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Are produce cleaners worth the extra price?

April 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're like most, you take your perishables and give them a quick rinse for safety. Then there's those veggie cleaners that promise to get rid of dirt, pesticides and other residues. Do they work?"Yeah, they're more effective than detergent," said UCLA Professor of Public Health and Psychology William J. McCarthy. "Detergents more effective than water and water is more effective than nothing."

McCarthy says while they get rid of the dirt and pesticides you're trying to avoid, you will pay a pretty penny for the products.

Found in the produce or household-cleaner section, the products' ingredients often include some type of acid like lemon, purified water and a mild soap. Yet the prices range from $3.50 a bottle up to $11, which he considers pricey considering there is a super-cheap solution.

"It's a 50/50-percent combination of hydrogen peroxide, which you can get from your drug store, and a vinegar," said McCarthy. "It's nine cents per ounce, the combination of peroxide and vinegar.

McCarthy poured a half-cup vinegar in with the same amount of hydrogen peroxide, then poured the solution into a spray bottle.

He then sprays an apple, for example, with the cleaner and has it set on the food for two minutes. When the time is up, simply rinse and wipe dry.

Of course beyond cleaning the produce itself, it is also important to make sure the countertop, cutting board, utensils and your hands are clean to get rid of contaminants.

Many give their hands a quick rinse, but as they say, "That won't wash."

"Typically it's with soap and water, hot water, and it is for 20 or 30 seconds continuous washing," said McCarthy.

Have two separate cutting boards, one for meats and one for produce, so as not to cross-contaminate. And feel free to use this homemade cleaner on more than fruits and veggies.

"It's good for all sorts of surfaces, not just the surfaces of your fresh produce," said McCarthy. "So it's a good way to swab down the countertop."


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