You don’t need fancy fruit washes (and definitely skip the soap) with these effective methods for cleaning apples.

By Lisa Milbrand
November 11, 2020
Credit: Getty Images

Whether you picked them yourself at a local orchard or just bought them at the supermarket, all the different types of apples are the ultimate fall treat. (Who doesn’t love apple pie or even just a great apple salad?) Even if your apples look spotless and glossy, there may be dirt, bacteria, or pesticides lurking on the skin—but you can stop grime in its tracks by learning how to wash apples.

Finding the most effective ways to clean apples is essential for ensuring your apples are safe to eat. Keep in mind that even organic apples may use organic pesticides, so you’ll want to make sure you’re cleaning your organic apples just like you would your conventionally grown produce.

You can brush off any visible dirt before you store apples, but it doesn’t make sense to really wash them until you’re ready to eat or cook with them. Cleaning apples with water can actually make them rot and decay faster—so store them as is until you’re ready to take a bite or use them in apple recipes. Ready to wash your apples? Here’s how.

Those suds may be reassuring (especially right now, when we’re all about bleaching and sanitizing everything). But both the FDA and the USDA warn about using soap on your produce. Even with a good rinse afterward, some of the soap residue will be absorbed by your apples—and most soaps feature chemicals that aren’t safe to eat.

RELATED: How to Clean Your Fruits and Vegetables Properly

A 2017 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the best method for cleaning apples required soaking them for 15 minutes in a solution of a teaspoon of baking soda and two cups of water, followed by a thorough rinse with water.

Mix a third cup of vinegar with a cup of water and spray or wipe the solution on your apples. Rinse your apples thoroughly afterward to make sure you lose that vinegar taste in your recipes. Researchers found that this method removed 98 percent of bacteria from apples.

A vegetable brush and tap water can help remove a lot of the bacteria and dirt from an apple—and a brush is more effective than just tap water alone.

Research by the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tennessee State University found that prepackaged produce washes aren’t as effective as vinegar in removing bacteria from your fruit—and they’re much more expensive than either the baking soda or the vinegar options.

Most of the pesticides and other contaminants remain on the peel, so simply removing the apple peel will remove the vast majority of the issue. Remember that you’ll still need to rinse the apples thoroughly before you peel, or your peeler could contaminate the apple’s flesh with some of the dirt from the peel.  (Of course, you’ll also lose some of the vitamins and minerals that are in the peel—so it may be better to try one of the other methods for cleaning apples.)