Does vinegar really help clean fruits or vegetables? This is the claim of some people in social media who use common white vinegar to wash their fruits. They also claim that vinegar works well for killing bacteria in vegetables.
In this article, we look at whether it’s safe to use this common kitchen pantry staple to sanitize produce. We explain why and how to clean fruits and vegetables with vinegar to get the most out of it.
Why Do We Need to Clean Fruits and Vegetables Before Eating or Cooking?
Fruits and veggies are among the healthiest foods in the world. They’re loaded with all sorts of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and fiber.
But, because they’re grown in nature, often in the ground, they can harbor dirt and sometimes bacteria. In addition to the things that are on their surface, there’s also the increasing risk of pesticides and herbicides.
Pesticide residues are toxic. That makes sense. After all they’re used to kill pests which are living things. So, it’s important to make sure that produce you eat is rinsed and cleaned of pesticides as well as any other health hazards that may come with them.
Does Vinegar Clean Fruits and Vegetables? And Is It Safe to Use?
The quick and simple answer to the latter question is yes. Vinegar is safe to use on fruits and vegetables. After all, you probably add it to your raw salad. In addition, some people use a vinegar solution to help prevent sliced fruits like apples from turning brown due to oxidation.
Common white vinegar is 5% acetic acid. It is this acidity that helps it kill bacteria. This is why besides being used in the kitchen for cooking or added to food, it works as a household cleaner.
Adding vinegar to water helps get rid of bacteria on surfaces. It disinfects and sanitizes the area by getting rid of germs that wiping or rinsing with water often don’t do thoroughly.
In addition to getting rid of diseases, vinegar also helps remove odors or stains that have stuck to fabrics.
When it comes to cleaning fruits and vegetables, there are also different types of vinegar available. The most common is white vinegar, which has around 5% acetic acid. Another people type people like to use is apple cider vinegar.
The latter is just as effective and comes with even more health benefits than regular white vinegar. That’s why many people drink apple cider vinegar daily.
How much strength the vinegar has depends on its acidity. There are some commercial formulations that offer higher concentrations. This makes them more potent. Although, for cleaning and disinfecting produce, your common white vinegar works very well.
How to Use Vinegar to Clean Fruits and Vegetables
Vinegar on its own to too concentrated for most purposes. Too much acetic acid that isn’t diluted can be harmful. For example, it is corrosive enough to harm the enamel of your teeth. This weakens the outer layer that protects your teeth. When damaged, it can make your teeth more sensitive to hot or cold food items.
For this reason, vinegar is often diluted with water. This gives you enough concentration to disinfect, kill bacteria or provide health benefits, without being too aggressive.
This is true for fruits and vegetables as well.
The best way to use vinegar to clean your fruits and veggies is to mix it with water. Solutions containing one part vinegar and one part water work. Research also suggests that one part vinegar to three parts water seems to be the most effective.
Once you have the vinegar solution, fill a bowl with it. Then soak the fruits or vegetables in the bowl for five to ten minutes.
People on social media also like to use their sink instead of a bowl. While your sink does give you more room to put all the fruits and veggies, it requires more preparation.
Before you use your sink to clean produce, it’s important to clean the sink itself. Sinks and faucets are notorious for harboring bacteria and germs. Depending on what you’ve been washing and how well you sanitize your sink after doing so, you will need to make sure that there are no germ residues left.
This is why we like using a bowl. It makes things a lot easier before and after.
Cleaning Tips for Different Types of Fruits and Vegetables
One of the things that make it hard to clean produce is that they come in different shapes and sizes. This is why we like using a bowl where you soak them all in.
But, there are other options as well. If you decide to do them one by one by hand, you can also use a spray bottle.
Cleaning Fruits and Vegetables with Smooth Skin
These are the easiest the clean. Fruits like apples and pears which have a smooth other layer makes it easier to wash. If you have a spray bottle, all you need to do is spray the entire fruit or veggie. Then rinse it off with water after 30 seconds.
To get rid of very small particles that are stuck to the skin, you can use your hands or a scrubber. We use an old but clean toothbrush. It’s a great way to easily cover the entire surface and save the used toothbrush for something else.
Cleaning Odd Shaped Fruits and Vegetables
For some fruits and many vegetables which have an odd or rough exterior it can be more difficult to clean. This is true for those that are delicate as well.
Veggies like broccoli, spinach and berries can be harder to clean. That’s because you don’t have one big, smooth object that you can easily control in your hand.
Other hard ones to clean are lettuce and cabbages. Because they have layers upon layers of leaves, it’s not easy to thoroughly clean them. For these we usually wash them in a bowl or container after separating the leaves or chopping them up. Then just rinse everything in the bowl with water after.
Final Cleaning Tips
With fruits and vegetables, the main concern for cleaning them are pesticides, bacteria, dirt and other small particles. Water by itself does a great job. But, vinegar gives you the extra peace of mind that you’ve killed the germs that are lurking in your produce.
Using a 3:1 ratio of water to vinegar is enough to get this job done. You can likewise go up to a ratio of 2:1 for more concentration. Finally, adding lemon juice, which is also acidic helps boost the cleaning solution’s potency. This lets you get rid of different kinds of bacteria like E.coli.