A Day in the Life

Washing my Produce

I talk a lot about washing my produce and avoiding toxins in my produce, but I never shared how to do it – or why.

I admit, at first, I bought a fruit wash on a whim, and since I had it, I used it. Before that, I rinsed my fruit, but didn’t do much more.

Why you should wash your fruits and vegetables

I’m sure there’s at least one person wondering why I’m so glad I upgraded from just rinsing my produce off. In fact, I KNOW there’s at least one person, because he lives in my house. When it comes to health concerns, I’m the health nut and Ranger’s the junk food junkie. (he says at least he’s enjoying his time dying slowly). We’ll see what he says if he ever suddenly becomes allergic to everything, too.

Even though I grow most of my produce (except this year), I still live in an agricultural community. I cannot guarantee that my neighbors don’t spray their fields for pesticides. I also cant guarantee that their fertilizer isn’t full of yucky stuff I don’t want in my food. I read a soil conservation survey that found over 40 pesticides, nine heavy metals, and tons of other yucky stuff like bacteria and synthetic compounds in the fertilizer. the thing about dirt is that it’s not going to stay in one place. Your soil will mix with your neighbor’s. It’s not enough just to eat organic or grow organic. In my personal opinion, organic doesn’t exist any more. I’m sure there are quite a few people who will argue with me on that, but I did give the disclaimer on personal opinion, so let them argue. I cant guarantee that my “organic” fruit did not come in contact with some non-organic compound.  But that is why I feel it is so important to wash my produce! Especially because I like to use as much of my fruits and vegetables as I can, including peels/skins.

And what if you do buy or grow organic produce? If you grow produce, you know who touched it, and you’re a little more confident that they’ve washed their hands (a little more confident. I’ve had a toddler. And even though she was the type to hate “gick” on her hands, I still wouldn’t want to eat out of them most of the time!). But what about the stranger in California or Mexico harvesting your produce? Do you know that they washed their hands? That’s regulated, right? But what about the person who packaged the produce, loaded the truck, unloaded the truck, and put it on the produce display? I’d like to trust them. It’s their job not to spread contaminants. But that’s still not all the people who have touched your produce. There’s the other customers in the store! I have actually met a mother who brought her child to the store with hand foot and mouth disease! Yeah, we all washed our hands after finding out THAT tidbit came out.  And our produce. And anything that touched any part of the store (The cashier actually halted after she left and wiped everything down before checking me out. Thank heavens).

After I bought my fruit wash (oh a whim, remember?) and started using it, it just became a habit and one of those things you just … do. Like brushing your teeth or washing your hands. It seems wrong to not use something now. I wasn’t really stuck on the product until making apple juice with my in-laws. They added bleach to the wash water. I had mini nightmares. I’ve known the harm of bleach for a while. I know some people demand bleach, but if the idea of washing the fruit is to remove toxins, I don’t want to use a TOXIN to remove other toxins. That doesn’t make sense.  You can’t tell me your food doesn’t absorb it. So I did a little digging, and I’m glad I did. I’ve learned so much!

So, here are 4 alternatives to bleach:

1) Environne Fruit and Vegetable wash

There are many pre-made washes on the market, but the only pre-made wash I’ve ever used has been Environne Foaming Fruit & Vegetable Wash, but I don’t have any proof that they’re as good as they say they are. However, the ingredient list looks promising.

(photo from Amazon.com, along with affiliate link)

The only ingredient here that worries me is the Polysorbate 20; but in the bigger bottles, it isn’t included. I think it must be related to the foam? According to the Environne website, it shouldn’t be an issue, because it can be derived from safe and natural ingredients, and they claim that they use the safe stuff, but I advise you to take info from a product’s website with a little grain of salt.

To use, squirt one to three pumps into my sink as it’s filling with water. Then I just drop my fruit in, pick it up, and wipe the fruit off to get any remaining residue. I wouldn’t let it soak, like I do with DoTerra, because soaking fruit too long will replace some of the good fruit liquid  This is a good time to use that Norwex veggie cloth.There are other products similar to this on the market, but I’ve never tried any of them.

The best time to use this product is right before you intend to use the produce you are washing, as it also strips away the waxes that help to keep some produce fresher longer.

2) Norwex Fruit and Veggie Cloth

To get us started, Norwex has a fruit and veggie cloth. It is great for something quick and simple. Google before and after pictures. You’ll be impressed. It’s a great cloth for getting anything off the surface. But, it’s not a liquid. Norwex used to sell a wash, but they’ve discontinued it. I wish they hadn’t. I love Norwex products! I didn’t link to anything here, so if you want info on Norwex products, contact me. Or check out Norwex.biz. I could write a whole post about why I love Norwex, but that is another day’s fodder. Specifically why I love the Fruit and Veggie cloth: it removes the wax and bacteria, but it doesn’t scratch the fruit. 307010-Veggie-and-Fruit-Scrub-Cloth

3) Vinegar

Vinegar has been tested and retested as a cleaning agent. Most of the tests come back as toting Vinegar as a good cleaner. It also makes a good produce wash. I’ve found the best information from Kitchen Stewardship, and honestly can’t think of anything to add, so I suggest checking out her link and I won’t copy her word for word. Blog publishers don’t like that. ;c).

4) DoTerra’s Citrus oils

I saved the best for last! Mostly, because with DoTerra’s Citrus oils you will know exactly what is in the water; but also because it has other health benefits, as well. We’re not just removing bad, but adding good. Can’t complain, there. I’ve heard the best things about the grapefruit, lemon, or orange oils, but my DoTerra consultant says any of the DoTerra citrus oils removes toxins. To use, fill the sink about half way and then add 3-4 drops of lemon or other citrus oil. I’m betting it varies by sink size, but 3-4 is a good rule. Add your fruits or vegetables and let them soak for 10-30 minutes. Rinse off, and pat dry.Make sure to never use a plastic dish to add the oil into! Because the citrus oils remove toxins, they will break down the plastic. Glass is fine, however. I still prefer the sink, though, because I feel the oils help clean the sink, as well.

Image from DoTerra’s website.

My DoTerra consultant says she’s been wowed the most by when she washes her potatoes with DoTerra’s lemon oil. She also loves how it helps preserve her produce because she can wash it all as she gets home and put it in the fridge and then her kids can just open the fridge and pop the fruit right into their mouths. Bonus info: She also says, “with apples you can cut up and add on guard in water and let the apples soak….it gives you all the healing benefits of OnGuard and makes the apples taste like cinnamon! It’s so yummy! You can add as many drops depending on how strong you want the flavor.” From what I know of OnGuard, you’d also get the sickness-fighting benefits added to your healthful snack!

 With using DoTerra on produce as you get it, I’d be very gentle when you pat your produce dry. As an example, when you wash carrots, they go bad faster. Carrots have a fine protective layer that keeps the freshness of a carrot locked inside. I studied carrot harvest last year (when I was up to my ears in carrots) and learned that professional carrot gardeners rub their carrots in the dirt if one gets cut when it shouldn’t have been. The dirt protects the carrot like that thin layer does, and the carrot builds a new one. Soaking the carrot in lemon juice may or may not remove that layer, I’m not sure, but lemon oil helps with preserving freshness anyway. Most kitchen experts would agree to that. However, patting dry may disturb it irreparably. Get to know your produce and see how it handles being dried.

What I suggest:

I suggest a little of all of them! Anything is better than nothing. But personally, I like using a balanced combo of the last 3 options. I would use vinegar as a quick rinse, DoTerra as a good soak (if the flavor absorbs into anything, I wouldn’t want it to be vinegar flavored!), and use the Norwex fruit/veggie cloth where appropriate to dry. Sometimes you need options! Some will work for one fruit/vegetable. Some will work better for another. My favorite would be DoTerra, mostly because you gain health from the oil. It’s like a sneak-attack back-up army for your immune system.

A spiel about wiping off your fruit

In my research, I’ve learned it is not simply enough just to rinse a product. For the same reason that sanitizer and paper towel usage are not enough, it’s not enough to simply soak and rinse your fruit. Although that’s better than nothing.
Do you remember back in elementary school when they talked about health and why we wash our hands? The world likes to leave off the end part, where they tell us that it is just as important to DRY our hands. And it’s not just because germs like moisture, though that is a big part of it (one statistic said 85% of micro-organizms are transmitted by wet hands, but only .06% were transmitted by dry hands, although I already know that most statistics are tweaked to say whatever the argumentator wants them to say.
The wiping itself is important!  Wiping off surfaces removes more gunk than most soaps! When my daughter was on a field trip tour of our local hospital, they did a black-light demonstration of germs on your hand. First, the nurse has a student rub their hands with the “germs” (I don’t know what they used as germs, but google has some clever ideas), and then she shows how they look under black light. Then she has the student wash their hands and switches the black light back on. Most of the “germs” are removed. We’ll say about 80%. But there is still quite a bit that shows up under black light. After the student dries their hands thoroughly with a paper towel, that left over 20% is almost non-existent. It wasn’t that the hands were dry, its that some times, water and our hands are not enough to get the remaining bacteria. It is the same with our food.
 I know that I’ve picked some good products, but why should I miss a step? It is one extra checkpoint to get all the gunk off of my food! The less gunk on my food, the less gunk in my body! And some gunk is stubborn. Wiping is best done with an antibacterial cloth like Norwex, since it won’t spread the germs you just wiped off right back onto the next fruit you scrub, and it has a better durability than paper towels, as long as a surface that grabs germs instead of pushing them around.

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