How to Clean Strawberries

Updated: Mar. 12, 2024

Learn how to clean strawberries with three simple methods that get rid of dirt and bacteria and keep the berries fresh for longer.

Before you prep a fresh strawberry salad or set out your ingredients for strawberry shortcake, it’s essential to wash your strawberries correctly. But what’s the best way to wash berries? Here’s how to clean strawberries to get rid of dirt, bugs, bacteria and pesticides.

When to Clean Strawberries

There’s no need to wash strawberries the second you get home from the grocery store. In fact, this approach can do more harm than good. Placing wet strawberries in a storage container will trap moisture, which makes the berries soften faster and can potentially cause mold growth.

Instead, wash strawberries right before eating them.

If you want to clean and cut your strawberries in advance for a party, line the bottom of the storage container with a paper towel and place the strawberries on top. This will help absorb the extra moisture.

Want to keep your strawberries fresh for longer? Check how to freeze strawberries so that you’ll preserve their quality, nutritional value and most importantly, flavor.

When to Rinse with Water vs. Vinegar

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How to Clean Strawberries with Water

Washing strawberries with plain tap water is the easiest and most effective way to rid strawberries of bacteria and residue from packaging and processing. First, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water (always start with clean hands!). Then, either holding them or placing them in a colander, rinse the strawberries under running water, rubbing gently as you rinse. Dry on a clean paper towel.

How to Clean Strawberries with Salt

Store-bought berries usually look clean and ready to eat, but little critters might be hiding in them. Soaking strawberries in a salt water bath can draw out bugs and other contaminants. Fill a bowl with about two cups of warm water and two tablespoons of salt. Let the salt dissolve and the water cool, then add the strawberries. Allow the strawberries to soak for about five minutes. Rinse under running water and pat dry.

How to Clean Strawberries with Vinegar

If you get your produce from the farmers market, you might notice a little extra dirt on your strawberries. According to the CDC, a vinegar wash helps remove grime, spores and bacteria and prevents the berries from getting mushy. Wash strawberries in a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water. Then rinse your berries with clean water to remove any leftover vinegar. Pat dry with a clean paper towel.

Is It Safe to Use Fruit and Vegetable Wash?

Don’t use soap, detergents or commercial produce wash to clean strawberries. The Food and Drug Administration warns that because strawberries are porous, they can absorb soap or detergents and make you sick. You want to skip commercial produce wash, too: According to the FDA, the effectiveness of fruit and vegetable washes hasn’t been tested, and it’s not known if the residue from these washes is safe.

How to Store Strawberries

Store strawberries in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below. The FDA suggests using a refrigerator thermometer to make sure you have the right temperature. Use a container with a vented lid, or don’t close the lid completely to avoid trapping extra moisture, which causes strawberries to spoil faster. You can also freeze fresh strawberries to use them for baking later (like in this strawberry cake).

Next Up: What is a mock strawberry?