Ask a Clean Person: I Drank the Juice, and It Was a Mess

What’s the fastest and best way to clean my juicer? Love juice, hate how long it takes to clean up afterward, especially when it’s so easy to just toss a plastic cup. And is it okay to kind of leave that little green residue in there for another day? I mean really it can’t hurt me right? Right? Am I gross / is that gross? I love my juicer but it’s bringing me down.

It’s not that gross! Okay twist my arm, it’s maybe a little gross.

The reason it’s a little gross is twofold: one, all that lurking pulp makes a tremendously attractive home for bacteria, and while generally I’m all in favor of making a tremendously attractive home, I’ve always found that bacteria is a terrible houseguest. Forever forgetting to hang the wet towels and such. Two, the longer you leave your juicer unwashed the more INSANELY difficult it’s going to become to get it clean again. So yeah, you have to wash the juicer.

To cut down on the time you’re spending cleaning the darn thing every day (yup! EVERY DAY. Sorry, I know you hate me right now. Here, have a sip of juice, it’ll make you feeeeeeel better), go on and fill your (CLEAN!) kitchen sink up with hot water and a splurt of dishsoap. While the sink is filling up, take off all the removable/cleanable parts and toss them in their bath. Then, using a sponge and a toothbrush to help you get into corners and to slough off any debris stubbornly clinging to the screen part of the filter, give everything a washing. Drain the sink and rinse each piece in hot water. Finally, if there are splatters on the exterior of the machine, wipe them off with a damp cloth.

Some parts are dishwasher safe, but check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure that the parts on the model you’ve got play nicely in a dishwasher situation.

When deciding on a juicer to buy, you’ll definitely (definitely, definitely) want to take ease of cleaning into account. The biggest reason people buy and abandon (expensive!) juicing equipment is because cleaning the darn thing is such a hassle. Brian Lam, over at geeky brother site The Wirecutter, recently reviewed juicers, taking into particular account ease of cleaning, because he is a thoughtful genius who knows how to make a Clean Person’s heart sing.

I just bought a juicer and so my produce intake has gone way up. Yay for green juice! But now I’m a little more worried than I used to be that I’m not doing a good enough job cleaning the food itself before I eat it. So, I have questions about the best way to clean produce.

If something says it’s been pre-washed, can I trust it? I certainly don’t trust American agriculture otherwise, so I try to always buy from my local farmer’s market. But it closes where I live between November and May, so for those months I’m stuck with supermarket produce, and I eat a lot of it. My old roommate told me to wash everything in baking soda to get the pesticide residue off. But how? For how long? Is this even true? Is it enough? Am I safe?

I’m worried because even though I’m buying organic/locally grown produce whenever possible, it feels like there’s wax coating my cucumbers and apples especially, and then I don’t want to have to peel everything all the time, I like the peel! I want to eat it! That’s where a lot of the nutrients are!

OH AND! If it’s something I can and do want to take the peel off of, like a pineapple, for example, do I have to wash it first? Helllp!

These are all great questions! All of them. Really great. Really, really great.

Gosh, that’s a lot of questions.

Okay, well let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start): if something says it’s been pre-washed, naw probably don’t trust it. There are all manner of terrifying studies that show that “pre-washed” vegetables are still harboring, like, fecal matter and fingernail clippings and right, generally a good rule of thumb is to wash everything just to be on the safe side.

As for that former roommate: she gave you some good advice! Baking soda is indeed a great thing to use as a fruit and vegetable wash, and to use it, basically what you want to do is sprinkle some directly on the produce, run a little water to activate it into a paste, and then scrub the veggies down with your hands or a scrubbie brush.

Let’s talk generally about cleaning techniques for different kinds of produce, shall we? We shall:

Leafy greens are most easily cleaned by plugging your (CLEAN!) sink, filling it with cold water and plunking the greens down for a quick soak. Swish ’em about a few times to loosen any particularly stubborn dirt, and then allow the greens to sit for a short spell so that the grit can float to the bottom of the sink.

– Heartier items like carrots and apples can be washed using cold water and a bristled scrub brush.

– Produce that’s more fragile — peaches, tomatoes, the thinner-skinned foodstuffs — can be rinsed under running cold water. However, for the purpose of juicing you could certainly scrub them, because you’re going to pulverize them in your juicer anyway. What’s a few bruised peaches among friends?

To answer your question about waxed produce, or anything that you want to be gentle with for the sake of appearances (maybe you’re using half a tomato in your juice and the other half in a salad, and you don’t want it looking all banged up?), fruit and vegetable washes are a good idea. Those products are designed to do a number of things, one of which is to cut through the wax on fresh items that you’d like to eat peel-on. Before we get further into that, though, would you like to know a little bit more about that wax? Sure you would!

The wax that’s used on produce is generally paraffin wax (the beautiful among us are like, “Oh right, that stuff I entomb my hands in to make them gorgeous!” Some of you have paraffin, some of us have Palmolive. *sighs deeply*) and all produce wax used in the United States is FDA approved. Not that we necessarily trust the FDA to keep us safe, since it apparently deems products like McRib safe enough to be on the market. Another fun (if kinda gross) fact: the wax is indigestible, which means you, ahem, excrete it out in its entirety.

Moving along to fun facts that are actually fun and not gross! Many of the things you think of as being artificially waxed actually come with natural wax of their own. Cucumbers and apples, in particular. No seriously! And then what happens is that they get picked, and processed (even the organic stuff, though not the farmer’s market stuff) and in that process their natural wax is lost so the suppliers put it back on. And they put it on for a couple of reasons: (1) to make it pretty; (2) to help retain moisture; (3) to inhibit mold growth; and (4) to help prevent bruising. The last thing to know is that the amount of wax used on each item is very, very small — generally a single drop, maybe two.

Back to those commercial produce washes. There are a whole host of brands out there to choose from, some with delightful names like Citrus Magic Veggie Wash or Fit Fruit & Vegetable wash and some that are more literal, like Veggie Wash. All of those are good and fine! But they can get pretttty pricey, right? Right. If you’re so inclined (and you likely are, since you’ve already taken to DIY juicing) here’s a recipe for homemade fruit & veg wash:

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons baking soda
Juice of one lemon (about 2–3 Tbsp)

Mix together, delight in the volcanic reaction of the combo of baking soda and vinegar, pour into a spray bottle and chh-chh-chh.

As for things that you’re going to peel, you don’t need to wash it before you peel it. Just make sure you wash your peeler when you’re done so that any filth it may have picked up from the grimy peel doesn’t end up on the other fruities and veggies you’re about to consume.

I know that this is all a lot and that the dirt- and germaphobes out there are probably hanging from the ceiling by their claws right about now, so to cool everyone’s motors and put things in a bit of perspective, I’ll share one of my favorite sayings: “Gaia made dirt, so dirt can’t hurt.”

I’m so afraid to use my juicer because of the potential mess (see also: lack of counter space) that it’s still in the box.

While this isn’t really a question, I felt like it was worth addressing this particular quandary to give folks a framework to use when considering whether to purchase/hang onto a new kitchen appliance. The previous two answers should (hopefully!) have given you a sense of the amount of cleaning involved in at-home juicing, not only in terms of the machine but also the time and effort it takes to wash the stuff that goes in the juicer. So the first thing you should think about is whether or not that sounds like too much of a darn hassle.

If the answer is yes, go ahead and sell or donate the unused juicer. Be relentlessly honest with yourself, sort of in the way that I would encourage people to be honest with themselves about items of clothing that don’t fit when executing on a closet purge. It’s never a good practice to keep items in the home for which you have no use, from both a practical and spiritual standpoint. Clutter is bad for the soul. Pretty sure Gandhi said that.

On the other hand, there are some good arguments for keeping that juicer and breaking it out of its cardboard prison! There are people out there who are super fanatical about their juicing experience and want everyone to know about it. Sometimes they even peer pressure their coworkers into drinking the juice! But sometimes even devoted juicers don’t DIY it for a number of reasons, one of which is that while yes, buying juice is expensive, DIY doesn’t actually begin to show an ROI until after about 100–200 batches of at-home juice.


Previously: Easter Bunny Revolting.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you curious to know if she’s answered a question you have? Do check out the archives, listed by topic. More importantly: is anything you own dirty?

Photo by Liv friis-larsen, via Shutterstock