With growing concerns about potential food contamination and the possible damaging effects of the waxes coating fruits and vegetables when they are shipped, it is more important than ever to thoroughly clean produce before cooking or eating it. Although several products are available in stores for cleaning produce, you can create your own produce wash at home.

Fruit and Vegetable Wash Recipes

Although the FDA recommends using only water to wash fruits and vegetables, you may want to add an antibacterial ingredient to your fruit and vegetable wash to be sure that your produce is germ-free.

The most common antibacterial ingredients recommended for cleaning produce are lemon juice and white vinegar. In addition to eliminating germs on produce, these ingredients are particularly effective because their acidic composition can dissolve the waxy coating often applied to thick-skinned produce such as apples and cucumbers.

Make a solution of one part active ingredient–lemon juice or white vinegar–to one part water, and put it in a spray bottle to keep by the kitchen sink. When you’re washing fruits and vegetables with thicker skins, such as apples, citrus fruits, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes, spray them with your solution, taking care to thoroughly coat all surfaces of the produce. Let the produce sit for a few minutes, then rinse it thoroughly.

If the fruits and vegetables have a waxy coating, you may want to also scrub them lightly with a soft vegetable brush (available at kitchen supply stores). You can also add baking soda or salt to your produce wash solution: The grains will help to naturally scrub away wax.

Potatoes and carrots should be scrubbed well, because they often have residue of the soil they were grown in clinging to them, including the fertilizer and chemicals that were applied to the soil.

Porous fruits such as peaches and berries may absorb some of the acidic flavor of the lemon juice or vinegar, so spray them lightly and rinse immediately.

Never use a spray on mushrooms that may add a flavor. Wash them with water only, to avoid absorption of other flavors.

To wash leafy vegetables such as lettuce, add a teaspoon of your active ingredient to a large bowl of cool water, and allow the leaves to soak for two minutes. Rinse thoroughly afterward to wash away loosened soils. Pat dry with paper towels to keep your lettuce, spinach or other green leafy vegetables from becoming soggy.