DIY Ways to Wash Produce

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Perhaps you’ve seen those handy spray bottles of fruit and vegetable wash in the stores. I know I’ve seen them and I’ve been tempted to buy them a few times too. But before you go for that convenient option, you might want to try one of these easy and DIY ways to naturally wash your produce instead.

apples and strawberries that have been washed at home with vinegar

These options use some familiar items you most likely have around the kitchen already: vinegar, baking soda, and perhaps salt too. Each of these ingredients are combined with water to create a washing environment that can help clean produce more thoroughly than just a rinse with plain water. However if you research this subject, you’ll likely find a wide variation in the measurements folks are using, and in fact lots of people really don’t measure. Many times it’s just a “little bit in a sink full of water” kind of approach.

So for what it’s worth, here a few of my thoughts on the subject of making your own produce wash (for soaking or for spraying) and some ideas for measurement amounts to use too.

A Vinegar & Water Wash {Keeps Berries Fresh Too!}

First, let’s look at one of my favorite helpful DIY ingredients – vinegar. A vinegar and water wash can be very helpful for cleaning grapes and berries, especially strawberries. Strawberries so often seem to start going mushy with spots of mold before you can use them all up. A quick vinegar and water wash will help to kill the mold spores that might already be on the strawberry surface which in turn will extend the life of the strawberries by keeping them fresh longer.

A handy tool for washing your berries with a vinegar and water wash is a salad spinner. I’m currently using this Cuisinart Salad Spinner. The colander bowl inside the salad spinner makes it easy to lift the berries out and strain them when they’re done soaking. If you don’t have a salad spinner, any bowl will work for soaking the berries too.

I used 1/2 cup vinegar with 8 cups of water. This size mixture fits well in a bowl or salad spinner. Give your berries a quick rinse with cool water first. You can just keep them in the carton from the store when you do this first rinse if you wish.

Then add the berries to the vinegar/water mixture and let them soak for 2 to 5 minutes. Softer berries like raspberries should only soak about 2 minutes, while firmer berries like strawberries can go 5 minutes.

After the soaking time, remove the berries from the vinegar/water and don’t rinse them. Just set them out on a clean towel to dry.

Once the berries are dry (you can give them a final pat with the towel to make sure they are dry), you can put them back in the container. It’s a good idea to line the bottom of the container with a piece of paper toweling on the bottom. I use this same paper towel trick to keep my lettuce and other greens fresh longer too!

Will the berries taste like vinegar when you do this? My experience so far has been No – they taste fine and they last longer too.

If you would like to use a vinegar/water soak in a larger amount, I would use about 1 cup of vinegar with a bowl or sink filled with about 16 to 20 cups of water. This vinegar and water method can be used for other fruits and vegetables besides berries too.

A Baking Soda & Water Wash for Produce

Another DIY method you can use for washing produce is to add some baking soda to the washing and soaking water. I found this article at Consumer Reports interesting about using baking soda to wash produce to remove pesticide residue and decided to use their ratio of ingredients. However I wanted to soak a sink full of apples rather than just using the couple cups of water they talked about so I had to increase their measurements. I used 1/3 cup baking soda in my sink filled with 30 cups of water. I let the apples soak for 15 minutes and then set them out on a towel to dry.

Apples that have been soaked in baking soda and water to clean them

Once again, a baking soda and water mixture can be used for other fruits and vegetables too. Just let them soak for about 15 minutes, rinse, and then set them out to dry. If you want to use a smaller size mixture to fit in a bowl, I would do a spoonful of baking soda with about 6 cups of water. Make sure the produce is in fact completely dry when you pack them up to put them away in the refrigerator.

What About a Salt & Water Soak?

Finally, I’ll offer up this last suggestion because I found this article by Dr. Greger at NutritionFacts.org informative about the results of soaking produce in a salt water solution. His suggestion was it had to be at least a 10% salt solution which is 1 part salt to 9 parts water. Based on that, I made a mixture of 1/4 cup salt with 2-1/4 cups water.

BUT – I chose to soak some baby carrots in this mixture and they did in fact end up tasting salty and almost bitter when I was done even after rinsing. I ended up throwing them all away. I’m not sure what fruits and vegetables this could be used for, but thought I would at least share my experience.

Can We Make a DIY Produce Wash Spray?

The ideas shared so far have all been in bowls, sinks, or salad spinners. What if you really like those handy dandy sprays? Is there a “Make Your Own” option for those?

If you want a DIY produce wash spray, I would stick with the vinegar and water strategy. I would keep the vinegar ratio fairly low too. A mixture of 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle is a good starting point. You can give the produce an initial rinse with plain water, then spray it with the homemade veggie wash spray, let the produce rest for a few minutes with the spray on it (or give it a scrub if needed), and then rinse again with water.

A bottle of homemade produce wash

Which ever method you choose, make sure the washed fruits or vegetables are dry when you pack them away again in the refrigerator. Too much moisture can cause them to get mushy or moldy faster. Putting a piece of paper toweling in the container with them is another simple DIY way to combat moisture and early spoilage.

strawberries in a container with paper towel to keep them fresh

Related Reading:

DIY Ways to Wash Produce

If you'd like to give your fruits and vegetables a more thorough cleaning than just rinsing them under water, try one of these DIY ideas for either soaking your produce or using a homemade spray.
Author: Beverly

Materials:

  • Vinegar or Baking Soda
  • Water

Instructions:

3 ways to use Vinegar as a produce wash:

  • Idea #1 – Add 1/2 cup of Vinegar to about 8 cups of water in a salad spinner or large bowl. This is especially helpful for berries to make them last longer. Rinse the produce and then soak them in the vinegar and water mixture for 2 to 5 minutes. Softer berries like raspberries should only soak for 2 minutes while firmer berries like strawberries or blueberries can soak for 5 minutes. Then remove them from the soaking water, do not rinse, and set them out on a towel to dry. Make sure they are thoroughly dry before packing them away. A piece of paper toweling placed in the container with the washed berries will help them last longer too.
  • Idea #2 – For a larger batch of soaking mixture, add 1 cup vinegar to about 16 to 20 cups of water in a clean sink and let produce soak for 5 to 15 minutes. If these are fruits and vegetables that don't easily mold like berries, then you can rinse them when you are done soaking, set them out on a towel to completely dry.
  • Idea #3 – If you would like to make a homemade produce cleaning spray, mix 2 tablespoons vinegar with one cup of water in a spray bottle. Give the produce an initial rinse with plain water, then spray it with the homemade veggie wash spray, let the produce rest for a few minutes with the spray on it (or give it a scrub if needed), and then rinse again with water.

2 Ways to use Baking Soda as a produce wash:

  • Idea #1 – To soak produce items using baking soda, combine 1/3 cup baking soda with about 30 cups of water in a clean sink. Let items soak for about 15 minutes, then rinse them with cool water, and set out on a towel to completely dry.
  • Idea #2 – To make a smaller batch of the baking soda mixture, add a spoonful of baking soda to about 6 cups of water in a mixing bowl. Let items soak for about 15 minutes, rinse, and then set out on a towel to completely dry.

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