Fruit and Vegetable Washes: Yes or No?

As much as we at Hemopet advocate feeding your animal and bird companions some fruits and vegetables, we also have been writing about what’s lurking in your water and food. So, you might be thinking, “Maybe I should reconsider the use of fruit and vegetable washes.” Are they better than water to rinse off your fruits and vegetables to get rid of bacteria, waxes, residues, mold, pesticides and fertilizers?

The University of Maine Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition compared the efficacy of one fruit and vegetable wash and two ozone systems to distilled water, using lowbush blueberries. They found that the fruit and vegetable wash was just as effective as distilled water at cleaning off microbes and residual pesticides. The distilled water removed more microbes than the two washes. The team ultimately advised to simply use distilled water to wash fruits and vegetables.

It is advised to use distilled water with the Neti Pot to relieve sinus congestion or in humidifiers, but what is it? Distilled water is heated to the boiling point and then the water vapor is collected to condense back to water. The distillation process leaves minerals and microbes behind. If you’ve ever tasted distilled water, you know it tastes bad because it does not have any minerals.

You can purchase distilled water at the grocery store or you can have an in-home distiller. We would advise you to purchase one that is NSF/ANSI 62 standard.

What about plain tap water?

Tennessee State University researchers looked into water compared to other aqueous solutions.


  1. Soak for 2 minutes in tap water, vegetable wash solution, 5% vinegar solution, or 13% lemon solution.


  1. Rinse under running tap water, rinse and rub under running tap water, brush under running tap water, or wipe with wet/dry paper towel.


The bacterium, Listeria innocua, was applied to the following fruits and vegetables:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Apples
  4. Lettuce


The team started with lettuce and tried the four different solutions. They found that soaking in lemon or vinegar solutions showed no significant difference compared to soaking in water for two minutes. So, they stopped the experiment with lemon and vinegar on the other selected produce: apples, tomatoes and broccoli.

Although the veggie wash impacted tomatoes in reducing the amount of bacteria, the difference was not enough to prefer fruit and vegetable washes over water.

Overall, they found that presoaking in water before rinsing significantly reduced bacteria in apples, tomatoes, and lettuce, but not in broccoli. However, soaking broccoli still reduced the amount of bacteria more so than the rinse only. Additionally, they discovered that wiping apples and tomatoes with a wet or dry paper towel showed lower bacterial reductions compared with soaking and rinsing procedures.

In their determination, it really comes down to how you wash your produce and the type.

How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

Honestly, most of us probably just do a quick rinse like it’s some sort of obligation.

So, how should you wash your fruits and veggies? Clearly, one size does not fit all.

Colorado State University has video tutorials for several types of fruits and veggies. This is a good place to start.


Aubrey, Allison. “What Does It Take to Clean Fresh Food?” Morning Edition, NPR, 20 Sept. 2007, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742?storyId=14540742.

“Bulletin #4336, Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables – Cooperative Extension Publications – University of Maine Cooperative Extension.” Cooperative Extension Publications, University of Maine, http://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4336e/.

Kilonzo-Nthenge, Agnes, et al. “Efficacy of Home Washing Methods in Controlling Surface Microbial Contamination on Fresh Produce.” Journal of Food Protection, vol. 69, no. 2, 2006, pp. 330–334., doi:10.4315/0362-028x-69.2.330, https://jfoodprotection.org/doi/pdf/10.4315/0362-028X-69.2.330.

“Wash Fruits and Vegetables.” University of Maine News, University of Maine, 13 Jan. 2005, http://umaine.edu/news/blog/2005/01/13/wash-fruits-and-vegetables/.

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