It’s almost peak summer produce season, which means it is prime time for juicy tomato sandwiches, vibrant main-dish salads, and as many fresh berries and peaches as you can possibly eat. Whether your vegetables and fruit come from the farmers’ market, the grocery store, or from your own backyard, one thing is for sure—they will need to be washed.
You may have noticed a sudden wave of bottled fruit and vegetable washes hitting store shelves, or make-it-yourself versions popping up in your social feeds. Some cleaners can be applied with spray bottles, others are for soaking produce, and some are disposable wipes. These products not only claim to remove dirt and harmful bacteria, but also waxes and pesticides. Ingredients vary by brand, but many contain water, along with things like ethyl alcohol, oil (typically corn or coconut oil), glycerin, and citrus extracts. DIY versions are usually made with a combination of water, distilled white vinegar, and lemon juice.
Watch: The Reason Grocery Stores Spray Water on Their Produce Will Blow Your Mind
So are they really worth the money? According to the Food and Drug Administration, no. The FDA says regular old water and a clean produce brush will get the job done. Wash all produce thoroughly—especially the skin, even if you plan to peel it—under running water before preparing and eating. A produce brush can be helpful for cleaning items like melons, cucumbers, and potatoes. The FDA adds: “Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended.”
One more suggestion from the FDA (that you’re probably not doing): Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling fresh produce. This extra step adds another level of protection against cross-contamination, so you can eat that carton of blueberries with abandon.