Keep it simple. All you need to use is water, says Joellen Feirtag, an associate professor and extension food safety specialist in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition. As for those special fruit washes, they’re “just a waste of money,” she says. “They are not going to do anything different than just regular warm water.” However, warm water will remove the soil better than cold.

You shouldn’t use regular detergents or soaps on your food either, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), because these can leave residues that you wouldn’t want to ingest. But the FSIS does say that rinsing your produce with water “reduces bacteria that may be present. If there is a firm surface, such as on apples or potatoes, the surface can be scrubbed with a brush.”

Finally, Feirtag adds that it’s best to wash your produce right before you intend to use it. If you wash it ahead of time and stick it in the fridge wet and soggy, then it can spoil faster.

CHOW’s Nagging Question column appears every Friday. Got a Nagging Question of your own? Email us.

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