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Why You Should Probably Wash Your “Pre-Washed” Greens

I love the convenience of pre-packed salad greens.

They’re washed and ready to go, making salad preparation quick and easy.

Unless, of course, you’re my mom.

She has always insisted on washing the bagged salad AGAIN before serving, even if it is “pre-washed” or “triple-washed.” I thought this seemed like a waste of her time– after all, they’re already washed!– but as it turns out, my mom was probably right.

As usual.

Most companies, according to standard industry practice, wash their packaged leafy greens (even the organic ones), in a diluted chlorine solution to prevent bacteria growth and contamination. While it’s intended for our general safety, I’m sure most of us aren’t thrilled to be consuming trace amounts of chlorine each time we eat a salad.

This is why most packages recommend a “final rinse”–> to eliminate any chlorine residue.

Perhaps I’ll try listening to my mom on this one.

If you want to avoid the chlorine all together, it seems that the only way to do that is either by growing your own produce, or talking with your local farmers at a market. Even local farmers have been known to use this chlorine rinse, so it’s always best to ask!

Reader Feedback: Do you use packaged lettuce, and did you know about the chlorine rinse? Are you motivated to start rinsing your produce?

24 comments to Why You Should Probably Wash Your “Pre-Washed” Greens

  • I have to say, I always use prewashed lettuce, and until I buy a salad spinner or something, I’m probably not going to do a final rinse. This is really good to know though! I definitely need to buy one :)

    How do you go about washing your lettuce?

    • I also don’t have a salad spinner, so I don’t know that I’ll rinse mine yet, either!

      My mom uses a salad spinner, and it works great! You can even eat directly from that bowl, once they’re dry. ;)

  • I have to hang my head on this one and admit I’ve never thought to wash pre-washed greens as it seemed like a waste of water. I wondered if it was the same over here in the EU, and found a local article saying that “chlorine added to the water to control pathogens was supposed to be computer-regulated, but sometimes they were having to add extra doses by hand.” (and also mentions e-coli, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/03/foodsafety.fooddrinks ). I clearly need to up my game! I do wash my lettuces in a special veggie wash solution so I’ll have to start doing the same with the rest of my greens. Which means getting better prepared so they’ve time to dry…which means it probably won’t happen every single time, but thanks for bringing it up!

    • I’ll be upping my game with you! With all of my traveling lately, there’s no way I’ll be doing it every single time, either, but I will be doing it more often!

  • I don’t have a salad spinner either. But yes it is recommended and really should be done since your paying premium money for organic brands. I wash mine as soon as I get home from shopping I put it in the colander, rinse, lay it out to on a plate and press with cheesecloth to dry (and if I’m storing it in the fridge I then transfer it to glass containers).

    I also recommend washing all your veggies / fruits with a 10 parts water 1 part ACV solution it helps them keep longer and unlike some store bought veggie cleaners this is one you can feel safe about.

  • GAHHH okay my mom does the same thing!! she always washes the greens AGAIN and i always was annoyed/too lazy to do it, especially when putting spinach right into my shake.
    she said she “feels better” washing it herself and to brighten up the greens again. of course moms are always right! i hate when i find out things like this… i feel like we can never be safe or in the clear, even with organic food

  • [...] you have children let them help by setting the table, washing the veggiesand making them get involved at a younger age will help them make good [...]

  • jeanne

    I never wash them because they are a pain to dry and wet salad sucks. I’ve never had good luck with a salad spinner….I guess it’s time to try it again, thanks!

  • Erica

    Satur Farms salad greens specifically state on the packaging that they wash their greens with a chlorine-free rinse which is comforting I suppose. I’m not a fan of earthbound farms, I consider them and companies like them “industrial organic.” I prefer to support smaller, local, organic companies or farmers who may not have organic certification but nevertheless follow organic principles.

    • I’ve never seen the Satur Farms brand, but I’ll keep my eye out for it! Fresh Express has also stated they don’t use the chlorine rinse anymore– they say they’ve found something more effective. Not sure I feel any better about that, either!

      Definitely more reason to support smaller, local farmers when possible!

  • I’d say about 90% of the time I rinse my greens and sometimes I get lazy and don’t. Now I will for sure every time from now on! I have a Pampered chef salad spinner that works great!!!

  • Lesley

    If you don’t have a salad spinner put washed greens on a clean tea towel, grab the four corners then go outside and swing your arm a few times and the water flies through the towel and you have nice dry green.

  • Annalea

    For what it’s worth, chlorine goes airborne very quickly . . . hence the need to add it to traditional swimming pools all the time. Since the salad isn’t soaking in water, then I don’t believe there’s much chance of there being chlorine on the greens still. Your best bet is your nose. Chlorine is easy enough to smell, and if you just let your greens sit on the counter for ten or fifteen minutes, any residue should be gone. It only takes half an hour for a three-gallon bucket of water to be safe for aquarium use, and that’s a whole lot more water than is hanging around in a box or bag of salad.

    Hope that helps!

  • karen

    It takes 24 hours for a bucket of water to not have chlorine in it. You should still rinse, just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
    I wash my green before I use them.

  • Arte

    Thank you all for the advice and tips. My mom has been ‘pestering’ me to wash my greens. I think it is waste of water. I eat salad everyday for my lunch and to be honest I am lazy to wash them every day.

    Just out of curiosity, is there chlorine in the tap water we get?

  • You probably consume more clorine thru your skin when you take a shower than the clorine residue thats left in the greens after you rinse them

  • John Townsend

    My local Fresh Food Market here in South Perth sells ready made coleslaw. I spoke with them and they are not sure whether they wash it or not, but from looking at what I recently purchased I’m sure they don’t. Dirty grubby lumps of cabbage
    I will certainly be washing every piece of vegetable (pre washed or otherwise) before consumption. Not sure how the coleslaw will turn out if it requires washing after it has been cut and diced. Might make my own (after a good wash)
    Certainly didn’t know about the chlorine

  • Diana

    Isn’t there chlorine in our drinking water? If you rinse your package veggies, are you not adding more chlorinated water to your veggies?

    What if you swim an hour a day? I would think that you would be absorbing more chlorine in a swimming pool than eating prewashed spinach salad.

  • Dolores

    I use a Big Salad Spinner that you push down in the center. If they are small greens that is great. Then I transfer them to an even smaller salad spinner that has a pull cord on the side for an extra spin. Then I drain that excess water and leave the salad in that specific container and put I in the fridge immediately. The small amount of moister helps keep the salad/mix fresh and it doesn’t get limpy. If I am doing Romaine or any other large type leaf, I stand them up in the large spinner, without the top on it, and spin it slowly to take away the excess water. Then I stand them in a gallon bag and store it standing up the my fridge. My salads last a lot longer with this procedure.

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