How—and When—to Wash Blueberries for Max Freshness


  1. On This Page

    • Why to Wash Blueberries

    • When to Wash

    • How to Wash

    • How to Store

    • Should You Use Vinegar or Salt?

Whether or not to wash your produce isn't really up for debate.  If you're talking about fresh fruit, the answer is almost always yes.  Sure, bananas and oranges are guarded against dirt and pesticides by a thick peel. But with most other fruit, the go-to answer is to wash. And with some small, delicate types, like bursting-ripe blueberries, washing (and storing) becomes a little trickier.

When removing potential pesticide residue from blueberries, aim to prevent smashing and bruising in the process. Timing is also important. We tapped experts in New Jersey, a state that grows some of the most renowned blueberries in the country, for their best tips. Here's everything you need to know.

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Why You Need to Wash Blueberries

Unlike bananas or citrus fruit, blueberries don't have a peel to protect them. They are fully exposed to the hazards of growing, harvesting, shipping, and storing.

"We recommend the washing of berries to remove any debris, soil, bacteria, or residues that may be on the surface from the growing, harvesting, and handling activities involved with getting this fruit from the farm to your table," says Meredith Melendez, an Agriculture & Natural Resources County Agent and an assistant professor at Rutgers.

Melendez says that whether blueberries are organic, conventional, hydroponic, from the market, or from a neighbor, they should always be washed the same way.

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Blueberries in small bowl
Blueberries in small bowl

Getty Images

When to Wash Blueberries

Blueberries (and other produce) should not be washed as soon as they're brought home. Rather, they should be washed shortly before they're eaten.  When you bring home your blueberries, inspect them and discard any that show mold or decay (composted, ideally). Why? "To prevent the spread of decay onto adjacent berries," Melendez explains. Then store them in the fridge (more on this later) if you don't intend to eat them.

"We recommend washing produce just prior to consumption," Melendez says.  "Washing produce and then putting it in the fridge can shorten shelf life due to increased moisture levels."Waiting keeps berries fresher!

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How to Wash Blueberries

  1. Start with clean hands.  Be sure to keep the blueberries from touching the kitchen sink, which tends to be dirty.

  2. Empty blueberries from their container into a colander to make the washing process easier and to reduce risk.

  3. Turn on your sink, letting cool water flow. "Berries should be washed gently under cool running water, moving them around to allow the water to run across all sides," she says. "If using a colander, you can move the berries with your hands for as long as needed to fully wash them," she adds.

  4. Once you've given berries a long, thorough rinse, dry them in the colander with a cloth or a paper towel. Then they're ready to eat!

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How to Store Blueberries After Washing

After washing and drying your blueberries, store them in a breathable container in the very coldest part of your fridge (usually the very top or very bottom). This placement is best for storing berries before washing as well.

"Berries will have the longest shelf life if they are stored in a refrigerator that has a temperature of about 32 degrees Fahrenheit," Melendez says. "At this temperature, berries can be expected to hold their quality for about two weeks from harvest."

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Should You Ever Wash Blueberries with Vinegar or Salt?

Some food experts recommend washing blueberries in diluted vinegar or salt to kill off mold and bacteria and prolong their shelf life. But is this step necessary? That's up to you. According to the CDC, kitchen vinegar and lemon juice may be used, but government experts "are not aware of studies that show vinegar or lemon juice are any better than plain running water."