How to Wash Mushrooms

Updated: Feb. 16, 2024

See a few specks of dirt on your portabellos? Here's how to wash mushrooms the right way according to our Test Kitchen pros.

Mushrooms are always in my refrigerator (and mushroom decor in every square inch of my home). I love how they add substance and savoriness to everything from my go-to wild rice soup to skillet pasta carbonara. Despite using all kinds of mushrooms in my kitchen, I will admit, I’m always asking myself how do you wash mushrooms?

To get to the bottom of this question, I decided I had to consult with the pros: the Taste of Home Test Kitchen. Here’s what they have to say about cleaning mushrooms.

How to Clean Most Mushrooms

Fresh mushrooms in a bowlalvarez/Getty Images

The secret to learning how to wash mushrooms is to not wash them at all, according to our experts in the Test Kitchen. Getting them soaking wet is considered a big mushroom mistake.

Also, learn how to store mushrooms; your secret to fresh, flavorful fungi.

“I typically wipe my shrooms off with a damp paper towel and call it a day,” says the Test Kitchen’s Josh Rink.

But what about the dirt? Well, it’s not dirt at all! “That ‘dirt’ you see on mushrooms purchased at the grocery store is actually growing medium—not soil,” explains Josh. “The growing medium is inoculated and ‘cooked’ to kill mold and bacteria so it is not unsafe.” You’ll see this same growing medium or peat in mushroom growing kits.

That means if you stir a little of that peat into your dish, it’s absolutely safe. It may cause your sauces to take on an earthier color, but overall won’t impact the flavor or texture of your dish. So you don’t need to “wash” your mushrooms for them to be clean.

Use this method to clean cultivated mushrooms like:

  • Button mushrooms
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Enoki
  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Portobellos
  • Shiitake

If the mushrooms you purchased are really really dirty—more than what can be handled with a damp towel or mushroom brush—rinse them very quickly under cool water to wash them and then pat dry. P.S. If you love mushrooms but struggle to find ways to cook them, check out our guide on what to cook with mushrooms.

How to Wash Foraged Mushrooms

Raw uncooked Chanterelles mushroomsNatasha Breen/Getty Images

The washing method above works for most, but not all mushrooms. If you’re at the farmers market and spot foraged mushrooms like chanterelles, you’ll want to wash them differently.

Shannon Norris in the Test Kitchen recommends dunking these mushrooms into a saltwater bath to give them a good wash. Agitate the mushrooms a bit in the bath to shake loose any specks of dirt or critters. Then move the mushrooms to a clean dishtowel to dry completely.

Use this method to wash the following types of mushrooms:

  • Chanterelles
  • Hen-of-the-woods (AKA maitake) 
  • Lion’s mane
  • Morels
  • Other foraged varieties

Why You Don’t Want to Get Mushrooms Wet

So why is everyone so hesitant to get mushrooms wet? It’s because of the texture of these fungi. Mushrooms absorb moisture incredibly well.

If the mushrooms are saturated with water before they go into your recipe, they won’t soak up as much of those delicious cooking liquids and sauces. Also, “getting mushrooms wet makes the browning process more difficult,” explains Josh.

The bottom line is to avoid water as much as possible with cultivated mushrooms (skip the wash) and to rinse your foraged finds quickly and carefully.

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