Do you wash your produce? If yes, how? If no, why not?

In a research survey, 6 percent of people claimed they never or seldom washed their produce. Some people just don’t want to and others don’t think they need to because they only buy organic foods.

Regardless of what you may have heard before, most produce needs to be washed before consumption to prevent foodborne illness. Even if you only buy organic, contamination can happen on the way from the farm to your table. All it takes is one person to touch the apple you later buy for you or a family member to get sick.

Are you a big gardener? You should always wash the produce you grow, because there could be contaminants in the processed soil or manure used.

When is the best time to wash your produce? Many people wash their produce as soon as they get home from the grocery store, before putting it away. While this is a safe practice, it may not be the best.

Bacteria can grow during storage, so it is actually best to wash it right before use. Also, waiting to wash may mean you can store vegetables and fruits a bit longer.

Another question when washing produce is “what is the best way?”

Nowadays, there is a “great” product for all occasions, so you may have seen chemical rinse products for fruits and vegetables being marketed.

According to research by the University of Maine, chemical rinses like Fit, Air-Zone XT-301 Ozone Water Purifier, and J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer are no more effective than water at removing potentially harmful microbes.

Therefore, the recommended way to wash produce is with clean, potable cold water! This reduces up to 99 percent of all microbes. For full research info, visit

Some produce, like broccoli or leafy greens, is harder to clean because of uneven surfaces. Remove outer leaves of greens and thoroughly rinse interior leaves.

If you purchase packed vegetables labeled “washed,” “ready-to-eat” or “triple washed” you do not need to rewash them. It can change the quality of the produce.

It is best to scrub hard-skinned vegetables with your hands or with a clean vegetable brush.

When you are done washing produce, put it on a clean towel and pat dry.

Check out the Hancock County Extension website at for a short video on safe produce practices from store to table.

If you are one of the 6 percent who currently don’t wash produce, you should begin washing items just prior to using them today. While cleaning produce may be boring and a little time consuming, it is a simple way to prevent foodborne illness from happening!

Short is a Bluffton University dietetic intern with the Ohio State University Extension of Hancock County.