Cleaning foods in the Dirty Dozen

How to Clean the Dirty Dozen Foods?

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‘How to clean the Dirty Dozen Foods?’ What does it even mean?

Cleaning foods in the Dirty Dozen
How to clean foods in the Dirty Dozen List?

We know that regardless of how our fruits and vegetables are grown, they play a critical role in the healthy diet we consume each day.

Did you know that these same vegetables and fruits we eat each day are covered with potentially harmful pesticides? Reason enough to worry, right?

Luckily for us here in the U.S, the EWG releases a Shopper’s guide to Pesticides in Produce(popularly known as the Clean 15 Dirty Dozen List) each year.

This guide educates the public about fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest pesticide residues, so consumers can make the best decisions for their families. Read all about it, on our blogpost here.

The guide includes EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ and the Clean Fifteen™, two lists that provide a quick consumer reference about the most and least contaminated produce.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that consuming produce high in pesticide residue, like the items on our Dirty Dozen list, increases the risk of certain health impacts, and that choosing organic can almost immediately reduce the amounts of residues in a person’s body.

Curious to know more?

Let’s begin by first understanding, what it means when we say, that a particular list of food items belong to the Dirty Dozen list.

In other words, what does Dirty Dozen food mean?

What are Dirty Dozen foods?

The Dirty Dozen list refers to the 12 fruits and vegetables that were found to contain the highest pesticide levels, even after being washed thoroughly (which the USDA does before testing it for us).

The list goes from highest to lowest pesticide concentration.

What foods are on the Dirty dozen List in 2022?

From the analysis done by USDA this year, it was found that among the 46 items included in the analysis, the Dirty Dozen Food List were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops.

The rankings are based not only on the percentage of samples with pesticides but also on the number and amount of pesticides on all samples and on individual samples.

Here is the Dirty Dozen List for 2022, according to the findings. As mentioned earlier, the list goes from the highest to lowest pesticide concentration.

EWG’s Dirty Dozen Food List for 2022

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale,Collard and Mustard Greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Bell Peppers and Hot Peppers
  8. Cherries
  9. Peaches
  10. Pears
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

Clean 15 Dirty Dozen Printable
The 2022 Clean -15 Dirty Dozen Printable

Some of the Key Findings from the analysis:

  • More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • Kale, collard and mustard greens, as well as hot peppers and bell peppers, had the most pesticides detected, 103 and 101 pesticides in total, respectively.
  • A single sample of kale, collard and mustard greens had up to 21 different pesticides.
  • On average, spinach samples had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight as any other crop tested.
  • The pesticide most frequently detected on collards, mustard greens and kale is DCPA – sold under the brand name Dacthal – which is classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen and which was banned by the EU in 2009.
  • Other problematic pesticides on greens include potentially neurotoxic neo-nicotinoids and pyrethroids.
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Health risks associated with consuming food high in pesticides

Studies have found that the consumption of foods high in pesticides are related to significant health risks like :

….to name a few.

Now the question might arise in your mind, “Do we then totally avoid the foods in the Dirty Dozen List?

Not necessarily.

Studies have shown that eating organically produced food reduces pesticide exposure and is linked to a variety of health benefits.

Switching from conventionally grown to organic food is certainly a choice, though an expensive one.

Not all foods in the Dirty Dozen list need to be totally avoided.Some of them can be consumed by taking necessary steps to rid them off pesticides.

What is the best way to wash pesticides off fruits and vegetables?

Consumer Reports experts recommend rinsing, rubbing, or scrubbing fruits and vegetables at home to help remove pesticide residue.

Now, a new study from researchers at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, suggests another method that may also be effective: soaking them in a solution of baking soda and water.

This is when the topic of ‘how to clean Dirty Dozen food’ arises.

How to clean Dirty Dozen food?

Now that we know, what are the foods listed in the Dirty Dozen List this year, let’s go through them one by one.

1. Strawberries

Cleaning strawberries
How to clean Strawberries?

For every cup of lukewarm water, add one teaspoon of salt and let the fresh strawberries soak in the cup for a few minutes.This will remove any pesticides and bacteria .

Next rinse them off under cold running water, pat dry with a kitchen towel and eat them. You can use the strawberries in a smoothie, like we did here.

If storing them, for a few days make sure to store them in a produce saving container in the refrigerator.

2. Spinach

Cleaning spinach
How to clean spinach?

Fill a large bowl with cold water and swish your salad greens around, (since simply running cold water on the spinach bundle won’t rid them off the pesticides or dirt stuck on them).This dislodges any grit that might be stuck in the leaves.

Once the leaves are clean, pat the spinach dry with a clean kitchen towel or alternatively you can run it through a salad spinner.

Try our quick, easy and delicious spinach rice recipe today!

3.Kale, Collard, Mustard Greens

Cleaning greens
How to Clean Kale, Collard & Mustard Greens?

Like most of the green leafy vegetables, these too will have some sand or dirt stuck on them when we buy it at the fresh market.

Just like we did with spinach, these green leafy veggies can be swished around in a clean bowl of cold water or pop them in your clean kitchen sink that is filled with cold water.This will dislodge any grit stuck on the leaves.

Pat them dry on a kitchen towel or dry them with a salad spinner before you use them.


Cleaning nectarines
How to clean nectarines?

To eliminate germs, bacteria or any pesticide residue left on these fruits, it is best to soak them in a baking soda bath.

Combine one ounce of baking soda with roughly 100 ounces of water and soak your nectarines in the baking soda bath for 10- 15 minutes. Once done, rinse them under cold running water and bite into their juiciness.

You can even make a yummy Indian dessert using nectarines like we did here.


Cleaning apples
How to clean apples?

Did you know why the apples we pick up at the fresh market are so shiny? Well, they are sprayed with a chemical to give them a waxy sheen.

Instead of just rinsing them under cold water, try to use a soft-bristled scrub to gently scrub the outside of the apple. This will remove the chemical coating on it, giving you a healthy fruit to bite into. This can be put to good use even in fall during the apple picking season!


Cleaning grapes
How to clean grapes?

Being tiny fruits, grapes are one of the hardest fruits to clean properly.

How to we clean them, then? Easy! Place your grapes in a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda. Shake the bowl to evenly coat each grape, then rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Pat them dry with a fresh kitchen towel and get snacking.

7.Bell Peppers and Hot Peppers

Cleaning Bell Peppers
How to clean Bell & Hot peppers?

Rinse bell peppers and hot peppers, under cold running water or lukewarm water.Do not use hot water on cold vegetables, since this actually cause bacteria to soak into the vegetable.

Have you tried our spicy bell pepper chutney, yet? Great as a spread on your sandwich or as a side for Indian breakfast items like Idli/Dosa.


Cleaning cherries
How to clean cherries?

Just like apples and grapes that come with a waxy sheen on them, cherries tend to have a waxy coating too.Though the luster is pleasing to the eye, it is not healthy to consume them with a waxy coat.

Using a vinegar solution to soak the fruit in , helps remove the waxy coat.

Fill a large bowl with water, add a cup of distilled white vinegar and then pour in your cherries. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly under cold water.Then pop them into your mouth or add them in your baking.We like to use them in our chocolate cherry brownies.


Cleaning peaches
How to clean peaches?

Peaches have a very thin skin, hence it is not advised to use a brush on them, like we did apples.It is best to use your hands while rinsing them under cold running water.

This will get rid of any pesticide coating on them.


Cleaning pears
How to clean pears?

Use a spray bottle filled with water, half a cup of white vinegar and a teaspoon of lemon juice.Spritz the pear with this solution and gently rub them before you rinse them under cold running water.

Your pear is good to go!

They taste delicious in our Eggless Apple Pear Cinnamon bread recipe.


Cleaning Celery
How to clean celery?

What with the celery juice, being the rage these days after the Celery Juice Movement on Medical Medium, you see the celery stalks disappear fast in the grocery aisle.

The question always arises when we stand in front of the kitchen sink holding the celery we bought home – “Do I separate the celery stalks and clean them ?…or do I clean them as a whole bunch??”

Always separate celery stalks before washing (don’t wash the whole bunch together).This ensures that we have gotten rid of all the grit and dirt that we usually see stuck on the base of the stalk and sometimes along the length of the stalks.

Always cut the base of the stalks, before eating.

In recent times, people have used the base to regrow the celery stalk hydroponically!


Cleaning Tomatoes
How to clean Tomatoes?

Rinsing store bought tomatoes under cold running water won’t cut it. Make sure you rub the surface of the tomatoes for a minute or so, to rid them off the pesticide coating.

Wipe them clean before storing them in the refrigerator, otherwise they will rot soon, if they have moisture on them.Unlike the ripe tomatoes that needs to be refrigerated right away, the unripe ones can be placed on the kitchen counter top to let them ripe in a day or two at room temperature.

Enjoy tomatoes in your salads? Try our Mediterranean Tomato Feta salad recipe.

Regardless of whether the fruits and vegetables are organic or conventional, they still need to be washed. 

Clean 15 Dirty Dozen Printable
The 2022 Clean -15 Dirty Dozen Food List Printable


  • Does soaking fruit in vinegar remove pesticides? One of the ways to effectively remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables is by Soaking them in vinegar(any type) and water for 20 minutes.Use 1-part vinegar to 4-parts water, which means 10 ml of vinegar would need to be mixed with 40 ml of water.
  • How long do you soak fruit in vinegar water? Use salt, bicarb or vinegar to soak your vegetables for around 20 minutes to remove pesticides and bacteria. 
  • Does baking soda neutralize pesticides? Surface pesticide residues were most effectively removed by sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, NaHCO3) solution when compared to either tap water or Clorox bleach.

The Bottom Line

Good hygiene and clean practices is paramount when it comes to eating healthy.

If anything the latest food-borne illness related to E.coli outbreak found in romaine lettuce should convince us about the importance of washing our fruits and vegetables before we consume them.

Remember, the Dirty Dozen List by itself is not unhealthy, it is what we do before we consume those food that makes it healthy or unhealthy.

If possible, try to buy organic, if not make sure to apply all the helpful tips and best practices we shared above.

Share with us your thoughts on what you found useful in this blogpost and what you are going to put into practice starting today, in the comments section below.

We are open to any additional tips or feedback you might like to share with us.

Let us all work towards a healthy and safe world.

How to clean the Dirty Dozen foods? Did you know that these same vegetables and fruits we eat each day are covered with potentially harmful pesticides? Reason enough to worry, right?Learn all about cleaning foods in the Dirty Dozen List!

Best Practices to keep pesticides off your food.

Learn all about cleaning foods in the Dirty Dozen List!

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Sabrina DeWalt
2 years ago

Great tips on cleaning fruits and vegetables to keep them healthy.

Cindy Moore
Cindy Moore
2 years ago

Great guide to cleaning produce! It’s good to know there’s an alternative to organic.

Melissa Jones
2 years ago

That’s both scary and sad! Thanks for the reminder, especially with fruit and veggie season beginning!

2 years ago

Thanks for these tips! With the increase in food prices, I’ve had to get more non-organic foods lately. Even on the dirty dozen foods. Sigh. But whether it’s organic or not, it’s always important to clean it properly.

Sandi Barrett
Sandi Barrett
2 years ago

Too bad we can’t convert the Dirty Dozen to the Clean 15

2 years ago

This was super helpful. I use baking soda on my fruits and vegetables but will follow your directions and add vinegar and salt where you directed. Thanks.

Danielle Ardizzone
2 years ago

Thank you for these – we eat many of these foods routinely, and I thought rinsing and scrubbing them would be enough. Very educational!

Lisa Manderino
Lisa Manderino
2 years ago

So important to wash these veggies and fruits!

Alexis Farmer
2 years ago

This is incredibly helpful!

2 years ago

It is so scary to think about the “JUNK” that is on store bought vegetables. You look at the foods on the “dirty dozen” list, and think how healthy they are – but in reality, all the pesticides make them not so healthy at all. Thanks for the tips on how to wash each of them.

Tiffany Smith
Tiffany Smith
2 years ago

Wow! I’ve been cleaning my veggies wrong 😶 glad I planted most of these in my pesticide free garden though!

2 years ago

It’s wise to soak the pesticides off vegetables with baking soda and water. I’ve done this for years. Thanks for all your great tips and the Dirty Dozen List.