How to Wash Salad Greens (And Why You Absolutely Should)

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Learn how to wash salad greens the way professional chefs recommend.

Ever take a big bite of a refreshing salad—only to feel grit between your teeth? Yuck. If not rinsed properly, salad greens can carry a lot of dirt, sand and other contaminants that you do not want to eat. Read on to find out how to wash salad greens the right way. (Spoiler: If you’re rinsing them under the faucet, you’re doing it wrong.)

When to Wash Salad Greens

You can wash your greens as soon as you get home from the store; or wait to wash them until you’re prepping for a meal. There’s no wrong answer, so ultimately it comes down to personal preference. If you like to throw together quick salads for lunch, you might want to have your lettuce washed, shredded and ready to grab from the fridge. Store them in these lettuce keepers so they stay fresh even longer.

Do I Have to Wash Pre-Washed Lettuce?

The quick answer is: yes, you probably should wash pre-washed lettuce. No matter what the bag claims, pre-washed lettuce might not be as clean as you think. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages lettuce be washed with a bleach solution to kill harmful bacteria. The problem is, sometimes traces of bleach are left on the lettuce—and no one wants a bleach salad.

Furthermore, studies have found that the bleach solution isn’t always effective; meaning contaminates can still make their way to your kitchen even after the bleach treatment. So to be absolutely sure your pre-washed lettuce is free of both chemicals and bacteria, it’s best to wash it again.

The Tools You Need

How to Wash Your Lettuce

Step 1: Fill your sink

Fill your sink (or a large clean bowl) with cold water. If you use your sink, be sure to wash it thoroughly beforehand.

Step 2: Dunk the greens

Separate the greens and dunk them in the cold water. Swirl and agitate the water with the greens inside, so that the water gets into all the little nooks and crevices of the leaves.

Step 3: Let them soak

Leave the greens floating in the water for at least 10 minutes or so. As they soak, dirt and sand will fall to the bottom of the sink or bowl.

Step 4: Dry the greens

Lift the greens out and give them a gentle shake to remove any excess water. Then, place your greens in a salad spinner (don’t overload it) and spin to dry.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, try this hack: Wrap the wet greens in a couple of clean kitchen towels, then place the whole bundle in a plastic grocery bag. Tie the bag, and while holding the handles tightly, spin the bag around vigorously using arm circles. The motion will make the water slide off the leaves and soak into the towels. You’ll be a human salad spinner!

What Lasts Longer, Shredded Lettuce or Whole Heads?

Your shredded lettuce can last up to a week when properly stored, but whole heads last one to three weeks in the refrigerator. You should only wash and prep as much lettuce as you plan to use. Find more tricks for keeping lettuce fresh.

Use Your Greens in These Main Dish Salads
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Erica Young
Erica is a freelance lifestyle writer with a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Her favorite recipes are quick, easy and something her kids will actually eat. When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, roaming the aisles at Target or nursing her third Diet Coke of the day.