Is This the Best Way to Wash an Apple?

October 26, 2017

We’re here to let you know about the findings of a tantalizing new study. Its name? The “Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples.” Or, in simpler terms, the best way to wash an apple. Researchers from the University of Massachusettes sought a method to rid the fruit of pesticide residue, both on its surface and beneath. The pesticides in question were thiabendazole and phosmet.

The test compared three washing agents: a baking soda solution, a Clorox bleach solution, and good old tap water. The FDA recommends giving your produce a scrub under the faucet to remove a layer of pesticides, while apple harvesters soak freshly picked bounty in Clorox baths. This study sought to test the effectiveness of two common methods.

What the team ultimately discovered was that, of the options, baking soda was the most effective in clearing the presence of chemicals. The scientists also point out that the two-minute Clorox bleach bath administered postharvest is an ineffective method for completely removing pesticide residues. Nonetheless, because nothing is ever perfect, the study is quick to indicate that no method, not even baking soda, was able to remove the pesticides that had penetrated the skin. To ameliorate this, they recommend pulling out a peeler and taking off that top layer. In which case, you'll lose the nutrients that the peel provides. Can we ever win?

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Knowledge is power, they say—even if that knowledge makes us increasingly anxious about the state of our food. Next time I reach for an apple, maybe I’ll also grab some baking soda and a peeler, or maybe I’ll just walk to the faucet.

What's your apple washing technique? Let us know how you scrub in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BerryBaby
  • caninechef
  • judy
  • AntoniaJames
  • CalamityintheKitchen
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


BerryBaby October 30, 2017
A day or two after I read this, was watching a food show. They were making caramel apples. Their method for cleaning apples was plain, hot water.
caninechef October 27, 2017
I doubt if the chlorine bath at harvest is geared to pesticide removal. It seems to be targeted toward reduction of bacteria, yeast and molds. This makes sense as with the number of apples (1-2 thousand) in a bin a grower does not want anything spreading within the tight confines of an apple bin.
BerryBaby October 27, 2017
When we were kids we ate vegetables right out of the garden (tomatoes, steawberries, carrots, we wiped the dirt off!) and never got sick. I still eat tomatoes right off the vine.
Melons I wash with Dawn before cutting. They now come with a sticker stating to wash first. Find what works for you.🙂
judy October 27, 2017
Whether organic or regular (but usually organic) I scrub them with baking soda paste. All produce is dirty from handling. If I think there is a wax coating, I use a small drop of Dawn dish soap, and the baking sod with a bit of water to make a paste, and scrub apple. then repeat just with baking soda. Note that if I do this food tastes much better. Water is not enough. would you think of washing your hands with just water? Never. Need an emulsifier and something rough to get thru the grit, break down the pesticides and wax and then remove the grime from the surface of the fruit or veggie. I do this will all whole veggies that have a skin: stone fruit, pears, apples, oranges, etc; potatoes, summer and winter squash, carrots, and other root veggies. for lettuces, grapes and other small and odd shaped produce I make a water, baking sod and vinegar solution. Put produce in, sprinkle over baking soda, sprinkle with vinegar (I store in ole wine bottle with pour spout so that i can drizzle vinegar over baking soda) Add small amount of water, swish around in solution, fill bowl with water and swish some more. Drain, and rinse. You will note that the first wash with solution the water feels a bit slimy. the second should feel clean. If not, rinse a second time with clear water. Everything tastes better when I do the, even preached field greens and lettuces. I think the only thing I don't do this way are onions and mushrooms. Mushroooms are grown in soil dark underground. I soak those in warm water to loosen dirt, and drain and rinse 2-3 times until water is clean. this sounds like a lot of work but I have been doing this or about 15 years, It is second nature. Washing everything makes the final product taste so much better. Organic and conventional. Happy Clean eating folks.
AntoniaJames October 26, 2017
How much does it help to buy organic apples? ;o)
CalamityintheKitchen October 26, 2017
Yeah, I do find it a little odd that this article doesn't mention the solution of buying organic....
msmely October 27, 2017
Thing is, organic doesn't mean pesticide-free. It doesn't even mean free of synthetic pesticides. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=9874504b6f1025eb0e6b67cadf9d3b40&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:

Still gotta wash them apples.
BerryBaby October 26, 2017
Tap water and dry them off. Same procedure for over 50 years.