Homemade Fruit & Veggie Wash

I recently read this article about how our ancestors wouldn’t recognise some of the fruit and veggies we eat nowadays because of how humans have altered them over the years and it got me thinking.

It made me aware… again… of how quick we are to give ourselves a pat on the back or a noddy badge for bulk buying *healthy* fruits and veggies for our families but how healthy is healthy?

Yesterday I bought a punnet of seedless grapes (…hang on… how do they produce ‘seedless’ grapes I wonder) and it clearly said on the box ‘preserved with sulphur dioxide’. That doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies – not sure about you.


Apparently “sulphur dioxide is a poisonous gas which is sprayed on fruit, and acts as a preservative, enhancing its color and preventing mold.  Airborne inhalation of this chemical has lead to a rash of breathing problems, premature birth and premature death.” Source: Living Pure and Simple Blogspot.

Soooo… how’s about we try do something about this.

First prize we buy local and organic. If you can’t do both, first go local. A lot of the reason we have chemical preservatives on our food is because our food needs to travel from far away to get to our table. The whole farm-to-table idea. Having said that, it’s not always possible.

(Side thought… Micheal Pollan has written some EXCELLENT books on this matter – including The Omnivores Dilemma, In Defense of Food and a great quick read/conversation starter Food Rules. Food Rules was the catalyst for a stimulating discussion of 5 new-to-Vancouver-and-Regent friends (now close as family) on a road trip from Vancouver to San Fran and back again). 

The next step we can take is in our own kitchens. Can we wash our foods in such a way that it minimises the nonsense that has been sprayed/fed/forced onto our delicious food. Well yes, there is.

Thanks to Wellness Mamahere is what she has suggested. And no surprises here, the DIY homemade wash – includes… our old and underrated friend, white vinegar.

Wellness Mama says: “Organic or not, if I didn’t grow the produce myself or get it from family friends who are trusted farmers, I always make sure to carefully wash all produce that we eat. This is especially important with non-organic produce, but I even wash organic store-bought produce as well.” Isn’t she inspiring?

apples in buckets

Different fruits and veggies are treated differently on farms. The Clean 15, Dirty Dozen list is a good benchmark to use when thinking about what to buy organic and what you can wash at home. Screen print this baby for quick access when out shopping.

Fresh market fruits and vegetables

Store Bought Wash?

The University of Maine studied the most popular store bought fruit and vegetable wash brands (in the US) and found that not only did many of them contain chlorine (to kill bacteria on the produce), but in lab testing, they were no more effective than using distilled water. That’s distressing. 

Unfortunately, neither commercial washes or distilled vinegar completely removed waxes, pesticides, and other residue from produce.

The Solution?

Homemade fruit and vegetable washes are effective at removing residue from produce and also help preserve the fridge-life of these foods since bacteria that may cause decay is removed.

To be most effective, different vegetables call for different methods of washing, but three simple and inexpensive recipes will clean virtually every type of produce.

Here is how Wellness Mama does it (and I’m hoping to follow suit):

1. How to Wash Most Fruits and Vegetables: The simplest and least expensive natural produce cleaner is plain white vinegar. For most produce with a skin, this is all I use. I’ll place the fruits and veggies in a freshly cleaned kitchen sink (or a large bowl), fill with water,  and add 1 cup of white vinegar.

I let soak for up to an hour, scrub gently and rinse. To prevent decay, I let dry fully before returning to the fridge.


2. How to Wash Lettuces and Greens: Lettuces and greens are more delicate and more difficult to wash. They also are more likely to contain insects or other little visitors.

For greens, I dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of water and add the juice of one lemon. I spray this on the greens, let sit for about a minute, and then add them to a sink of diluted vinegar water. I soak for about 15 minutes, rinse in cool water and dry completely (a salad spinner helps), before putting in the fridge.

Growing greens

How to Wash Berries: Berries are perhaps the most difficult to clean because they are so delicate and take on the flavor of anything they come in contact with (vinegar flavored blueberries anyone?).

I use diluted fresh lemon juice to clean berries. I mix 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and spray on the berries. I make sure the berries are well coated and then soak in fresh water for about 15 minutes. Dry completely before storing in the fridge!


Shoooweeee. This does seem like a lot of work – but I guess your conviction will lead you to do what you must. Green Goods also sells Triple Oranges’ Fruit and Veg Wash (500g) for R57.00 if you would like to try the ready-made option.

Picture credit: wallpaperbeta.comwww.goodfruitandvegetables.com.auwww.vermontvacation.comwww.npr.orgwww.destinyhoperose.comwww.activevegetarian.com

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