Let's Have A Frank Conversation About Washing Our Produce

Should you wash your produce with baking soda? Maybe—but I certainly don't.

I'm poisoning my body with every waking breath. I know it. If I'm not ingesting toxic chemicals from my cleaning products, I'm absorbing heavy metals from my bathwater. When I'm not snarfing carcinogens in the form of red meat, I'm huffing fumes from the mold and rodent droppings hiding in my 120-year-old apartment. I can't think about it for too long or I'll go fully insane. But for whatever reason, I'm lax about produce washing—and I suspect you may be, too.

Here at The Takeout, we've had proper produce washing on the brain for a while. We've reported on "pre-washed" bagged lettuce; we've pondered the safety of dirty, dirty little mushrooms. We watched in horror as some cautious consumers cleaned their produce with bleach during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

All the while, I've remained true to my produce-washing method: throwing the fruits or veggies into a colander and running them under the faucet for, say, 30 seconds. Sometimes I'll give the item a cursory rub if I want to be extra careful.

Is this enough to wash away the lung-shriveling, cancer-causing pesticides that almost certainly cover every inch of my store-bought produce? Cook's Illustrated says probably not, suggesting that consumers wash fruits and vegetables with baking soda.

Here's why: a few years ago, Cook's Illustrated ran an experiment using grapes that showed high levels of pesticides. The outlet then soaked the grapes in a baking soda and water solution for 15 minutes. When they rinsed and dried the grapes, they applied a chemical testing strip and found that the pesticides had been eliminated. (I heard about the experiment via LifeSavvy, which published an article on the subject last week.)

Readers, I think it's time we had an honest chat about this. When polled, the majority of the Takeout staff admitted to employing the same lax produce-washing methods. Now, I'd like to hear from you. Do you scrub your fruits and veggies? Run them under water for a few seconds and call it good?

Most importantly, am I going to die from pesticide poisoning before I see 40?