A woman washes leafy greens at her kitchen sink.

You can’t wash away all pesticides. The chemicals can stick to soft skins, wax coatings can trap certain pesticides, and some are systemic, meaning they get into the flesh of fruits or vegetables. In fact, the Department of Agriculture pesticide testing on which we based our ratings occurs after produce is washed, and if appropriate, peeled. Yet some still have pesticide residue.

To remove as much pesticide residue as you can, follow the method used by the USDA.

More about the pesticides on produce

Wash all produce—even those that will be peeled—in cold running water for 15 to 20 seconds. For hard produce with tough skins, like apples and potatoes, use a vegetable brush or rub with your hands. You can time yourself by singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice or any 20-second refrain of a favorite song.

That’s it. There’s no evidence that special washes remove more pesticides.

And you should certainly avoid soap and especially bleach. Concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have led many people to think that using those cleaners on produce can help prevent the spread of the disease. But it’s far more likely that even after rinsing, soap or bleach left on food can make you sick.

Editor’s note: This article also appeared in the October 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.