a pair of hands washing vegetables with the water on and the words Save Water in the middle

If you aren’t careful with your water usage, you can really see those water bills spike.

Even washing fruits and vegetables carelessly can have you spending extra dollars. The good news is there are several ways to ensure minimal water wastage. 

This post will enumerate the top 19 ways to save up on water and put less pressure on water sources.

So read on and make washing fruits and veggies at home as sustainable as possible!

The Best Ways to Save Water When Washing Fruits and Vegetables

You can save water when washing fruits and vegetables by collecting your water, using bowls, not washing ready-to-eat produce, using drain plugs, warm water, and good tools, getting a dishwasher, and setting up a greywater system.

a pair of hands in a bowl with water washing oranges and limes

Collect Your Water

One of the good things about washing fruits and veggies is that they aren’t likely to have a lot of chemicals on their outer layers, especially if they’re organic. 

Instead of letting the water from your faucet go down the drain, you can place a basin underneath the tap to collect the water. However, you can only do this if you don’t use soap or detergent when washing fruit. 

The FDA actually advises against using washing products for produce because soap residue is likely to form on them.

Also, don’t even think about using bleach to kill off germs, for it’s even more dangerous than dishwashing liquid when ingested. 

With the water collected in the basin, you can use it to water your plants. 

When washing root crops, you can simply brush them with a stiff brush to remove dirt.

Don’t worry about mixing the soil with the water, as you’re using it for gardening purposes anyways. 

Be Mindful of the Faucet

Washing each piece of produce individually is not a good idea if you’re trying to save.

As much as possible, bundle the produce you will use soon and set a schedule for washing them.

When you are washing fruit, however, make sure you don’t keep the faucet running if you’re not directly exposing any piece of produce to running water

Say, for example, you’re removing peels or bruised parts of a fruit. You should turn off your faucet and turn it on again when you’re ready to rinse.

The same goes for produce with hard outer edges that you must brush, such as watermelons and melons. 

This efficiency is why we advise you to keep all unwashed produce in the same container so that you won’t need to keep reaching out for it individually. 

Of course, you may want to keep some produce separate.

For example, if you don’t want to group potatoes and grapes because potatoes tend to be full of soil, you can put the grapes in plastic bags. The important thing here is that water usage is kept under control. 

Note: Running the faucet carelessly while washing fruit can use up to three gallons (12 liters) of water per minute.

Use Bowls for Berries

Strawberries soaking in a bowl

Place small pieces of produce, such as berries, in bowls if you’re going to wash them. This step ensures that the water you use is limited to what the bowl can carry. 

Furthermore, some people tend to be meticulous about berries due to the apparent use of wax by the industry.

The solution is to mix one cup of white vinegar with water in a basin. Try to cover the entire batch of fruit in the water-vinegar solution. That way, you won’t have to use another load of water. 

You can’t use the water-vinegar solution for gardening as it will kill the plants, so throw it down the drain. The acidity of the vinegar will most likely dissolve any blockages. 

Don’t Wash Ready-To-Eat Fruit

Ready-to-eat fruit has already been prepared by its manufacturers and does not need to be washed.

Just open the packaging and enjoy the product as instructed. The same goes for canned fruits and vegetables

Furthermore, a lot of ready-to-eat produce comes with chemicals and preservatives. Ready-to-eat fruit, in particular, is soaked in syrup to improve the overall taste. Washing them will only remove the sweetness and may add chemicals to your drain. 

Use Your Drain Plug

Some people like to limit their water use by opting for the drain plug.

Simply plug the drain and fill the sink with water as you would in a bubble bath. Then, you can soak your veggies and fruits in and scrub them if necessary. 

Hands holding vegetables in a fully-filled plugged sink.

Like using bowls for washing fruit, this limits the amount of water you use to what the sink can fit.

Furthermore, if you are meticulous about getting dirt and wax off of produce, you’ll take advantage of your double sink if you have one.

Use the first compartment for the initial rinse and the other portion for the secondary rinse.

Alternatively, you can place the water-vinegar solution on the first compartment for washing and use the second for rinsing. 

Once done, you can simply drain or collect the water using your basin. 

Use Warm Water

Washing fruits and vegetables with warm water is much more efficient than cold water, as it’s better at getting dirt off.

Using cold water will have you scrubbing the debris yourself, adding to the time, energy, and water you spend. 

Additionally, warm water can allow wax buildup on produce to show up, which gives you a general idea of what areas to target when getting rid of the wax.

Note that only food-grade wax is edible. Any other type of wax in your food may cause health issues. 

Go for High-Quality Tools

You are very likely to use vegetable brushes when scrubbing melons, gourds, carrots, and eggplants to get rid of dirt.

Using high-quality tools that are sturdy enough to remove dirt can help reduce your water usage.

Hands using a scrub brush to scrub a carrot
Courtesy of TAGCO

If your tools are too brittle, you may have to scrub the dirt away with your hands.

Additionally, you may have to do several rounds of washing, which requires extra liters of water. 

We recommend you use scrub cloths designed for fruits and veggies for added safety. 

Consider Using a Dishwasher

You may think using a dishwasher is more wasteful than washing fruit yourself.

However, you use about 27 gallons (102 liters) of water when hand-washing, while an Energy Star-certified dishwasher uses only three gallons (11 liters).

There’s much more to this debate than just water use, which you can learn more about in this article.

Washing fruits and veggies in a dishwasher is generally safe. The only thing you have to worry about is using the proper settings. 

When placing fruits and veggies, ensure that heavier products such as squashes, melons, and cauliflowers are at the bottom rack. Peaches, bananas, and tomatoes should be on the top shelf. 

You also would want to use a cold cycle for this. A hot setting will only rid your produce of its water content.

You should also make sure that the entire process is soap-free. 

If you use the dishwasher for washing fruit, try to make it a full load. All racks should be teeming with produce.

Finally, don’t turn on the drying setting for your fruits and veggies. 

It would be wise to do regular inspections on your dishwasher to check for leaks or broken components.

Often, a faulty dishwasher may not regulate the water and heating as well as a fully-functional one. This inefficiency translates to excessive consumption and spikes in your water and electricity bills. 

Consider a Greywater System

All used water from your sinks and showers can be considered greywater.

This wastewater is treated differently from water coming from your toilet, which toxic chemicals and pathogens have most likely contaminated.

Toilet water is considered blackwater.

While blackwater is very hard to repurpose, greywater can still be reused, much like how you would reuse water from washing vegetables for watering your plants. 

Washing vegetables is unlikely to leave chemical residue on your sink’s drainage, so cleaning them churns out excellent greywater.

Aside from gardening, you could also use greywater for your toilet, drastically reducing household water usage. 

In a greywater system, a pipe collects the water from your kitchen sink. It then passes through a treatment plant, which removes any chemicals that prevent greywater from being correctly integrated for everyday use.

Treated greywater then gets collected into a reservoir. From here, pipes siphon the water back to your household. 

A pipe from a greywater system that recycles water from an air conditioner dripping water into a bowl outside a home

You don’t need an elaborate and expensive greywater system at home. 

But, if you’re venturesome, here’s how you replumb your sink for an excellent greywater system:

  • Identify a good area in your existing pipes to cut into – having the cutting point outside the house is ideal.
  • Use an adaptor coupling if you have metal pipes – ideally, plastic pipes for greywater would be better.
  • Make your pipes go down and turn with a very sharp angle – the higher the drop, the better. This setup ensures a strong flow, preventing gunk buildup in the pipes. If you peel your veggies in the sink, debris will likely clump in the pipes.
  • Use flow splitters to regulate the water going into the treatment plant – setting up your own treatment plant is optional and requires some extra investment, but it’s usually easy to do.
  • Set up pipes to lead treated water to a reservoir – from there, you can set up pipes going back to your house. The ideal location in-house would be the toilet, and the optimal site outside would be your garden.

If you don’t plan to install a treatment plant, you can send the greywater directly to your toilet or garden.

If you decide to go for a treatment plant, you can ask for them in your local home improvement store. Some reputed brands include Aqua2Use, GreyFlow G-Flow, and Gray-It.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea—you can easily install them yourself.

However, if you have something more complex in mind or don’t have the time to do the job yourself, you can always call a professional.

You could even go for a fully-fledged irrigation system.

Greywater systems can be extremely flexible, and they’re usually economical. Excluding the treatment plant, you could spend merely $150–$300 on your greywater system.

Other Water-Saving Tactics When Washing Fruits and Vegetables

  • Soak instead of rinsing: Fill a basin with water and let fruits or vegetables soak for a few minutes. After soaking, gently agitate or scrub the produce to remove dirt. Soaking loosens dirt, making it easier to clean the produce without the need for continuous running water.
  • Use a colander: Rinse fruits or vegetables in a colander placed over a bowl or in the sink. The colander allows water to drain through while you rinse. Unlike running water continuously, using a colander ensures that the water you use is actively contributing to the cleaning process, minimizing waste.
  • Rainwater harvesting: If you have a rainwater harvesting system, use rainwater for washing fruits and vegetables. Rainwater is a sustainable alternative to tap water. It reduces the reliance on traditional water sources and promotes eco-friendly practices.
  • Rinse in batches: Wash fruits and vegetables in groups rather than one piece at a time to reduce water usage. Washing in batches allows you to use a consistent amount of water for multiple items, minimizing the need to repeatedly start and stop the water flow.
  • Use a veggie brush: Invest in a vegetable brush to scrub off dirt and contaminants efficiently. This reduces the need for excessive rinsing. Also, it allows you to target specific areas, minimizing the overall water required for thorough cleaning.
  • Steam cleaning: Using steam to clean vegetables and fruits is often effective and uses less water compared to traditional cleaning. The method uses water in the form of steam.
  • Pressure washer attachment: Attach a pressure washer to your kitchen faucet for higher pressure to allow for more efficient cleaning. Since higher pressure cleans more effectively, it conserves water by reducing the need for prolonged cleaning. 
  • Use a spray bottle: Fill a spray bottle with water and mist fruits and vegetables for a quick rinse. A spray bottle minimizes water wastage by delivering a controlled amount of water directly where it’s needed.
  • Educate family members: Teach your family members about water conservation practices when handling food. Conscious efforts by everyone in the household to conserve water during food-related activities contribute to overall savings.

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