Fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat-unless they're contaminated with dirt or harmful bacteria. Since foodborne illnesses have sometimes been linked to fresh produce, it's important to wash what you eat.

The first rule for washing fresh produce is to wash your own hands. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends washing hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after cleaning fresh fruits and vegetables. This includes produce labeled "pre-washed" and "ready to eat," and helps avoid cross-contamination when handling different types of food.
  • Wash everything. The FDA notes that all fruits and vegetables should be well washed under running water before eating, no matter where it comes from or how it was grown, including organic and home-grown produce. They do not recommend using household soap or detergents, or even products sold as produce washes. Fruits and vegetables have porous surfaces that can absorb any cleaning products used.
  • Use plain water. Plain distilled water was found to be a more effective cleaner than commercial produce washing products in a test performed by members of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Maine. If you're likely to pick up an apple or other fresh fruits or vegetables to eat on the run, the department suggests carrying a small spray bottle of distilled water-which is purified-to clean the food before you eat.
  • Use clean equipment. Make sure your counters, cutting boards and other surfaces that come in contact with fresh fruits and vegetables are all clean.