red apples

Before biting into a juicy apple, you may want to wash any pesticides off its skin. You can buy special fruit and vegetable washes in the grocery store, but new research shows a simple solution you can make at home performs well.

Removing Pesticides in Your Own Kitchen:

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst tested a way to remove pesticides from apples (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, online October 25, 2017). They coated Gala apples with the fungicide thiabendazole or the broad-spectrum pesticide phosmet. Tests showed how much pesticide the apple skins contained before they were washed.

Then the investigators washed them in plain water, water with bleach or water with baking soda. None of the washing techniques completely removed thiabendazole that had soaked through the skin into the apple’s flesh. Nonetheless, a 12-minute soak in water and baking soda did a good job getting thiabendazole off the skin, while a 15-minute soak in the same solution got rid of phosmet.

Can You Do This at Home?

The solution used in the laboratory was one teaspoon baking soda in two cups of water. That should be accessible in nearly any home kitchen. The true test will be patience: remember to allow the apples to soak in the baking soda solution for 15 minutes to get the pesticides off the skin. We’d suggest rinsing in plain water to remove any hint of baking soda as well.

Presumably, the amount of pesticides residue on a single apple is small. It might not be enough to cause any problems for an adult eating the apple. But it makes sense to minimize exposure as much as possible, especially when the solution is so simple.

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  1. Jeanette
    ID
    Reply

    The researchers applied a fungicide, not pesticides to the apple skin. Even after the 15 min soak, the fungicide had penetrated the skin. What about pesticides? And what about systemic pesticides that grow with the apple?. Sorry! Apples are #4 on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. I only eat organic apples.

  2. Becky
    NC
    Reply

    It’s my understanding that the pesticides are trapped between the peel and the wax coating that is put on most apples. Is this true and if so does the baking soda trick still work. I personally buy organic and wash them with n a solution of white vinegar water.

  3. Al
    Buffalo
    Reply

    I heard that washing with dish soap does the trick also.

  4. Anne
    Bakersfield, Ca.
    Reply

    According to recent news, buying “organic” is a giant waste of money, as is probiotics.

  5. Anne
    Bakersfield, Ca.
    Reply

    I don’t wash any apples that I purchase. I take a paper towel and apply quite a bit of pressure to the apple and polish it thoroughly so that any exterior residue is polished off.

  6. Bob
    South Carolina
    Reply

    How much of the chemicals were present prior to washing and how does this compare to the limits set by the FDA. Remember there is harmful chemical in our natural environment all the time and not just those introduced by man.

    Also with the baking soda/water method, what does this do to the chemical? Does it neutralize the chemical or extract it out of the skin? If the chemical gets absorbed into the skin why wouldn’t it also go into the meat of the apple?

  7. MommaN
    Washington
    Reply

    Would there be any bad consequence to treating 6 or 7 apples all at the same time? Would there be any change to the apples eaten a few days later? Or does this have to be done just before eating the apple?

  8. Linda
    Florida
    Reply

    Apple cider vinegar spray on fruit, wait 30 seconds. Works wonders.

  9. Paul
    Columbia River Gorge
    Reply

    I doubt people would take that much time. Glad we buy organic apples from the grower.

  10. Micky
    Dallas, Tx
    Reply

    Question: Does the pesticide not effect the fruit itself? Does it not penetrate the skin, or what if the pesticide was sprayed while the fruit was forming? Thank you for the suggestion.

  11. Parke
    Seattle
    Reply

    Simpler to just buy organically grown apples in the first place!

  12. Linda
    Reply

    Rather than use the baking soda solution and waiting 15 mins. I would rather just peel the apple.

  13. Fran
    Reply

    I spray all my fruits with a white vinegar solution allow them to sit for about 10-15 minutes then rinse.

  14. Verna
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    This is such good advice. Thank you. This could apply to other fruits and vegetables also.

  15. Tony
    FL 32724
    Reply

    We only buy organic apples: do your comments apply to organic apples as well?

  16. Cindy M. Black
    Seattle, WA
    Reply

    Thank you for this article! I have repeatedly tried to find out whether it’s indeed possible to remove pesticides from apples… or whether the pesticides soak way into the apple and no amount of scrubbing can get them out. Til now, I’ve received no clear answer.

    You can also, of course, buy “fruit and veggie wash” at several stores; I get mine from Trader Joe’s, and I put it on full-strength, scrub like crazy with a stiff brush, and then let the apples stand for 20 min. or so before rinsing. That is, if I have to buy conventionally grown apples…. I usually buy organic because I gag at the thought of ingesting pesticides.

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