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How to disinfect fruits and vegetables

See also How to disinfect packaged food.

This page gives instructions for washing your fruits and vegetables in a mixture of bleach and tap water. This may sound strange, but it’s a standard method of disinfection used by farmers and wholesalers, and you’ve been eating fruits and vegetables that were sanitized this way your whole life.

This method is highly effective and easy to do at home. It kills many kinds of germs including the virus that causes covid-19. It doesn’t hurt fruits or vegetables, and everything tastes normal afterwards.

The basic idea is simple. Soak the food in a mixture of bleach and water for two minutes, then rinse thoroughly with plain water.

Step by Step

Step 1. Buy plain bleach containing sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient. Choose a product that’s approved for washing fruits and vegetables by a government agency. In the US, that’s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I’ll explain how to identify such products at the bottom of this page. Here’s the product that I’ve been using myself. I’ll list a few others below.

Example of food-safe bleach. See it on Amazon.

Step 2. If the food is dirty, wash it. This usually isn’t necessary with food from a supermarket.

Step 3. Mix two teaspoons of bleach into a gallon of room temperature drinkable water. The mixture should smell like chlorine (like a swimming pool). If it doesn’t, add another teaspoon of bleach. If it still doesn’t smell like chlorine, your bleach is probably old and you should get a new bottle.

Step 4. Submerge fruits and vegetables in the mixture for at least two minutes.

Step 5. After two minutes, the mixture should still smell like chlorine. If it doesn’t, discard the mixture and repeat steps 3, 4, and 5.

Step 6. Discard the mixture. Rinse fruits and vegetables in fresh water until they no longer smell like chlorine.

Step 7. Drain the fruits and vegetables in a colander, dish drain, rack, etc.

Technical

Water temperature should not exceed 120° Farenheit (49° Celsius).

The water’s pH matters, but if you’re using tap water you don’t need to test it.

Available chlorine in fresh solution before contact with organic matter:

Percent NaOCl in bleach
2 tsp bleach/gal H20
3 tsp bleach/gal H20
Percent NaOCl in bleach
5%
2 tsp bleach/gal H20
125 ppm
3 tsp bleach/gal H20
187 ppm
Percent NaOCl in bleach
6%
2 tsp bleach/gal H20
150 ppm
3 tsp bleach/gal H20
225 ppm
Percent NaOCl in bleach
8%
2 tsp bleach/gal H20
200 ppm
3 tsp bleach/gal H20
300 ppm

How To Tell Whether a Bleach Product is Approved for Sanitizing Fruits and Vegetables

In the US, such products are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If an American product gives instructions for washing fruits and vegetables on the label or manufacturer’s website, you can assume it has been approved for that purpose.

You can usually find the approval letter from the EPA if you search in Google. For example, here’s the approval letter for the product in the photo above. Page 17 of the attachment to that letter shows instructions for sanitizing fruits and vegetables.

Another way to find a suitable product is by looking in the Product Safety Alliance Database. Go to the “Single Sheet” tab and look for products labeled “For Use in Fruit and Vegetable Wash Water.”

Links

Partial List of Bleaches Approved for Washing Fruits and Vegetables by US EPA

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