EWG’s 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists

Nutrition / April 10, 2018

Two open hands holding fresh strawberries

If you’re a regular follower of the Environmental Working Group’s Annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces on this year’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists.

If you’re new to EWG’s produce guide, saddle up because we’re about to break down the best (and worst) produce options to avoid pesticides.

The United States Department of Agriculture tested thousands of produce samples and found evidence of 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products. Of the tested samples, nearly 70% of produce was contaminated by pesticide residue.

On top of being toxic, pesticides have been linked to fertility issues in both men and women.

The Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists make it easier for you to decide which foods are safe and healthy to eat, and which are worth spending extra for when it comes to organic produce. We recommend buying organic produce whenever you can, but we also know that depending on the time of year or where you live, organic options aren’t always available.


The Dirty Dozen

The following 12 fruit and veggies have tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed the highest concentration of pesticides overall.

Strawberries have maintained their top spot again this year. One-third of all strawberries tested contained 10 or more pesticides. Meanwhile, grapes fell three spots this year, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you learn that 96% of conventional grapes tested positive for pesticide residues.

The Clean Fifteen

The following 15 fruit and veggies showed the least amount of pesticide residues and lowest concentration of pesticides in tests.

Snagging this year’s top spot — with fewer than 1% of samples testing positive for pesticides — is the humble, healthy fat-rich avocado! Broccoli managed to squeeze out grapefruit for this year’s final spot in the Clean Fifteen with an impressive 70% of samples having no detectable pesticide residue.

EWG's Clean 15 List 2018

Want these lists for yourself?

Download the PDF here, print and take it grocery shopping! Want a pictureless version instead? Download the picture-free PDF here.

EWG has also put out a full version of the produce guide with a few other good/bad fruit and veg options. Check out the full 48 and see how the new additions — like kale and cucumbers — stack up against the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen.

So now that you have your lists at the ready — what do you do with your fruit and veggies after purchasing them? You wash them. Properly, we hope….


How to Wash Your Fruits and Veggies

When buying produce, it’s important to wash it whether it’s organic or not.

While the Clean Fifteen boasts less pesticide residue than the Dirty Dozen list, you still need to wash your produce to ensure you are consuming the least possible amount of dirt, dust, pesticide, and residue.

But do you know how to properly do that?

Don’t:

  • Wash fruit and veggies with soap or detergent
  • Use an abrasive brush on delicately skinned fruit

Do:

  1. Wash your hands ahead of preparing fruit and veggies
  2. Place fruit and veggies in your sink and fill with cold, distilled water for two to three minutes. Soak produce with ridges and crevices (like broccoli and cauliflower) for a few minutes longer.
  3. For produce with thick skin, use a use a gentle vegetable brush to help lift away additional pesticides and microbes.
  4. Drain your sink and dry your fruit and veggies!

You may be thinking that commercial produce washes are missing from our Do list. But studies have shown that cold, distilled tap water is just as effective, if not more so, than costly veggie rinses.

Researchers at the University of Maine tested three commercial wash treatments:

  • J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer
  • Fit®
  • Ozone Water Purifier XT-301

All three products were tested according to package directions and the researchers used low-bush blueberries as the produce.

In addition to the three commercial washes, a water wash was also tested. The blueberries were put in distilled water for one to two minutes.

Here were the head-to-head results:

  • Fit® wash was able to get rid of the same amount of microbes as distilled water. Both reduced the level of pesticide residue compared to unwashed samples.
  • The J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer and The Ozone Water Purifier XT-301 removed microbes from the blueberries. But the distilled water was more effective than both of the ozone washes.

Simple water for the win!

But why distilled water? Distilled water has been purified and filtered to remove contaminants. If you don’t have distilled water available to you, you can also use very clean, cold tap water instead.

So get buying and start washing!

Did you enjoy this post? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments
lori
lori

The article says to use distilled water. Will tap water also work or is the ph too high?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Lori,

Yes it will! If you don’t have distilled water, you can use very clean, cold tap water instead.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Susanne Lee
Susanne Lee

Hydrogen peroxide in a bowl of tap water is AWESOME for a fruit/veggie soak, too!

Leah Corcoran
Leah Corcoran

Thank you for sharing this valuable info! I have the lists posted for our patients in the office that I work in. As a nurse, one thing that came to mind as I read the article is that it would be important to remind people to thoroughly clean and rinse their kitchen sinks before filling them and and soaking produce, as sinks are generally one of the dirtiest, most bacteria-laden places in our homes. This is especially true if you’re soaking produce that will be eaten raw. Had to throw my two cents in!

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Glad you enjoyed it, Leah. And that’s an excellent point! Thanks for taking the time to share 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Sherry Rasmussen
Sherry Rasmussen

Thanks for the valuable information. So I am wondering though what about fruits and vegetables that you get from a stand like Untiedt–there fruits and vegetables are so good but am wondering if they would have pesticides also. Thanks for the info.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Good question, Sherry.

In that case, it’s best to speak with the stand attendant to determine the farms growing practices – as they may or may not use pesticides! And always be sure to wash your fruits and veggies using the guidelines above 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Roberta
Roberta

Thanks for all.the great info and all very usable and doable!! Please add me to any lists you send your messages on. Thanks again

Janet Johnson
Janet Johnson

I greatly appreciate this information and the handy printables. My brain doesn’t hold onto things like it used to, and this is going on my fridge! We can’t afford organic much of the time. I sadly just quit eating strawberries. But fortunately organic apples are doable. If you have an Aldi, they are always a good price there.

Clara
Clara

I’m still trying to understand why no soap if it’s a natural soap without all the chemicals, like Bronner’s.

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Clara,

If you still prefer to use a natural soap to wash your produce, please continue to do so! This is just one study comparing the effects of commercial produce washes and water. It did find that distilled water was just as, if not more effective, but that doesn’t mean you have to use distilled water. We are just providing you with some information so you can make an informed decision.

– Monica

Stacy
Stacy

Distilled water works great because it is acidic and has no after taste like vinegar.

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Stacy,

Agreed! I always found my produce had a vinegar aftertaste with the natural washes that use vinegar. It wasn’t until I switched to distilled water and a gentle produce brush that I found, personally my favorite way, to wash my produce.

– Monica

Beth
Beth

I find it rather incredible that soaking in distilled water alone would remove pesticides. Are pesticides removed from produce when it rains? I clean my produce with a mixture of water, vinegar, grapefruit seed extract with baking soda added to the moistened produce (I learned on the Oprah show years ago). Thank you for this article.

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Beth,

That mixture sounds really great, I’ll have to try it! Right now I am using a produce brush in addition to distilled water when I’m washing my produce and am liking it.

– Monica

Tuti Budiman
Tuti Budiman

Usually I soak my fruits and veggies in water with added baking soda for few minutes. Then rainse themnwith clean drinking water. What do you think?

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Hi Tuti,

I’ve used baking soda and water before myself. I think it’s a good, natural alternative for sure!

– Monica

doris v wilson
doris v wilson

do you still need to wash apples if you peel them and any other peelable fruit?

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

That’s a great question, Doris. I searched EWG to try and find an answer and unfortunately came up short – I couldn’t find anything definitive for you.

Personally, I still wash everything with a ‘thinner’ peel like kiwis and apples even if they are eventually going to be peeled because pesticides and residue may get transferred to the inside when peeled. But bananas and avocados I don’t. This isn’t the science-backed answer you were looking for, but I hope it helps in any case. I’ll follow up with a reply if I ever do come across this information though!

– Monica

Dagmar
Dagmar

Sending many thanks to all of you at algaecal and all of you who are adding to the conversation 😘 I always find the info here very valuable…♥️

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Thank you, Dagmar! Glad you’re finding the info valuable 🙂

– Monica

Shawn
Shawn

Monica – can you make a pictureless version of the 2018 list (like the 2017 list you made). Thank you! I’d love it emailed to me.

Joyce Schulte
Joyce Schulte

I use your materials for my Health Psychology class at college.

Wanda
Wanda

On their product’s package, Arm & Hammer suggests to use their baking soda as a cleaner for fruits & vegetables, either by manually washing or by soaking. It claims it removes debris & wax. Is this a safe solution? Afterall, baking soda is ingestible.

Monica
Monica

Hi Wanda,
I’ve heard of using baking soda to wash fruits and veggies, although I haven’t done it myself. If it’s recommended as a use of Arm & Hammer, then it should be safe.
– Monica

Ellen
Ellen

Can you send out a one page list without pictures for easy posting on refrig or tucking in wallet?

Penny
Penny

You’re recommending distilled water, what about reverse osmosis (RO) water?

Would also appreciate a downloadable list option.

nathan fama
nathan fama

good info……thanks!

I scrubbed apples in soapy water, but will do the distilled water for all from now on. Makes sense since distilled water is known to absorb/assimilate toxins and good for many purposes.

Monica
Monica

Hi Nathan,
Thanks for taking the time to comment! Yeah, I used to use a bit of vinegar (cut with water) but found it still left a bit of a taste, which I didn’t love.
– Monica @ AlgaeCal

Barb Stefl
Barb Stefl

A small 2017 “dirty/clean” list on 1 page or less (no pictures) would be appreciated, as it could easily be posted on a kitchen cupboard inside door. Thanks

Monica
Monica

Thanks for the feedback, Barb!

Much appreciated,

– Monica @ AlgaeCal

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