4 Best Ways to Wash Fresh Strawberries

Take your pick of these easy methods for cleaning strawberries, whether it's cool tap water or a solution of vinegar, salt, or baking soda.

Red ripe strawberries in a stainless steel colander
Photo: Getty Images

On the infamous "dirty dozen" list of produce, strawberries are one of those foods people know they need to clean. Without the hard skins of fruits like bananas and citrus, berries have less protection from the elements, pesticides, processing, packaging, and handling. Luckily, washing strawberries is simple and straightforward. Find your preferred cleaning method below, plus tips for enjoying this juicy, tart-sweet fruit at its freshest.

How to Store Strawberries

Wherever your strawberries come from — the farmers market, a grocery chain, or your garden — proper cleaning matters. That said, it's best to store berries in the refrigerator unwashed, whether in their original container or in an air-tight mason jar.

Wait until you're about to eat the strawberries or use them in a recipe to clean them, and resist the temptation to wash the whole container when you only need a handful of berries. Strawberries already contain a lot of water. By keeping them in their original container without the introduction of moisture, the fruit may stay fresher longer, as moisture speeds up mold growth and spoilage. That said, discard any strawberries that look moldy or bruised as you notice them to keep these signs of spoilage from spreading.

How Long Do Strawberries Last?

Strawberries should last five to seven days in the refrigerator if stored well, but a few factors can shorten that time period, such as excess moisture and mold. One moldy strawberry can spoil the entire package quickly. Local strawberries, meanwhile, should outlast those that arrive from across the country on a truck.

How to Wash Strawberries

The best way to clean strawberries is under the sink faucet, whether in a colander or in your hands, running cold tap water over them gently for 10 to 20 seconds. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), cold water removes anywhere from 75 to 80 percent of pesticide residue from produce.

How to Clean Strawberries With Vinegar

While rinsing strawberries with cold tap water is an easy, effective cleaning method, you may be concerned that water alone won't rinse the pesticides off conventional (non-organic) fruit. Never fear: vinegar can help rinse off pesticide residue as well as dirt or bacteria.

Pour three cups of cold water and a cup of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar into a bowl, then submerge your strawberries for five to 20 minutes. Thoroughly rinse the strawberries with cold tap water and drain them to keep them from tasting acidic.

How to Clean Strawberries With Baking Soda

If you don't have vinegar on hand or want to avoid any residual vinegar taste, you can soak your strawberries in a baking soda and water solution to clean them. Add 1 tsp. of baking soda to 4 cups of water, and soak your strawberries in a large bowl for five minutes. Then, rinse your strawberries with cold running water and pat them dry.

Baking soda helps remove dirt, traces of pesticides, and more from fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, keeping an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator can help absorb other food odors, which can keep the taste and scent of your strawberries intact.

How to Clean Strawberries With Salt

If you're wondering why you would use salt water on your berries, thank TikTok. Videos of people soaking strawberries in salt water reveal that the solution removes tiny bugs (residual fruit fly larvae) that you don't normally see in the fruit. That said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have limits on insects in food, and bug-attracting berries of all kinds pass the test. These bugs are harmless, and you've likely consumed them for as long as you've eaten fruit.

To make a salt water bath for your berries, dissolve 1 tsp. of salt per 1 cup of warm water. Let the mixture cool (you don't want the berries to cook in warm water) then soak the fruit for at least five minutes. After, rinse the strawberries with cold running tap water and pat dry.

Produce Washes and Soaps

While special washes claim to do a better job at cleaning fruits and veggies, FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) don't recommend and haven't fully evaluated the use of produce washes, soaps, or detergents to clean produce, including strawberries. Not only that, these cleaning agents may leave a residue on your berries, so it's best to skip them.

Ultrasonic Produce Cleaning Machines

You may have seen videos of fruit and veggies "cleaned" with ultrasonic produce lights, which are said to address traces of pesticides, preservatives, edible fruit wax, and "invisible harmful substances that cannot be washed with water." The technology isn't new, but as with produce washes, the jury has yet to decide if it's actually better than a water rinse. Once again, cold tap water remains the easiest, most dependable, and most budget-friendly cleaning agent.

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