We all know that eating your fruits and vegetables is key to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. What we often forget is that produce can contain pesticides and bacteria. Yes, even your organic produce contains natural pesticides rather than synthetic chemicals. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, produce can become contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, and poor hygiene among people.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group compiles a list of the most and least contaminated produce and updates it every year.

Here is their list of the most contaminated produce, also known as the Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Kale
  12. Potatoes

And here is their list of the least contaminated produce known as the Clean 15:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn*
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet peas, frozen
  7. Papayas*
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew Melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Mushrooms

Nevertheless, washing your produce remains to be the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from possible illnesses and chemical contamination.

Now this should go without saying, however, it’s important remember to always wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap both before AND after handling fresh produce.

Once those hands are clean, remove your produce from any packaging and remove the stickers. Ensure that your countertop, sink or any utensils used in this process are clean before using any of these four methods to clean your produce.

* Tip: Most, if not all products are most likely already in your home! #savemoney

  1. Rinse your produce with cold water

A three-year study by researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that rinsing produce under cold water had immediately reduced pesticide residues for 9 out of 12 pesticides tested. According to the FDA, it’s important to avoid washing produce with soaps or detergents. This is because soap is designed for cleaning surfaces and hands, while detergent is designed to clean clothing. They aren’t formulated with consumption in mind.

Tip: To quicken the process, a colander is especially useful if you are cleaning fruit and vegetables that are loose, such as beans or fresh peas.

Research has also shown that most commercial produce cleaners are no more effective than plain water. However, there are several liquids that have shown to be even more effective than plain water, and serve as a great source for clean produce.

  1. Wash with a saltwater solution

A saltwater solution can serve as natural disinfectant. If you don’t have one, you can easily use sea salt as a substitute!

  1. Wash with vinegar

Just as with plain water and salt water solution, vinegar serves as a great way to eliminate the residue of four common pesticides – chlorpyrifos, DDT, cypermethrin, and chlorothalonil. Tip: by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice can make your solution more effective by increasing the acidity.

  1. Soak with baking soda

Depending on the fruits and veggies you’re cleaning, a baking soda solution might be the most effective method to remove pesticides according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. This study compared the effectiveness of plain water, Clorox bleach and baking soda and water solution. In the end, the baking soda solution was found to be most effective at removing pesticide residues both on the surface and beneath the skin of apples.

For practicing good food and kitchen hygiene, getting into the habit of knowing how to clean your procedure is important, whether it’s organic or conventional. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Making your own solution can be just as effective and even less costly. These methods also shouldn’t be stressful. This can be executed by just soaking your produce for a few minutes or rinsing with water for at least 30 seconds to enjoy your food safely. There are many methods to clean produce. Let us know what method works best for you!