We hate to break it to you, but you might want to start scrubbing your fruits and veggies a little harder. Not only can eating pesticides seriously damage your health, but most of your favorite fruits and vegetables are probably covered in the stuff. (Beware of these foods with the most pesticides, especially!)
But if you just splash a bit of water on that Granny Smith apple before chowing down, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Turns out, there’s only one right way to wash the pesticides off your fruit—and you need a common household ingredient to make the magic happen.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, using baking soda is the best method to rid your fruits of those unappetizing chemicals. Scientists applied three different washing methods to a batch of Gala apples—Clorox bleach, baking soda, or plain tap water—and tracked the pesticide levels throughout. Here’s what they found: The apples that soaked in a solution of one percent baking soda and water for eight minutes had significantly less pesticide on their surfaces than those in the bleach or water mixes. After 12 to 15 minutes of soaking, almost all of the pesticide residue was gone.
Why baking soda, of all things? Turns out, sodium bicarbonate (the scientific term for baking soda) is particularly good at breaking down two kinds of pesticides, in particular: thiabendazole and phosmet. But this isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach, as baking soda might not have the same effect on other chemicals. Plus, the baking soda can’t reach pesticides that have soaked into the fruit’s skin—even after the produce has been washed. In other words, “this solution isn’t a guarantee of a pesticide-free snack,” Popular Science writes. Still, it can’t hurt to play it safe.
No time (or patience!) to let your fruit soak? The scientists say sprinkling a bit of baking soda along with your normal wash is a good alternative. And if worse comes to worst, you can always go organic. Just make sure to read up on the things you didn’t know about organic food first.