional and organic farmers use virtually the same amount of pesticides. Does this mean we shouldn’t buy organic? Well no, natural pesticides are still better than synthetic chemicals, and less of them is what we want.

Jeff Gillman is a professor and author of the book The Truth About Organic Gardening and has recommended that the answer to ambiguity is to go local. “I go to the farmers market and talk to the growers to see who is serious about reducing pesticide use,” he says. “I’d rather buy food from someone who used Roundup once than someone who uses organic pesticides all the time.”

The Most Important (And Least Important) Foods to Buy Organic

Pesticides are normally found in the outer peel or skin of the produce, but some pesticides are designed to be absorbed into the tissue of the fruit or vegetable to protect it from pests that penetrate the skin to suck out the liquid. When deciding what to buy organic or not, it depends on the thickness of the peel.

Thicker peeled produce, such as cantaloupe, may be more effective at keeping pesticides out of the flesh when compared to apples and other thin skinned fruits and vegetables.

The most important foods to buy organic are, apples, kiwi, pears, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, grapes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, celery, berries, green leafy vegetables and other produce with a thin skin. Fruits and vegetables that are the least important to buy organic would be cantaloupe, pineapple, oranges, onions, garlic, limes, lemon, corn on the cob, coconut, dragon fruit, bananas, and other produce with a thick peel.

Other Ways to Wash Produce If You Don’t Have Baking Soda

Alternative cleaning methods could be soaking the produce in a vinegar or salt solution. This method may slightly affect the taste, but it is effective in removing some bacteria and pathogens from fruits and vegetables.

In a study published in Food Control, vegetables were soaked in vinegar for 20 minutes and also in a salt solution to remove three different types of pesticides.

Both methods did the job of removing the pesticides, but the vinegar left a residue that affected the taste. Although these techniques work well, the most effective method is to soak in a baking soda solution.


Almost no produce today is pesticide free, and therefore we need to take the proper precautions to reduce our consumption of harmful toxins. The easiest and most effective ways to reduce your pesticide exposure is to properly wash your fruits and vegetables, and buy organic and local when possible. A baking soda solution is the most effective at removing toxins off the skin of the produce, and when buying organic, choose the produce with a thin peel or skin. A thicker peel fruit or vegetable is able to protect their tissue better as the pesticide won’t be able to penetrate through as easily.

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