Doctor's Note

This is a bit of an intermission in my five-part series on organic foods. So far I’ve covered the questions Are Organic Foods More Nutritious? and Are Organic Foods Safer?

Next, I’m going to wrap it up with what I think the available science suggests is the bottom-line when it comes to choosing which type of produce to buy in the final two in the series:

The most important reason to wash produce is to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Ironically, the food poisoning viruses may be found in the pesticides themselves. Check out my video Norovirus Food Poisoning from Pesticides.

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  • HemoDynamic, MD – NF Volunteer

    Thank you !

    • GUEST

      Any thoughts on antibiotics triggering long-term GI issues or neurological problems? I trust plant-baed doctors and it sure isn’t easy
      to find them. Thank you for any ideas or comments. I have SIBO and yeast issues, according to doctor, but I’m not thrilled about ingesting antibiotics.

      • Aran M Cockburn

        I had to look up what SIBO is, my sympathies go out to you. I am not a medical person but I do know that antibiotics cause yeast infections. Antibiotics kill the good bugs as well as the bad ones in our gut. One way to fight against yeast infections is to eat fermented vegetables and fruits such as home made Sauerkraut to provide probiotics which will help the gut to fight an overgrowth of yeast infections.

      • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

        Hi There. Forgive the delay. I have a piece on SIBO. If you are taking antibiotics it may be wise to take a probiotic post treatment. Ask your doctor about this, as well.

        Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) may be linked to a lactase deficiency. Celiac disease can make SIBO worse. Some research suggestsmalabsorbed fat may increase SIBO in subjects with tropical sprue (TS), which “is a common cause of malabsorption syndrome among adults in tropical countries including India1. TS is diagnosed by specific criteria, which include biochemical tests showing malabsorption of two unrelated substances, abnormal duodenal histology, absence of other causes of malabsorption and persistent response to antibiotics and folate2,3. Pathogenesis of this disease is unknown. Bacterial infection has been proposed to cause this syndrome in view of small bowel bacterial colonization in most patients and overgrowth in a proportion, which responds to antibiotics4. In fact, frequent occurrence of small bowel bacterial colonization, overgrowth and predictable response to treatment with antibiotics might suggest that the name TS or tropical malabsorption is a misnomer4. It should rather be considered as a condition associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and colonization in the tropics in absence of an anatomical cause.” I included that explanation because of the possible link between TS and SIBO.

        This study shows how gut bacteria can be manipulated to help gut-related diseases. The study is free. It may be the best one I’ve seen on the topic. Hopefully others can weigh-in. More videos on the related topics: Boosting Good Bacteria in the Colon Without Probiotics and The Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation.

        Best in Health!

  • Julie

    Thanks for the interesting, practical information on washing veggies! I’ve heard of washing with vinegar, but a salt wash is new to me. How long do we need to soak the produce in salt water? 5 minutes? For those of us who like to move quickly in the kitchen, would it be almost as effective to just scrub moistened (non-leafy) produce with salt, then rinse?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Hey Julie. It looks like researchers soaked for 20 minutes. Other studies varied, from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. Hmmm, I’m not sure about scrubbing with salt and if it’d have the same effect I would expect soaking is best. If I find out otherwise I’ll let you know, or perhaps others have an idea?

      • dogulas

        I second this query, if you wouldn’t mind bringing us Dr. Greger’s thoughts.

        In the paper with the salt water wash and others, the produce was soaked in the “bath” for 20 minutes. What would that translate to if the fruit or greens or whatever were rubbed with hands etc? The concentration was mentioned in this video, but not how long to spend washing to be effective. I suppose that with greens, it’s only practical to soak or stir, but I would like to know what Dr. Greger thinks would be sufficient if rubbing were incorporated. Especially since a lot of produce doesn’t sink enough to self-submerge in a soak anyway. Thank you.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          You are asking the right questions. Like I told Scott above we simply don’t know anymore than what’s in the video. Anywhere from 5-20 minutes was found to be effective.

      • Scott Dyson

        I too really want to know this. The video didn’t actually answer its own question: How do we make a vegetable wash? It’s important to know if we scrub or soak or what.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          I think you’re right, Scott. The problem is we don’t know anymore than anyone who watched the video. The soaking times varied in these studies (5-20minutes) and they used different concentrations of salt solutions. I didn’t hear anything about scrubbing. From what I gather, soaking for about 5 minutes or so in a salt bath (ratio of 1:10 salt:water) and then rinsing to remove the salt could be useful.

          • Scott Dyson

            Thank you for the update! I am glad you all are willing to admit when we don’t know something. I think it is better to say we don’t know than to make wild guesses.

            Did all of the studies with salt solutions show some sort of improvement? So could we say, “5-20 minutes of soaking is effective”? [Edit: and then I read your above comment. D’oh! Ok, question answered :) ]

            Maybe this is a study we could fund for “How best to wash vegetables.” Not glorious, but very practical.

          • Kelly Heath

            Dr. Gonzales,

            Please forgive my ignorance, but I just want to make sure I am adding the right amount. The ratio of 1:10 salt:water means 1 cup of salt for 10 cups of water or 1 tbs of salt for 10 tbs of water? Thank you.

          • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

            Hi, Kelly. Yes, that is what I take from it, but when you say “a cup of salt” I cringe a bit! Obviously you are not ingesting it. Just be sure to soak in the 1:10 ratio and then rinse-off well.

          • Muse Ike Vancouver

            Hi, I have been using baking soda(aluminum free). I read about it some years ago, I am not sure of it’s efficacy. Have you done such studies and if so, what is the proper time, ratio distribution?
            Thank you,
            I am now a vegan as of yesterday (since I saw your video on youtube) I had been a careful meat eater; only free range antibiotic free fish, chicken, eggs, milk products etc. is that a safe route? I understand conventional meat is a disaster but what about these organic options? What are their correlations to disease?

          • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

            Hi Muse. Great choice avoiding the aluminum! Organic animal products are generally better for the animals and some studies may show how they are more healthful than conventional products, but the fact is cholesterol and saturated fat remain in these fiber and antioxidant lacking foods. Dr. Greger has a video on flexitarian diets, which shows how a flexible vegetarian diet still offers health benefits. So that is an option for many folks who are not ready or do not wish to completely eliminate animal products. Everyone has to decide for themselves what’s best!

            Here is a link to free-range vs. conventional eggs and cholesterol levels. Also, one study found less multi-drug resistant bacteria contamination on organic chicken, compared with conventional chicken. The difference was not huge. And lastly, food borne illness like Staph Aureus is still common in organic animal products. Let me know if this helps?

            Best of luck with your dietary changes!

          • peedee

            RoundUp is an internal herbicide, not a surface pesticide. It biologically defeats essential functions of the plant, primarily letting the plant become desiccated by interfering with the roots. Washing in saltwater is not going to remove the glyphosate unless the produce is thoroughly chopped and is left in the saltwater long enough for osmotic action to bleed out internal contamination. This osmotic action also thoroughly removes the nutrients, ramps your salt load and leaves you with very expensive roughage.

  • D. A.

    What about other things that we want to wash off of our organic produce besides pesticides? Will a 10% salt solution kill germs effectively?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Sure, salt can kill some bacteria, but how effectively I am not sure? Water seems to be the best possible way to reduce pathogens. Interesting this study compared washing fruit with water vs. three different commonly used sanitizers and found no difference in antimicrobial activity.

  • Hank MZ


  • KnowBeans

    Very interesting & helpful. It leaves me wondering whether spraying produce with white vinegar (full-strength) and wiping it off would be as effective as soaking. Soaking in salt water raises a number of questions for me, including: How long a soak is necessary? How many times can you reuse the solution before it becomes too toxin-laden to be effective? (Salt is cheap but I’m frugal.) How much salt absorbed by the produce is not rinsed off in a freshwater bath? (An important issue for people trying to limit sodium intake.)

    Interesting to note that one of the sources cited above notes that “radish solution” was 100% effective in eliminating organochlorine pesticides, followed in efficacy by citric & ascorbic acid solutions. A different paper notes that stir-frying cabbage for 5 minutes was more effective in reducing pesticides than soaking in any of the solutions tested, including salt and vinegar.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Great points! Let’s see if I can help. Washing times vary per study. The salt solutions soaked produce for 20 minutes. I doubt they reused the water. I would think more porous fruits and veggies (perhaps berries) could absorb some salt, so washing it off after is a good thing. I think I just gaged though at the thought of salty berries. Anyway, produce with thick skins may not absorb salt as much. At least pesticides are not as common in fruit and veggies with thicker skins.

    • dogulas

      I wonder if it was the high temperature during the stir-frying that destroyed or evaporated the pesticides.

    • Julie

      I just soaked a pint of strawberries in 2 1/2 cups of water with 1/4 cup of salt for a little over 20 minutes. After soaking I rinsed thoroughly with fresh water. My husband commented, “Gee, these strawberries taste really salty”.

      • Becky

        Strawberries absorb water freely. Might need an alternative option to soaking.


    Are antibiotics safe to take for SIBO – – – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth as well as some sort of yeast overgrowth in intestines+gut.?

    My doctor wants me to go on rifaximin/Xifaxin or similar antibiotic for a couple weeks. My biggest fear is that this and these antiiotics could trigger something worse. I have read that sometimes taking a course of antibiotics – just one round – can change someone’s life for the worse longterm. Also have read that rifaximin and other antibiotics can predispose someone to coming down with Clostridium difficile – I am plant-based and very low fat diet, no dairy and no eggs and no meat. Every once in a while fish. That is it. No sugar or sweeteners, – I have tried all the SIBO DIETS, no real success. I do eat lots of fresh fruit.

    Maybe someone hear has experience with safety of antibiotics for SIBO, safety of antibiotics in general.

    • Marina

      visit dr. Schultz save a lot of people with SIBO with his detox systems. You would not needed antibiotics at all.

    • Jen Drost, PA-C, NF Volunteer

      Hello! Great question. Yes, the antibiotic rifaximin can reduce the numbers of “bad” bacteria in the small bowel bacteria, thereby creating an environment where the “good” bacteria get a chance to multiply. However, as you mentioned, rifaximin can also create a more friendly environment for the Clostridium difficile bacteria, which may cause loose stools, dehdration, and even death. A better solution might be to follow the whole food plant based diet that you are already on and add flaxseed every day. Bonus, in contrast to possible death, side effects of flax include improved blood pressure control, improved cholesterol, and improved glucose! Woohoo! Hope this helps!

    • Julie

      For online information, Dr. Kharrazian and Dr. Siebecker are at the cutting edge of SIBO treatment and understanding. (at 18:20) and

    • Peter

      The links suggested by Julie are very good. The neural-motor pathway is a new idea but it really makes sense, i will surely look after it more deeply. Also check: here are herbal alternatives. Currently i try peppermint oil, it relieves the muscles, reduces stress in guts, therefore enhances motility. Also i realized, that i unvoluntary contract my stomach muscles sometimes, as a kind of stress reaction and i see it as a trigger, as the natural movements cant work themeselves out because of constant contraction, so currently im working on that also, learning to relax my muscles and also find unused muscles. In relaxation meditation can help. Also as one page mentioned, one major component in herbal antibiotics against SIBO was berberine, goldenseal is a good source. Some say you have to make an antibiotic protocol (let it be herbal or not) and starving them out is really hard, almost non achievable.

      My personal experience:

      Eating a lots of fruit especially in the wrong order/timing can enhance SIBO. I think mine began when i suddenly began to ate lots of legumes (3-4 hrs digestion time) then i ate a dessert that contained sugar (~20 minutes until fermentation begins). So its also true for fruits, i learnt many things from checking out food combination charts like this, especially fruits, eat it on empty stomach first the most acidic, with peppermint oil. Like i eat a kiwi and some strawberries with 3 drops peppermint oil in a gulp of water, than wait 30-60 minutes, 3 drops peppermint oil, and apple, 30-60 minutes, then i eat a banana. Also combining with fodmap and scd charts, watching myself and feeling my body really helps. Also i dont suggest eating flax seed blindly, for example my problem with apple+flax seed is the flax takes much longer to digest and the little seed fragments become a food for the bacteria, also thats the problem with blackberries, but if i would strain and grind the blackberry seeds it would be much better, maybe no symptoms. I found out soaking my seeds in yoghurt can help even if i eat spelt flakes with them. Sometimes i feel like eating some cocoa powder with my yoghurt might help and it makes sense, because it makes the food denser slows the digestion so the yoghurt can match up with the seeds in digestion time. Density and water content is also very important, its like jams and preservers, the overly watery and fibrous ones are the most prone to fermentation.

      One of the main thing is you have to starve out your bacteria and help your gut motility in every way. Chewing very wisely and slowly, relaxed mind and body. I eat much more cooked vegetables, i cut the very fibrous ones very small, crosswise the fibers. There are many tricks. Also i suggest to go back to point zero and drink chicken broth in the morning. Exercise wisely and much because as you get older, you forget to use some muscle and overuse some others. Once i took a one day motorcycle training, i used many muscles that i havent for a long time, learning to lean in curves knee down etc…and that day i had a really healthy bowel movement…that really shows something isnt it?

      • Peter

        Some more suggetions:

        Before SIBO i ate lots of banana because they taste really good now its not so important.
        My favourite ones now are: kiwi, strawberries, blueberries. Apple only wisely but i try to eat one a day.
        When i eat a banana, sometimes i eat a third or a half only, i choose the soft, more brown spotted ones, faster to digest.
        Dont overeat, rather undereat and see what symptoms develop, then eat more according.
        Eat spelt rather then plain wheat, its less prone to fermentation.
        Eat proper, healthy starch, for example my morning cereal is spelt flakes, but if i include amla cooked to a right consistency it can make me feel better, i just watched a video here that mentioned more starch can increase bulk of bowel movements and remove lots of toxins.

        I eat ground anise and cinnamon with it and it helps.
        Include fats wisely, sometimes they help to make an overly watery food less reachable for bacteria, sometimes an other food less sticky and more easier to slide through the intestines.
        Really watch the densities and contents of different types (seeds, fibers, oils) etc…it’s not only the chemical content but the physical build up of food. See eating lots of fruit can mean many things, if i would eat fibrous, med-hard, sour kiwies i would be in trouble, eating the soft, almost translucent fleshed ones, i have no problems.
        Eating seeds soaked in yoghurt, if they are too dense because of the too much seed i have problems, if too much yoghurt (food in a fluid solution, where the bacteria can “swim” through), i have problems. Eating this on its own really slowly, no problems, eating it fast, problems, eating it with lots of cereals, problems, not so much cereals i can eat all at once, without problems.

    • Dianne

      Rifaximin works only in the gut, but if you’d like a more natural solution, try Sovereign Silver. It’s made from silver, which is a potent antibiotic, and promoted by naturopaths around the country. This will help with your overgrowth of bad bacteria. If you do take the Rifaximin and are worried about Clostridium Difficile infection (which you should be worried about), take Florastor brand probiotics. This will help replace the good bacteria to your gut, and this brand contains a yeast, Saccromyces Boulardii, which prevents the Clostridium Difficile bacterium from attaching to your intestines. Hope this was helpful!

    • Jacque Christy

      Anti-biotics are over used. I always say NO Thanks! If you have the courage to say no to the prescription, then whatever malady you are diagnosed with, go online & search “Natural cures for (UTI or bladder infection)” or whatever your problem. or “Alternative cures for ____”. You will find a few pages of headings to check out, then choose whichever one looks like your best way to go. Print out the various answers. I have done that and worked with not one, but two or three remedies, but not all at once. They do demand a lot of your time and attention, and work slowly as your body gets the message. Just because some of them call for something really simple like a TBSP of baking soda in a glass of water before bed; do not overdo it. Try one and wait overnight for any change you will detect. Hope this helps.

  • Joe Caner

    I always place my fruits & vegetables a stainless steel bowl filled with tap water where they soak until needed . I usually notice soil accumulation at the bottom of the soak bowl which is satisfying and has motivated me to continue the practice.

    Who wants to eat dirt?

    I believe I will be implement a new two bowl procedure soaking first in a salt water bath and then to a bath of straight tap water. Thank you Dr. Greger for the tip.

    • Mark G

      Michael Pollan observed that humans evolved eating dirt because they didn’t have modern kitchens to prep their food. He theorizes that we might be wise to eat more dirt. I don’t actively try to add dirt to my diet, but since reading that I don’t worry about how well I rinse dirt off of my bok choy, celery or other veggies. Same with bacteria. Getting rid of the bad stuff might also preclude us from getting enough of the good stuff. You can’t pick and choose when you “clean”. So I tend to not worry so much. So when you ask who wants to eat dirt, well… technically, I think do.

      • Carol P

        Mark, the evolving humans also carried parasites. I would wash my food.

      • Nigel Oswyn

        I’m not fond of pin worms or listeria found in soil samples. The pin worms are reason enough to say “no” to eating soil not to mention the 20% fatality of intracellular listeriosis.

      • Joe Caner

        I have heard similar arguments as it pertains to vegans getting additional vitamin b12 by eating dirt, but I prefer taking my b12 in the form of a weekly sublingual lozenge which is much more reliable. I find Pollan’s ideas interesting in as much as they have fostered discussion and debate about food and how it is produces, but I never found them particularly compelling, nor do I share in his dilemma.

  • Joe Caner

    Finally, a healthy use for table salt.

    How is this for a postulation for the reason for the efficacy for a salt water bath on extracting herbicides and pesticides? Osmosis a.k.a, osmotic pressure.

    Fruits and vegetables have a high concentration of water. Placing them in a salt water bath will cause some of the water in the fruits and vegetables into the saline solution for the surface tissues of the the items being soaked taking with it some portion of any herbicides and pesticides that have been sprayed onto them.

  • Jamie

    Thank you,

    What about the wax on apples,

    do I need to scrub the wax before cleaning the apple?

    And… what about the side effects of the wax itself?

    • dodger

      Jamie: Neither vinegar nor salt water can remove wax. Removal of wax requires a detergent.

      • Jacque Christy

        Apples… I find you can get most of the wax with salt if you wet the apple, then rub it vigorously into your palm with a pile of salt in it. I would not be using a chemically laden detergent on food as suggested here in another post.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Not sure about ways to remove wax. Aren’t some apples sold without wax? I’m with you, I always see that “glossy shine” in the grocery store and am like “huh”? I try to find the ugliest produce in the market :) Seems weird when I checkout and I have a $50 bill for like 3 miserable looking carrots, but I know the carrots are lower in pesticides and I seem to think I can taste the difference. Obviously I am over exaggerating and just giving an example. My point is, buying organic (or even better), supporting your farmer’s markets and talking with the growers may help cut costs on the grocery bill while also finding quality produce without wax.

      • Psych MD

        Apples produce wax naturally. It serves as a harmless, natural preservative. There is no need to “strip” it.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          Really? I was pretty sure they coat most apples, but looking into it you are absolutely right. FDA claims that additional wax is applied sometimes after the initial yield because when they are washed to remove dirt some of the natural wax comes off. Thanks for the correction! I learn something new here everyday. Agreed that if you strip the skin you miss out on the important antioxidants in the fruit.

        • KathyKale

          I have picked unsprayed apples off trees in the fall and they are always “oily” and waxy naturally. But I think that industry also waxes them up further for long term storage.

      • Rebecca

        We have a marvelous farmers’ market, but the prices are definitely NOT cheaper than, say, organic veggies from our food co-op.

    • Mary

      A while ago I read something online that said you fill a sink with water and add about 1 Cup of white vinegar (don’t know exact ratio so don’t think its extremely important) and stir. You then add fruit. Water will get dirty and fruit will sparkle with no wax or dirty film left, like what is usually seen on apples and grapes respectively. Also, this wash is great for berries too and keeps them from molding; strawberries last for weeks.

  • Noelani

    This is a great, informative video. I am so glad I have discovered your website. Thank you!

    • HomeoNutritionist

      The video graphic shares that a five minute soak and thorough rinse before using is required. Sea salt is better than table/iodized for the obvious reasons. I use this method and am thoroughly pleased! Here’s to safe eating!

  • Curious

    Is the saltwater a 10% mixture by weight or by volume?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      That is a great question the paper I read on potatoes did not specify. Let me look at the others and get back to you. Thanks

    • Kevin G.

      Usually in a lab, a 10% NaCl solution is 10g NaCl in 100 mL water (you complete the volume to 100 mL after adding the salt).

    • Julie

      It’s the same! I tried it out on my scale at home. 1 TB salt weighs 14 g and 10 TBs of water weighs 140 g. So it is 10% by both volume and weight.

  • b00mer

    To anyone with access to the Zohair paper, Dr. Greger, or Joseph:

    Is the 10% NaCl solution indeed by volume (as insinuated by “1 part salt, 9 parts water”) or is by mass? I know salt is cheap, but using almost half a cup per liter of water doesn’t sound practical to me.

    10% (v/v) would mean 100 mL (6.75 tbsp) per liter of water
    10% (m/m) or (m/v) would mean about 46 mL (3 tbsp) per liter of water

    So by mass would be better, but I’m still not sure how practical it seems. Is this a soak, or could one make up a small bowl to manually and individually wash fruits/veggies in it and then do a final rinse in water? To soak all the fruits and veggies we buy would require a large volume of water, I’m thinking at least a gallon at a time.

    • MattD

      b00mer: Watching the video, I wondered about this too. Usually, v/v is used to show the percent composition of a solution of two or more liquids. A solution of salt is a solution of a solid and and a liquid, so m/m would be the traditional choice. Since the density of water at room temperature is approximately 1 and the solution made is pretty dilute, m/m is roughly the same as m/v. I guess we need to read the paper to find exactly what the authors meant. Whichever it is, I agree with you, soaking every vegetable and fruit I eat in a salt solution everyday would be a time consuming task.

      • b00mer

        Hi Matt, I too would have assumed m/m or m/v except for Dr. Greger’s use of the word “parts” which is usually used in layman’s terms to indicate v/v.

        I wouldn’t mind soaking or washing with a small amount of salt if I could just do it once per week. But per Dr. Greger’s recipe 1 gallon of soak water would require almost 1 2/3 cups of salt! I can’t imagine buying a big jar of salt every few weeks. Even though it’s < $1, it still would feel wasteful.

        Do you have access to a database with this paper?

        • MattD

          b00mer: I have the paper (which I haven’t read yet.) but I’m afraid I’m not allowed to post it on any open websites. I wonder if I could email it to disque and they could email it to you.

          • b00mer

            Thanks Matt! I really appreciate the offer but with this article I don’t actually feel the need to read the whole thing. Was just curious about that one piece of info. To be honest, personally my fruit/veggie policy is buy what’s available and affordable, wash with tap water, and hope for the best. But let us know what you find out when you get a chance to read it!

          • MattD

            b00mer: The authors simple say that they used a 10% NaCl solution, so we have to assume that they follow the standard practice, which is 10 g of salt in 100 g of solution. To make it, 10 g of salt must be dissolved in 90 g of water. Assuming that the density of water is 1 g/mL, 1 gallon of water has to be mixed with about 416 g of salt, which would give > 1 gallon of the solution. Wow, that’s approaching i lb of salt. Not something most of us can do everyday.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          I’ll send to you!

          • b00mer

            Joseph, thank you so much! I really appreciate it, but I don’t think I actually need a copy of this one. Got enough reading to do right now! But thanks again :)

          • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

            Cool cool :)

          • b00mer

            p.s. I hope my original comment didn’t come across as poo-pooing Dr. Greger’s suggestion. I’ve seen questions about pesticides and fruit/veggie washes come up a LOT on this site over the years and here he has so nicely found out the answer for us! I might not choose to employ this technique with my own produce but I still enjoyed learning about it.

    • Salt of the Earth

      This is an interesting video but nothing more. Highly impractical for most of us as you mentioned.

      We need to support more organic and stricter rules for pesticide use.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      They soaked for 10 minutes in the Zohair paper on potatoes. Finding out about weight vs volume. Thanks B00mer!

  • Melissa Kelly

    I’m more concerned about systemic pesticide risks. Aren’t these chemicals incorporated into the tissues of the plants?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Are you asking if pesticides are sprayed on produce will they appear in the actual tissue of plants vs the surface? Yes, I think both occur and depending on how porous the plant is (think about the tough/thick skin on watermelon and bananas vs. soft fruit like berries) will determine how much pesticide leaches into the produce.

      • Or is Melissa asking about pesticides picked up by the roots and distributed throughout the plant?

    • Pat

      Yes they are! High school science project with 2,4D proved that what is put on one plant’s leaves will go through the plant and out the roots into the soil or water to another plant separated above the soil/water line by a partition. Both plants died. We can wash away what is on the outside, but not what is on the inside. So, peeling a carrot or cuke to get rid of the pesticides/herbicides does not make the food free of said poisons!

      I live as an NGO worker in a developing country. We soaked all produce 20 minutes in bleach water for years. Blech! Vinegar is a sure fire according to a very old California Infectious Diseases manual, but it sucks all the water out of the food! Limp, practically cooked lettuce for supper? No thanks! I soak to kill amoeba, salmonella, etc, much more than get rid of the chemicals…

  • doug pomeroy

    Many fruits and vegetables sold in health food stores are safe to eat without washing. The current issue of ConsumerReports (May issue, page 31), has a chart showing 48 fruits and vegetables with info concerning pesticides, based on contemporary research. Highly recommended! The cost of organic products is always high, so it makes a lot of sense to know which foods are safe from conventional markets.

    • b00mer

      That’s good to know about pesticides. Wish I still had my CR subscription so I could read it. Although something to keep in mind is that bacterial contamination (unless addressed in that issue as well?) may still be a risk especially for youngsters and the elderly with undeveloped or compromised immune systems.

    • Frances O’Grady

      I follow Bill Marler on Twitter. He’s the attorney who won that old cantaloupe case and many others since. He also has an excellent website/blog with videos about pathogen contamination on food, (Not for the ‘don’t-tell-me-I-don’t-want-to-know’ crowd.) On 4/30 he reported on the Canadian Listeria outbreak being linked to apple slices. After learning much from him I always wash my fruits & veggies. Well, almost always; there’s a cafeteria near us that has a huge salad bar – not organic. I’m “trusting” they wash the food (and their hands!).

    • charlotte

      Maybe so as far as pesticides or pathogens, but these products have been handled. How many times do people touch just to determine freshness? Maybe they dropped on a dirty floor and were quickly picked up. Strongly suggest: Wash the stuff. You don’t know where it’s been.

  • Drorit

    I am a breast cancer survival. In
    Dana Farber hospital in Boston they told me to wash the veg and fruit in one
    cup vinegar one part water juice from half a lemon and 1 Tb of baking soda. Dip
    in solution then leave it out for 5 minute and then rinse with water. It works
    wonderful and very easy.

    • x_ray_tech

      Is that ONE CUP vinegar to ONE CUP water?
      And ONE TABLESPOON baking soda?
      Thank you so much for sharing this recipe and where you got it!

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Interesting thanks for sharing that, Drorit! I know a few dietitians at Dana Farber. Warm thoughts and best to you!

  • Eric

    I do not have purchased the study about salt soaking. In the study abstract they speak from achieving the results through 20 minutes of soaking. How come that in the video they speak from 5 minutes?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Good question. All of the studies use different soaking times. The study on tomatoes used a soak time of 5 minutes. If you want to read any of the studies in full shoot me your email or contact us. Thanks, Eric.

  • So we can wash with soap to kill the bacteria first, then wash with salt water to get rid of the pesticides?

    • Frances O’Grady

      I’m pretty sure most harmful bacteria is destroyed by the salt water. Hence the practice of nasal rinsing with neti pots, etc with a salt-bicarbonate solution is often recommended by otolaryngologists as a prophylactic for sufferers of chronic sinusitis.
      I’m a lay person here so take my comments with a GRAIN OF SALT! (I made myself laugh!)

      • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

        you made me laugh too ;-)

      • elsie blanche

        I wonder if this suggest that adding salt to the diet, even from natural sea salts, might end up killing beneficial bacteria in our gut. Seems like a strong possibility to me.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      I would not recommend washing with soap.

      • Dr Greger recommended against soap in one of his videos. No science exists on chemical reactions btwn soap/detergents and pesticides.

    • Nigel Oswyn

      I’ve used thinned out 7th Generation dish liquid on my apples and courgettes, not broccoli or berries or lettuces, for a while now, but soap doesn’t really kill germs, and no it doesn’t leave an after taste but I rinse thoroughly. I wouldn’t use Dawn or anything from a animal testing company. However, soap is only a surfactant that dissolves grease and maybe some residues. After seeing this video, I’m likely to mix up a little salt water next time.

  • nozanneti

    Hey, how about answering to the questions below ?!

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Surely! Sometimes it takes a while to reply. Thanks for your patience.

  • Cathy Katin-Grazzini

    How long a 1:10 salt: water soak required to dissolve pesticide residue? And are we right to assume Dr. Greger meant by volume (as opposed to weight)?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Yes, you could assume that. I looked up the potato study and it doesn’t seems the researchers did not distinguish concentrations by weight or volume. Each study varied in soaking time. For the salt studies they soaked for 20 minutes. I’ll find out about concentrations and post asap. Thanks, Cathy.

      • Cathy Katin-Grazzini

        Thanks so much Joseph!

        • Wade Patton

          Salt soak long enough, you get brined veggies, which doesn’t rinse off.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          You could shoot for 5-10 minutes if you want that seems more doable.

          • Cathy Katin-Grazzini

            Thanks Joseph. I wonder which is the greater evil for most folks: removing the maximum amount of pesticidal residue in a salt solution, or increasing sodium intake from the salt bath’s absorption in the produce? Especially for those with high b.p., perhaps a good wash with plain water would be preferable?

          • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

            haha! Yes, it is all relative isn’t it? We all have to make the best decisions possible (and the ones that makes sense) based on our individual situation. Great points, and yes I think rinsing after the soak process is important. I think Wade mentioned the idea that you could have a brine salt bath by the time you’re done, which of course would not be so good.

      • Wade Patton

        If you look at the chart @4:44 this vid, you’ll see salt water and 5 minutes indicated. Please clarify?

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          You know what I just saw that too! There are two studies: 1) the one conducted on potatoes soaked for 10 min. and 2) the one you reference at 4:44 looked at cabbage and had different soaking times from 5-20 minutes. Do you want me to send it to you in full? Sorry for the confusion I am not sure there is a certain amount of time to soak.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          Two different studies. One was testing potatoes and the other cabbage. The potato tests used a 10 minute soak time, and the cabbage anywhere from 5, 10, and 20 minutes. Let me know if you’d like any in full. I was having a hard time grasping all the information. I edited my comment above as it was a bit misleading. Thanks for the catch, Wade.


          • Wade Patton

            I suppose _any_ time beats no time (soaking). I had been lax in washing-but now that I know how to do a more effective job, I’ll wash/soak/rinse with authority! thanks.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Volume or weight I am unsure the researchers do not specify from what I could tell.

  • Robert Haile

    Here in Costa Rica where if you live here at least a year, it is almost impossible to avoid Parasitic infections even with organic foods. Thank you for this video.

  • Kathy

    Great Information. Very helpful.

  • MikeOnRaw

    Thank you so much for this video. I’ve been avoiding the wash personally since it seems to just sit there and I rarely see it in peoples carts. I figured if I didn’t hear that much about it in the vegan community it was a waste. Good to see it is. The salt water is interesting.

  • elsie blanche

    So maybe we should be showering/bathing our bodies with a rag dipped in salt water, and forgoing the using soap on our bodies? Makes sense to me based on some of the science here.

  • vegank

    Thank you ! We benefit from the How – to videos just as much as the Why videos .
    My Kales were decimated last summer by caterpillars but hopefully this year I’ll be a bit more prepared.
    Now I understand why my fellow gardeners talk about the appearance of white butterfly as if it is a threat to national security.

  • Justin

    I am surprised they didn’t test regular old dish soap. I think that would have been effective against many of the fat soluble pesticide residues.

    • dogulas

      It bonds to the permeable produce skin and isn’t good to consume.

      • Nigel Oswyn

        It depends on the brand and from what it is made. Natural soaps not tested on animals with no synthetic dyes or perfumes are fine if cut with water.

        • dogulas


          What does not being tested on animals have to do with how edible a soap is?

          • Nigel Oswyn

            Because I don’t recommend anything tested on animals as its cruel and unnecessary. Most of the soaps made with basic oil or plant ingredients aren’t toxic and wouldn’t require testing anyway. If they were accidentally ingested in minimal amounts, they wouldn’t be harmful. Surfactants made with these basic ingredients tend to rinse with no residue from synthetic dyes or perfumes left on food. Its not that difficult to figure out, really.

  • Bill Misner PhD

    May I have permission to submit this article with properly cited references to the link at the top of your website page?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      HI Dr. Misner. Yes – you are certainly free to post any study you feel can help our community here. That would be great.

      Thank you,

  • dogulas

    In the paper with the salt water wash and others, the produce was in the “bath” for 20 minutes. What would that translate to if the fruit or kale or whatever were rubbed with hands etc? The concentration was mentioned in this video, but not how long to spend washing to be effective.

  • kim bushart

    So glad you addressed this topic. I’m currently using vinegar and lemon juice water. Salt sounds like a great option. It’s magical on tooth aches and sore throats! Love you, Dr. Gregor!!

  • Mary Ann Roma

    Saw this study on another food site and can’t understand how this conclusion was reached…

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Hi Mary. Have you read the conclusion? Some very good points there. I’ll copy and paste here in hopes it might help.

      “The limitations of this study warrant discussion. First, we used an FFQ with only 33 food items to identify SFA intake and death certificates to define events. – (goes onto say) – Assuming that the inverse association between SFA and stroke mortality is causal, it would nevertheless be inappropriate to recommend an increased consumption of SFA-containing products to the general Japanese population, because it might increase population levels of total cholesterol and the risk of IHD. Replacing SFA with PUFA had no benefit on the prevention of IHD, which contrasts with a recent pooling project of Americans and Europeans (6). Application of discrepant results to public health practice must be cautious. We believe that this discrepancy could be explained in part by a low distribution of SFA intake among Japanese. The median SFA intake, albeit underestimated by ≈37%, was very low (9.4 g/d). It is well known that the SFA intake is far lower in Japan than in Western countries; for example, the median intake of SFAs for the highest quartile of a Japanese rural population (1970–1980s) was 17 g/d (16) lower than that for the lowest quartile of intake in the Nurses’ Health Study in 1980 (20 g/d) (11). These findings indicated almost no overlap of SFA intakes between the 2 populations.”

      From what I gather, it’s hard to build SFA recommendations based on Japanese populations. They consume very little SFAs. Even the authors do not recommend eating more SFAs because it may increase cholesterol levels and boost heart disease risk. For more info on saturated fat, if interested, but this may be more relevant why saturated fat studies are set-up to fail.

  • fern

    Finally, some definitive news on whether these veggie rinses do anything. I have long wondered about this and I think I willo begin selectively soaking veggies in salt water. Thanks for news we can use!

  • brec

    I haven’t seen anything yet in this series about the levels of pesticides vis-a-vis levels having potential for harm, only “detectable” and “whatever risk there is.” Can those of us interested in costs-versus-benefits be such a small group?

  • Mark

    Ok folks lets not get crazy here but why not make a solution with Vinegar, salt, water (even baking soda if you want to get a little nuts) and go for it. Rub then let soak 20 minutes!!!! Then rinse

    If you dont have time to wait make a spray solution of the same: spray on rub together, let sit and then rinse!!!!

    • mark

      I will add anything is better than nothing, studies are just that, case studies. They are not always practical in every way to regular every day life . The big take away! I have always used vinegar and water to soak for 20 – 30 min, but now salt is going in that mixture! why not!

  • I’ve always used 1/3 hydrogen peroxide, 1/3 straight white vinegar,2 tbsps. of soap, 1/3 water and thought it cleans well, I may start adding salt to my combo now.

  • Joevegan

    Great info. I soaked the “commercially grown” celery in a saline solution this morning for the our soup kitchen’s spaghetti sauce. Over 100 needy people got a meal with reduced contaminants. Your work is a blessing to so many.

    • Mike Flavell

      I use 11.5pH water from my Enagic Water Ioniser. The Oils used to carry the pesticides are disolved in the 11.5pH water

  • Saalar S (Saalar S.)

    That is a coincidence! This video comes just in time as I was searching the internet for a self made vegetables wash. Thank you Dr. Greger.

  • Jos Gen

    Disposing of salty water to a greywater system that is used to grow plants would build up salt in the soil over time and most plants wouldn’t like that. Vinegar soak water would be better to dispose to a greywater system used to grow plants particulary when the soil and soak water is alkaline to begin with.

  • How many grams or tablespoons of salt for a cup of water? How long is the soaking/wash process?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      It’s a 1:10 ratio of salt/water. The soaking times all varied from 5-20 minutes in the studies so it’s hard to say. Please see my comments below and others as well because they have some good ideas of how to put this research to use. Thanks.

  • justme

    Very interesting and thorough. So I need to get some cheap salt and soak my veggies in 10% solution IF they aren’t organic. Sounds pretty straight forward. Thanks so much for another big help for my health.

    • dogulas

      Wouldn’t be a bad idea if they are organic even. Organics also use pesticides, just ones that aren’t on the current inorganic list.

  • S

    Don’t pesticides build up in the plants? If the pesticides end up in the soil, aren’t they also inside the plants and fruit?

    • Wade Patton

      Yes, but the compounds are quite dilute at that point. Concentration goes up as the foodchain is ascended. Lower on the foodchain is thereby safer. Zero is preferred, but that may not be possible now that we’ve gunked up the works.

  • Pablo mejías

    Hello, has anyone used plain charcoal, carbon for removing certain pesticides when washing fruits and vegetables?
    Activated charcoal is used to purify water….

  • Jason Newstedt

    How to Make Your Own Fruit and Vegetable Wash: 1 part salt, 9 parts water.

    You’re welcome.

  • This article is very
    good news indeed. Certainly simple washing
    in water becomes a no-brainer with the 10% salt-water solution more great news! One caveat though, before I rate this at
    5stars. Perhaps it was not within the purview of this article, to attempt to
    ascertain whether or not pesticides enter through the outer layer of skin of
    fruits and vegetables and to what extent. Sprays are
    administered during the flowering stages early on. These pesticides must surely
    become part of the fruit itself *below* the outer skin. We now know for instance that Monsanto’s
    Roundup is used as a desiccant, one week prior to harvesting oats and wheat, to assure a certain % dryness. The
    latest findings are that glyphosate disrupts human enzymes invitro, at parts/trillion.
    One last point, could you have your webmaster insert a FOLLOW link, to let us
    know when there are respondents to our comments postings. This has become more common and it saves us time
    looking back.

  • francesco

    Hello! what about to use some Ozone machines?

    • francesco

      water and Ozone…I mean

      • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

        I don’t know much about ozone and water. I researched it and a few studies are available. I suggest reading the abstract of this study, and also this one. It seems there is limited research, but it may be useful for veggie washing.

  • KathyKale

    How “bout a salt and vinegar wash?

  • JimR.

    I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about these Bentonite clay capsules that are also supposed to “bind” the POPs that are in our food supply ?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Hi JImR. I checked on this and could not find any data. I am not sure this is the same clay, but I found one study about kids using clay to lower aflatoxin build-up in Ghana. Perhaps not very relevant? Anyway, if I find more I’ll be sure to post. Thanks for your comment.

  • Analisa

    What about baking soda?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      I have not seen as much on baking soda. For oral health it may be useful. My hope is others can help comment on this as well, as so many folks here have these great questions about finding ways to reduce pesticide exposure!

  • Chris

    As requested by Dr. Greger’s team, here is my comment I messaged them…

    In dr. G’s video about washing fruits and veg with salt water to remove pesticides, I don’t recall him saying why this effective. Is it because the NaCl become ions in aqueous solution, thus attracting the positively charges pesticide molecules? Or is there another reason? Does baking soda work as well? I use baking soda (and vinegar for my grapes to decrease mold, it works!). Also sometimes I’ll use bentonite clay powder in water since it is highly negatively charged and binds to e pesticides. I feel baking soda u is even cheaper than salt since I buy sea salt.

    • Chris

      Please excuse the typos made by my iPad.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Thanks for reposting, Chris. Good question do you know if the researcher’s talk about the “whys” in their papers? You can always look up the individual studies by clicking on “sources cited” for further investigation. If you cannot find let me know I’ll dig up! Thanks again, Chris.

  • Emily

    Can you soak all your produce in the same water and expect it to be effective or is it necessary to change out the saltwater solution for each different item. I usually have carrots, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries and I just wonder how effective it would be in removing the pesticides if I throw in a few things then when I take those out throw in more produce without changing the solution.

  • Pedro Rica

    Any recommendation on how to remove non-organinc Apple wax lining? Thank you!

  • Shalini Sharma

    what about Kent brand Vegetable purifier…does it work?

  • darrylrobida

    I was getting diarrhea 5 min after eating vegetables. I’m 100% vegan. Now I’m using 10% salt solution for (2) weeks and no problems.

  • Melanie Leduc

    What’s the chemistry behind the salt wash? How does it work?

  • Mary Beth

    Reuse salt solution? or not?
    I have been using this recipe, keeping the salt water on hand to use from one vegetable and fruit to another. So it may be around for a week or more at a time. My mom thinks that the non-organics that were in the first batch will then be soaked into the second batch. She is a former chemist and may know. What do y’all think?


    When you use the Salt wash for fruits and veggies, how many times can you use the solution before you have to change to a new solution? Thank you for your responses in advance!

  • Sam

    hydrogen peroxide, would it work?

  • Claire Anderson

    What process do you recommend for using the 10% salt water to remove as many pesticides as possible from fruiits and vegetables? Do I make a batch and then just dip or soak the F&V? Or do I perhaps spray on and rinse off with water? Or…???

    • rivermonk

      From the video, it looks like soaking your F&V for 5 minutes is recommended.

  • John Smith

    Why would vinegar be too expensive? The gallon jugs of distilled white vinegar are cheap, correct?

  • Izabella Sabby

    Whenever my parents buy fruit or veg at the shops, they immediately soak them in a large container of water and apple cider vinegar to clean it. And we even buy organic food.

  • emp

    Possibly the pesticides are water soluble and soaked in by plants. While salt looks like it will draw out water, it’ll also reduce nutrients and flavor, as it’s common to do this with more bitter vegetables such as bitter melon. If there was another way, that’d be preferable.

  • Rachel

    Can you point me to the study that suggested a 10% salt solution would be effective? I looked through each of the studies in the citations and did not find it.