Washing Apples Is Never 100 Percent Effective, Study Shows

A new and somewhat alarming study recently revealed that although they're washed prior to shelf placement, apples, especially non-organic varieties, are sold with skin that's loaded with pesticides. The produce is treated with numerous sprays and protocols prior to shipment — largely to protect them from encroaching insects and fungi. Sellers are aware of this, and therefore wash the fruit before putting them on display.

But these washing treatments rarely ever work to remove chemicals completely.

Grocers wash their produce with a number of different techniques including bleach solutions, baking soda, and a simple rinse. A group of researchers published a study analyzing the effectiveness of these techniques in removing two types of pesticides, phosmet and thiabendazole — and the results were dismal.

Since pesticides, especially "systemic" pesticides like phosmet, often sink deeper than surface-level on the skin of apples, none of the methods were 100 percent effective.

Researchers say you could peel your apples to be completely sure you've removed the chemicals — though, as toxicologist Dr. Motoko Mukai, pointed out to CNN, "that reduces the nutritional content, so that's a tradeoff." What's also a tradeoff is the labor-intensive process of slicing off the skin. And if you struggle to get yourself to eat your daily servings of fruits and vegetables already, having to spend 5 minutes preparing your apple might just deter you from making a healthy choice.

Of all the methods that were tested, baking soda proved most effective. This is the method that penetrated the skin's layers deepest and really broke down the harmful chemical residue. In the study, the baking soda treatment removed 80 percent of thiabendazole contamination and 95 percent of phosmet. We like them apples a whole lot better.

To conduct this rinsing treatment at home, simply mix a teaspoon of baking soda into two cups of water. Then, use the water to rinse the apple.

If that sounds like too much effort for you, though, you can either go organic or make peace with the horrifying facts that make you want to.