How to Wash Lettuce and Salad Greens
Learn how to wash lettuce the way chefs recommend.
Ever take a big bite of a refreshing green salad only to feel grit between your teeth? Yuck. If not properly rinsed, salad greens can carry a lot of dirt, sand and other contaminants you do not want to eat. Read on to find out how to wash lettuce and other greens correctly. (Spoiler: If you’re rinsing them under the faucet, you’re doing it wrong.)
Do you have to wash lettuce?
Yes. All produce, like fruits and vegetables should be washed—including lettuce! Taking the steps to properly wash your greens ensures you’re getting rid of any potential bacteria, dirt or pesticides. Start washing your lettuce with this homemade fruit and vegetable wash.
What about pre-washed lettuce?
Yes, you probably should wash pre-washed lettuce. No matter what the bag claims, pre-washed lettuce is not as clean as you think. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages to wash lettuce with a bleach solution to kill harmful bacteria. However, sometimes traces of bleach remain on the lettuce—and no one wants a bleach salad.
Furthermore, studies have found that the bleach solution isn’t always effective; meaning contaminants can still make their way to your kitchen even after the bleach treatment. To be sure your pre-washed lettuce is free of both chemicals and bacteria, it’s best to wash it again.
When to Wash Lettuce
You can wash your greens as soon as you get home from the store or wait to wash them until you’re prepping for a meal. There’s no wrong answer, so it comes down to personal preference. If you like to throw together quick salads for lunch, you might want to have your lettuce washed, shredded and ready to grab from the fridge. Use these lettuce keepers to keep greens fresh even longer.
How to Wash Lettuce
Step 1: Fill your sink
Fill your sink (or a large, clean bowl) with cold water. If you use your sink, be sure to wash it thoroughly beforehand.
Step 2: Dunk the greens
Separate the greens and dunk them in the cold water. Swirl and agitate the water with the greens inside so that the water gets into all the little nooks and crevices of the leaves.
Step 3: Let them soak
Leave the greens floating in the water for at least 10 minutes or so. As they soak, dirt and sand will fall to the bottom of the sink or bowl.
Step 4: Dry the greens
Lift the greens out and gently shake them to remove any excess water. Then, place your greens in a salad spinner (don’t overload it) and spin to dry.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, try this hack: Wrap the wet greens in a couple of clean kitchen towels, then place the whole bundle in a plastic grocery bag. Tie the bag, and while holding the handles tightly, spin the bag around vigorously using arm circles. The motion will make the water slide off the leaves and soak into the towels. You’ll be a human salad spinner!
How to Store Washed Lettuce and Salad Greens
Storing your greens depends on whether the leaves are loose or still attached to their stem. If you’re storing a head of lettuce, first remove any wilted leaves. Then, wrap the lettuce head in a damp paper towel, put it inside a plastic bag and store it in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
To store salad greens, make sure they’re completely dry—this is where a salad spinner comes in handy! Then, store your salad greens in a container—like a lettuce keeper—in your fridge to keep the lettuce fresh and safe from any bacteria buildup. If you don’t have a lettuce keeper on hand, a plastic bag works just as well.
Next Up: Learn how to wash mushrooms without making them soggy.