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How to Wash Vegetables and Fruits

Updated on May 1, 2013
Fresh fruits and vegetables are often contaminated with pesticides are coated with wax.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are often contaminated with pesticides are coated with wax. | Source

Many vegetables and fruits arrive at our grocery stores with labels indicating they have already been washed. Others have no such label. Some produce items are coated with a protective wax to slow the ripening process. While some vegetables and fruits may have been washed, there is no guarantee of how well they were washed nor that pesticides and bacteria were removed from them. Wax coated vegetables and fruits tend to store pesticides and bacteria beneath the wax and on top of the skin. This, of course, creates risk for disease.

Washing fruits and vegetables is another step to be taken in preparing a meal. But, doing so can remove both harmful chemicals and bacteria from your diet. Take a few moments and learn why and how to wash your vegetables and fruits.

Toxic Fruits and Vegetables?


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Strawberries, grapes, blueberries and other soft skinned fruits and vegetables can be soaked in a vinegar and water solution for 2 minutes to remove pesticides, bacteria and wax.
Strawberries, grapes, blueberries and other soft skinned fruits and vegetables can be soaked in a vinegar and water solution for 2 minutes to remove pesticides, bacteria and wax. | Source

Pesticides on Vegetables and Fruits

By definition a pesticide is any chemical designed to destroy plant, fungal or animal pests. It is common agricultural practice to treat vegetables and fruits with pesticides while they are growing to ensure a good crop. But, how much of that pesticide remains on our fruits and vegetables when we eat them?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an organization that advocates for chemical free fruits and vegetables and being sure that the public is fully educated about the use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture. According to the EWG, pesticides are found on the outside of over 90% of vegetables and fruits and many are found inside the fruit as well. That means that simply peeling fruits and vegetables will not completely rid them of toxic chemicals.

Annually, the EWG establishes the Dirty Dozen list which identifies the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables on the market. The 2013 list includes the following:

  1. apples;
  2. celery;
  3. cherry tomatoes;
  4. cucumbers;
  5. grapes;
  6. hot peppers;
  7. nectarines;
  8. peaches;
  9. potatoes;
  10. strawberries;
  11. kale; and,
  12. summer squash.

Pesticides have been linked to nervous system toxicity, various cancers, birth defects, and learning disabilities in children. So, we all know we need to eat our vegetables and fruits. But how can we eat them safely? The experts recommend washing our vegetables and fruits with something more than water before we eat them. While we may not be able to remove all of the pesticides we will remove a good portion of them and make our food much safer to eat.

Red peppers and sweet potatoes may be coated with wax.
Red peppers and sweet potatoes may be coated with wax. | Source

Wax on Fruits and Vegetables

Both organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables may be coated with wax to slow the ripening process, protect the skin during shipping and to decrease moisture loss. Natural wax products are better for use on food and include carnauba wax (from the carnauba palm tree), beeswax and shellac (from the lac beetle). Certified organic fruits and vegetables may be coated with these natural waxes.

Paraffin wax is petroleum based and is typically used for making candles. You may be surprised to find it on the outside of your sweet potatoes, coconuts and breadfruit. Some products like ethyl alcohol, ethanol and milk casein may be added to even natural wax sources.

Some non-organic fruits and vegetables that are routinely waxed include:

  • cucumbers;
  • bell peppers;
  • eggplant;
  • potatoes;
  • apples;
  • lemons;
  • limes; and,
  • oranges.

Wax on the outside of any fruit or vegetable can trap pesticides and bacteria between the wax and the skin. Both can be transferred to the inner part of your vegetable or fruit when cutting or slicing. Even peeling the wax coated skin can cause pesticides and bacteria from the skin to enter the meat of your product.

How to Wash Fruit and Vegetables with Vinegar

Fruit and vegetables can be cleaned easily at home with vinegar and water. Vinegar is an effective cleaning agent because the acid it contains kills the majority of bacteria on the surface of fruits and vegetables. It also helps to dissolve the wax coating on the outside of your produce.

Items needed to clean your fruits and vegetables include:

  • water;
  • vinegar;
  • spray bottle;
  • large bowl or basin; and,
  • paper towels.

To clean hard skinned fruits and vegetables, use a spray bottle. Combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part water in the spray bottle. Completely cover the fruit with the vinegar and water mist. Gently clean the entire skin of the fruit with your vegetable brush. Rinse with clean fresh water. Dry with paper towels.

To clean soft skinned fruits and vegetables, combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part water in a large bowl or basin. Soak your fruits and vegetables for 2 minutes. Scrub them gently if needed with a vegetable brush. Rinse with clean fresh water. Dry with paper towels.

Leafy greens, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower should be soaked in a large basin of the vinegar and water. After soaking for 2 minutes, rinse with clean fresh water. Dry with paper towels.


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    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 3 years ago from India

      Very good hub. It is useful, informative and very helpful. It is very important to wash the fruits before consuming.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful and informative hub indeed!

      I agree, washing vegetables and fruits before consuming is very important for health care. Especially those, which we consume raw, such as apples. Lot of care should be taken to clean the leafy vegetables as well.

      Thanks for sharing this useful hub!

    • sarifearnbd profile image

      Shariful Islam 3 years ago from Bangladesh

      It is very important for healthcare to wash the fruits before consuming. Thank you for the helpful tip

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 3 years ago

      This is a useful and informative hub. It's also detailed and it's great that you also gave information on wax and pesticides aside from your explanation of how to wash vegetables and fruits. It is very important to wash these things first even if they have supposedly been washed already to prevent diseases.

    • kansasyarn profile image
      Author

      Teresa Sanderson 3 years ago from Rural Midwest

      My Cook Book, So many things to learn about for our health. Thanks for reading!

      ChitrangadaSharan, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      sarfearnbd, So glad you took the time to read and comment!

      Ceres Schwarz, As far as the washing of fruits and vegetables, if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself! Thanks for reading!

    • Chris Achilleos profile image

      Chris Achilleos 3 years ago

      Hi kanvasyarn,

      I must say that this is an excellent hub, Well done! You have presented a very important issue, while also offering great advice on how to protect our selves from pesticides and bacteria which could harm us. Thank you,

      Voted up, interesting and useful! and certainly sharing with followers :)

      Chris Achilleos

    • kansasyarn profile image
      Author

      Teresa Sanderson 3 years ago from Rural Midwest

      Chris, Thanks so much for your kind comments! Thanks for the share and votes up!

    • seoblazeindia profile image

      SEOBLAZEINDIA 3 years ago from delhi,india

      Well done...your advice is really excellent....

    • kansasyarn profile image
      Author

      Teresa Sanderson 3 years ago from Rural Midwest

      seoblazeindia, The more I learn about how our foods are grown, the more I want to share with everyone. There is so much out there that is good for us, but our farming industry has contaminated so much of it. It is important to know how to take care of ourselves to prevent illness or injury from chemicals. Thanks for reading!

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      This information is so important. Shared and voted up! I wash my berries and grapes in a colander.

    • kansasyarn profile image
      Author

      Teresa Sanderson 3 years ago from Rural Midwest

      Carly, I agree! There are so many chemicals being used on our food products before they get into our hands (and mouths!). A little extra care to clean them really can help us avoid other health problems along the way.

    • rexy profile image

      rexy 3 years ago

      Great Hub... knowing that fruit are waxed... and from past experience l have seen children in school puffing on an apple and rubbing on shirt to make it shine and than eat it! so knowing that fruit is waxed... but never knew how to remove that wax... Thanks for such valuable information ...

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      This is a fascinating hub on washing produce before you eat them. Great job and voted up!

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