Should You Wash Every Food with Soap? A Guide to Proper Food Cleaning

When it comes to food safety, cleanliness is paramount. However, the question of whether or not to wash every food with soap is a topic that has sparked much debate. While some people swear by the practice, others argue that it’s unnecessary and could even be harmful. So, what’s the truth? Should you be washing all your food with soap? Let’s delve into the science behind food cleaning to find out.

Understanding the Basics of Food Cleaning

Food cleaning is an essential step in food preparation. It helps to remove dirt, pesticides, and potential pathogens that could cause foodborne illnesses. However, the method of cleaning varies depending on the type of food. For instance, fruits and vegetables should be washed under running water, while meats should be cooked to the appropriate temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.

Should You Wash Food with Soap?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s not recommended to wash food with soap. Soap is not designed for ingestion and can leave behind residues that may cause health problems if ingested. Instead, the FDA recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water and scrubbing firm produce with a clean produce brush.

What About Washing Meat?

Contrary to popular belief, washing meat is not necessary and can even be harmful. The USDA warns that washing meat can spread bacteria to other foods, utensils, and surfaces, leading to cross-contamination. Instead, cooking meat to the right temperature is the best way to ensure its safety.

Proper Food Cleaning Practices

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking them.

  • Scrub firm produce like melons or cucumbers with a clean produce brush.

  • Don’t wash meat or poultry. Cooking them to the right temperature will kill any bacteria present.

  • Keep your kitchen, utensils, and cutting boards clean to prevent cross-contamination.


In conclusion, while it’s crucial to clean your food properly before consumption, washing food with soap is not recommended. Instead, use running water for fruits and vegetables and rely on proper cooking temperatures for meats. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your food is safe to eat and free from harmful bacteria.