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Natural Cleaning

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

The Best Way To Wash Fruits and Vegetables to Remove Pesticides

Wondering what the best way to wash fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides is? Wonder no more! I’ve found the most effective way to do this, backed up by science.

Eating fruit and vegetables is a key element in leading a healthy lifestyle. However, many fruit and vegetables are grown using pesticides. After picking, these pesticides remain on the skin of fresh produce. Meanwhile, some pesticides can penetrate into the flesh of fruit and vegetables.

Some fruit and vegetables have a higher pesticide load than others. While buying organic is one of the best ways to reduce the number of pesticides on the produce we buy, it can be cost-prohibitive to shop organically. This is particularly so with the cost of living crisis impacting household budgets across the country. Thankfully, there are ways to remove pesticides from the skin of fruits and vegetables easily, effectively and cheaply, and backed up by science.

Scientists Say This Is The Best Way to Wash Fruits and Vegetables to Remove Pesticides

A person washing fruit in a sink with a blue text box that says the best way to wash fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides

A 2017 scientific study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, and published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry carried out research into washing fresh produce. Here they investigated the effectiveness of commercial and homemade washing agents in removing surface and internal pesticide residues from apples.

Interestingly this study established that pesticides that were found on the surface of the apples were most effectively removed by a common household ingredient. That ingredient being bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda). This was in comparison to using just tap water or bleach.

How To Wash Fruit and Vegetables To Remove Pesticides

According to this research, here are the best ways to wash your fruit and vegetables to remove pesticides. I’ve provided different methods, depending on how much produce you have to wash.

In each case, it’s best to wash your fruit and vegetables right before you plan to cook or eat them. This is because in many cases, moisture on your produce can cause it to go bad faster.

In The Sink

  1. First, wash your hands with soap and water to remove any dirt and germs from your hands.
  2. Next, clean your sink using a natural cleaning product to remove anything untoward in your sink.
  3. Now, fill your sink with cold water – approximately half full.
  4. Add three tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda to the water, and agitate the water to dissolve the powder.
  5. Place your fruit and vegetables in the water to wash them. Follow the instructions below for washing specific fruits and vegetables, before leaving them to soak for 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Finally, remove your fruit and vegetables from the water, and let them dry thoroughly before prepping or eating.

In A Bowl

  1. First, wash your hands with soap and water to remove any dirt and germs from your hands.
  2. Using a measuring jug, fill a clean bowl around half full with cold water. Make a note of how much water your bowl holds.
  3. Next, add 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda for approximately every 450 ml of cold water you added to the bowl, and stir to dissolve.
  4. Place your fruit and vegetables in the water to wash them. Follow the instructions below for washing specific fruits and vegetables, before leaving them to soak for 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Finally, remove your fruit and vegetables from the water, and let them dry thoroughly before prepping or eating.

Notes For Washing Specific Fruits and Vegetables

Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce or cabbage should be separated into their individual leaves before washing. This allows the bicarbonate of soda to get into all the nooks and crannies to remove surface pesticides.

Soft fruits and vegetables – such as strawberries, grapes or tomatoes – should be rubbed lightly with your fingers. This helps to gently loosen any chemical residue, dirt or wax – without damaging your produce.

Firm fruit and vegetables – think carrots, apples, potatoes, melon, or cucumber – can generally tolerate being scrubbed with a soft-bristle vegetable brush. This scrubbing action helps remove anything untoward on their surface.

Want About Pesticides That Penetrate The Skin Of Produce?

The researchers of the study note that washing apples with bicarbonate of soda reduce pesticide levels mostly from the surface. They advised that peeling the apples is more effective to remove the penetrated pesticides. However, they do note that many beneficial nutrients found in the apple peel will be lost. Apple peels contain 72% of the total amount of vitamin E and vitamin K contained within the apple. It also contains around half the total iron content, as well as all of the apple’s vitamin B9 content. Vitamin B9 is also known as folic acid.  

With this information in mind, I would say that washing your fruit and vegetables to remove surface dirt and pesticides is sufficient.

What If Soaking Produce For 12 -15 Minutes Isn’t Practical?

I’ll admit, soaking every single piece of fruit or vegetable for 12 to 15 minutes before you go to eat or cook with it isn’t always so practical. Putting barriers up to eating healthy food isn’t something I want to do either.

Simply soaking your fruit or veg for a minute or two in a little bicarbonate of soda, and giving it a scrub, admittedly may not be as effective as the longer soak time prescribed. However, it will remove some pesticides and dirt, and be clean enough to eat.

Why Are Pesticides Used On Fruit And Vegetables?

Pesticides are used on fruit and vegetables for a variety of reasons.  Pesticides help to protect food crops from plant diseases and pests. They are used to control weeds and/or insects that damage and destroy food crops.

However, pesticides are not without their controversy. Pesticides can contaminate land, water, and other plants. Their use can kill precious pollinators, such as bees, as well as other creatures, such as birds and fish. Pesticide use can also harm farmers, farmworkers, and local communities.

So grab some bicarbonate of soda and give your fruit a wash. Once you’ve done that, read up on the work of organisations such as Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK), which promotes safe and sustainable alternatives to hazardous pesticides. You can also check out the Good Food, Good Farming campaign, which campaigns for a radical transition of EU food and farming policies, and the RSPB’s calls for responsible pesticide management.

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Can You Use Baking Powder For Cleaning The Green Way?

Bicarbonate of soda and baking powder are both widely used in baking. Bicarbonate of soda is a key ingredient in green cleaning recipes. It would stand to reason that you can use baking powder for cleaning. But can you actually use baking powder for cleaning? Let’s take a look at if you can or can’t, and what you might want to use instead.

Peek into the cupboard of any home baker and you’ll find a tub of bicarbonate of soda and a tub of baking powder. Both are key ingredients when it comes to baking. Then peek into the cupboard of any green cleaner, and in amongst their eco-friendly cleaning essentials, you’ll find a tub of bicarbonate of soda, but no baking powder. Aren’t the two things interchangeable? Can’t you clean with both?

The truth is you shouldn’t use baking powder for cleaning with, because it has a different chemical composition that’s better suited to baking rather than cleaning. Want to know more? Let’s take a deep dive into why you can’t and what you might want to use instead.

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Baking Powder For Green Cleaning

A bowl of baking powder, with a spoon on a pink background with a blue text box that reads here's why you shouldn't use baking powder for cleaning.

Baking powder isn’t suitable for cleaning because it’s a mix of different ingredients that are less effective when it comes to cleaning. Baking powder is in fact a mix of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar and cornflour.

Understanding why baking powder is a mix of different ingredients requires a little knowledge of basic chemistry. I promise to keep this as simple as I can! Ready for the science? Let’s go!

In chemistry terms, bicarbonate of soda is a base, and cream of tartar is an acid. Bases are substances that can react with acids and neutralise them, often causing them to release gases.

In the case of baking powder, when added to a liquid, the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar react to form carbon dioxide bubbles and a tiny bit of salt. As such, baking powder is used to lighten the texture and increase the volume of baked goods, without making the baked goods dense.

What about the role of cornflour? Well, the cornflour is added to baking powder to prevent the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar from reacting too soon. Cornflour has great moisture absorption properties, so it helps to keep the other two chemicals dry. By acting as a buffer in this way, this means you get the benefits of the bicarb and cream of tartar chemical reaction in your baking, and not in the tub!

So Why Doesn’t Baking Powder Clean Well?

I mean, you technically can use baking powder to clean. It certainly won’t cause any harm to your surfaces or your health. The problem is its delicate chemical makeup. It’s this makeup that makes it a completely ineffective cleaner.

Why is this? Well, from what we’ve just learned about baking powder, you’ll know that as soon as the powder comes into contact with water, it’s going to react. This means it will immediately break down into carbon dioxide and salt. What this means in terms of cleaning, is that as soon as it’s added to water, you will end up with slightly bubbly and slightly salty water.

Salty bubbly water does not make for an effective cleaning solution. It leaves smear marks. It takes a whole lot more elbow grease to get sub-standard results. Plus it’s a pretty costly way of cleaning your home.

What Should You Use Instead of Baking Powder For Cleaning?

flat lay of natural cleaning products

There are tons of different natural ways to clean your home that are much cheaper and much more effective. So keep the baking powder for baking, not cleaning. Instead, try one of these ways to clean your home the non-toxic way:

Bicarbonate of Soda

Bicarbonate of soda on its own is fantastic at cleaning. Unlike baking powder, bicarbonate of soda is comprised of just one chemical – sodium bicarbonate.  Sodium bicarbonate reacts with oils and fats and dissolves them. This means that bicarbonate of soda will tickle dirt, grease, oil, and fats around the home with ease. What’s more, it does not react with water, so can act as a great mild abrasive.

Check out my full guide to cleaning with bicarbonate of soda to see just why it’s such a great cleaner, and what you can clean with it. Bicarbonate of soda is also cheap to buy in bulk.

Soda Crystals

Soda crystals are again an incredibly simple, one ingredient product – sodium carbonate. Simply speaking, this is a salt that contains no other additives.

Soda crystals have great oil, grease, and dirt cleaning properties.  This makes it great for cleaning things like your drains, and your washing machine, as well as greasy surfaces in your kitchen. And crucially, unlike baking powder, soda crystals don’t react with water when you clean with it!

See my guide to soda crystals uses around the home for ideas on how to effectively clean with this super cheap ingredient.

Borax

Borax is a key ingredient in many natural cleaning product recipes, particularly when it comes to laundry products. This is because it’s gentler than soda crystals yet stronger than bicarbonate of soda.  It’s also cold-water-soluble, unlike soda crystals, which cakes with cold water. See these uses for borax around the home for tips on where to start.

Castile Soap

Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap, that makes for an amazing non-toxic natural cleaning product. You can use it diluted in a variety of different applications, from making cleaning sprays to cleaning pastes. See my full guide to cleaning with castile soap to help get you started.

Vinegar

Vinegar is a key staple when it comes to green cleaning. And for good reason. It is incredibly cheap. It is incredibly effective. And it cleans almost anything with ease. See my full guide to cleaning with white vinegar for everything you need to know about cleaning with this eco-friendly powerhouse.

I hope this has helped answer the cleaning with baking powder question. If you are looking for more green cleaning assistance, then do check out my guide to natural cleaning product recipes. Here I talk you through my best recipes to make a wide range of effective non-toxic cleaning solutions for your whole home.