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How to Clean the “Dirty Dozen” Fruits and Vegetables

The "Dirty Dozen" refers to 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be covered in pesticide residue. (Yuck!) Here's how to safely clean each one.

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StrawberriesTaste of Home

Strawberries

To help remove pesticides and bacteria, rinse your fresh strawberries in saltwater. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt for every cup of warm water and let cool before adding your strawberries. Let them soak for a couple of minutes, then rinse under cool running water.

Once clean, pat the berries dry with a clean cloth. And if you don’t think you can eat them all within a few days, keep them in a produce-saving container.

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Spinach

Simply running water over your spinach probably won’t make it clean enough to eat. Instead, fill a clean sink or large bowl with cold water and swish your salad greens around. This dislodges any grit that might be stuck in the leaves.

Once clean, pat the spinach dry with a clean tea towel or run it through a salad spinner.

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bright nectarines in the marketShutterstock/lanych

Nectarines

Before biting into a juicy nectarine, give it a baking soda bath (just another handy use for baking soda). It’s one of the most effective ways to eliminate germs and bacteria, including E. coli.

Just combine one ounce of baking soda with roughly 100 ounces of water, then let your nectarines soak for 12 to 15 minutes. Rinse the nectarines well and enjoy.

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ApplesTaste of Home

Apples

There’s a reason apples at the grocery store are so shiny—they’ve been sprayed with a chemical to give them a waxy sheen. Using a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the outside of the apple will remove this layer much more effectively than rinsing alone.

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Grapes

Grapes are one of the hardest fruits to clean properly. The solution? Baking soda and salt. Place your grapes in a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda. Shake the bowl to evenly coat each grape, then rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Pat the grapes dry with a fresh towel and get snacking—or try one of our delicious recipes using grapes, like this roasted grape galette.

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Fresh Peaches On Green Wood SurfaceTaste of Home

Peaches

Because peaches have such thin skin, it’s best to use your hands (not a bristled brush) when washing.

Even when you’re peeling peaches to make a delicious dessert-like peach cobbler, you should still wash the fruit first. If not, you risk some of the leftover pesticides soaking into the peach itself.

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Tmbstk Kale 2017 B10 31 36bTaste of Home

Kale, Collard and Mustard Greens

Like other leafy vegetables, kale, collard greens and mustard greens are often a bit sandy or dirty when you buy them. To give these greens a good washing, pop them in a sink of cool water and swish them around with your fingers. This will help dislodge any grit caught in the leaves.

Then remove the greens and dry them well. A salad spinner works great here (and you can use it for these other tasks, too, to really get your money’s worth).

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Fresh Bing Cherries In Wooden Box On Blue Wood SurfaceTaste of Home

Cherries

Cherries, like apples and grapes, tend to have a waxy chemical coating. You can remove it by soaking fruit in a vinegar solution. Fill a large bowl with water, add a cup of distilled white vinegar and then pour in your cherries. Let ’em soak for 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

When you’re at the store, be sure to grab the biggest jug of vinegar you can find; it’s cheap and you’ll find plenty of uses around the house.

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Pears

The fruit and vegetable wash you see for sale is often not effective, and can also contain chemicals like chlorine.

DIY a safer wash at home by mixing lemon juice, vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spritz on your pear, rub gently and then rinse with water.

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Tomatoes

A quick rinse under the faucet won’t cut it for tomatoes (or any produce, really). The key is to hold your tomatoes under cold running water for 30 to 60 seconds and rub gently to remove germs, dirt and pesticide residue.

Once clean, be sure to store your tomatoes properly. Ripe tomatoes can go in the fridge and unripe tomatoes should be left to ripen on the counter at room temperature.

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Heads of celery. Close-upValentyn Volkov/Shutterstock

Celery

Always separate celery stalks before washing (don’t wash the whole bunch together) to make sure you get in all the nooks and crannies. If you can’t get rid of those brown streaks at the base of the stalk, cut that section off before eating.

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Hot PeppersTaste of Home

Peppers

When washing peppers—be they bell peppers or spicy peppers—we recommend using cold or lukewarm water. Why? Rinsing a cold vegetable with hot water can actually cause bacteria to soak into the vegetable.

Amanda Tarlton
As both a freelance lifestyle writer and editor for a national teen magazine, Amanda spends most of her time creating #content. In those (rare) moments when she's not at her desk typing furiously, she's likely teaching a hot yoga class, reading the latest chick-lit or baking a batch of her famous scones.
Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
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