The article on How to Use Essential Oils in a Neti Pot to kill off microbes infecting the sinuses left some readers asking, “where do microbes come from?

While some microbes enter our sinuses by breathing, many emanate from our gut and intestines, and some enter our bodies by way of inadequately washed produce. Let’s explore methods for killing the mold, mildew, fungus, parasites and other microbes that accompany our produce—even when it is organic.

Are There Microbes in My Salad?

Microbes are microscopic living organisms that include mold, mildew, fungus, candida, bacteria, protozoa, algae, and more. All plants and produce support, or host, some microscopic organisms. I often chuckle when a client tells me that they thought buying organic meant that their produce would be free of microbes. While it is true that organic produce should be free of agricultural chemicals, all produce can host microbes.

“Pre-washed” organic salad and lettuce mixes are not typically microbial free. Consider the “Organic Girl” brand. Its pre-washed mixes undergo multiple tap water rinses with agitation followed by a fresh water rinse (without chlorine). While this mechanical cleansing method dislodges and removes microbes, it does not kill those left behind.

How Do Microbes Affect Our Health?

I have clients who apply washes of grapefruit seed extract or vinegar… even hydrogen peroxide… and they still are ending up with microbial infections from their produce. How do I know?

Often, thermal findings suggest significant sinus infection – even when clients feel absolutely nothing. Sometimes, years of clenching is aggravating the sinuses and creating inflammation. But many times, it is a microbial infection. Regardless of its external source or dwelling space(s) in the body, infection can compromise the immune system, contribute to systemic lymphatic inflammation, and lead to fatigue… and worse.

Microbial Infection from Unwashed Produce

Take this case, for example:

Can you see the heat over her cheeks? Cheeks should be cool, not warm or hot. Warm findings like hers suggest sinus infection, even though she had no prior awareness.

Following her thermal imaging, this client saw a functional health professional whose testing indicated:

Fungus issue: two strains of aspergillius
Yeast/Candida issue : candida in the sinus area
The main source for the mold and fungus is food-based. Need to do a (food-grade) bleach wash to kill off the sources before consuming the food.
Tested positive for Thorne Formula SF 722 for systemically treating candida, mold and fungus. Also tested positive for direct application of colloidal/nano/pico silver to the sinus tissue to kill off pathogens. Does not need to do a neti pot at this time.

Microbes Found in Many Recent Clients

While she is one recent case, many clients suffer food-based infections and don’t know it. Here are the suspect microbes infecting some of my recent clients (per health professional testing): mold, fungus, candida, Corn smut, Foxtail smut, Wheat smut, Aspergillius fumigatus, Cladosporium fulvem, Epidermophyton floccosum, Mucor racemosus, Rinkel mold, and E-Coli, among others.

How to Wash Produce to Reduce Microbes

There are many ways to reduce the population of microbes on produce in the home, some more safe and effective than others. Common methods range from water rinsing, a mechanical form of washing, to the use of chemicals. When applying chemicals, please consider only food-grade chemicals like 5% food-grade distilled white vinegar, 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide, and food-grade chlorine bleach – using appropriate concentrations and submersion times.

Non-food grades and commercial forms can include additives, thickeners, and fragrances not approved for food use. Research indicates that commercial products like Fit aren’t much more effective than mechanical water rinsing.

The safety and effectiveness of chemical washing is dependent upon things like Pre-Washing Preparation, Solution Concentration, Submersion Time, Final Rinse, Drying and Storage Before Consumption (below). Proper care will ensure that your produce will not taste like chemicals, but instead, will taste fresher with more vibrant flavor and will last longer.



To prepare for any produce wash with chemicals, gather waterproof gloves, up tp 3 large sanitized bowls, clean absorbent towels and/or a salad spinner. Be sure to wash (sanitize) your hands and any counters, sinks and containers, if your clean produce will come in contact with their surfaces after washing. You may get washing time down to 5 to 10 minutes, so washing produce may simply become a part of meal-time preparation.

Here is how I wash the head of red leaf lettuce I typically consume daily: First, I put on kitchen gloves. (The daily use of latex gloves was causing my fingertip skin to peel, so I switched to latex-free rubber gloves from the hardware store. Then I switched to over-sized stongs to serve as my hands… so no more gloves.)

Then I place two sanitized (hard plastic) bowls in the kitchen sink, and a third on the counter. I fill the first bowl with cold filtered water and the second with wash solution, per the options below. After cutting off the bottom of the stem, I pull the leaves from the stem, placing both in the bowl of filtered water. Then I swish them around for a minute or two, trying to saturate the produce.

This action does two things: first, it dislodges dirt, debris and little critters, which would otherwise consume and reduce the effectiveness of the wash solution. Second, it “quenches the thirst” of the produce, filling the internal vessels of the stem and leaves with filtered water, so they are less likely to later absorb the wash solution during submersion.

Next, I use tongs to extract the leaves and stem from the filtered water bowl. As I lift them out of the bowl, I allow them to drain into the sink for several seconds before placing them into the bowl of wash solution. (I use the chlorine option, below.)

I use tongs to hold the produce under the surface of the wash solution for complete submersion, gently pumping the produce up and down a few times to force the solution to circulate all around it. I  empty the filtered water bowl and move it from the sink to the counter. I replace it with the third sanitized bowl, filling it with cold tap water.

See the three options below.

Option 1: Food-Grade Chlorine Bleach Wash

MOST EFFECTIVE. While chlorine bleach is a proven sanitizer, effective against all microbes, and vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are effective against many (not all microbes), I cannot find a source of food-grade chlorine bleach for personal use (beyond water sanitization).  (Like me, many of my fellow health professionals resort to plain Clorox.)

According to one chlorine bleach food safety fact sheet, “Most operations, unless the produce is very dirty, will not need a sanitizer concentration greater than 200 ppm total chlorine to achieve the desired sanitizing effect. Contact times of one minute or greater are typically sufficient to achieve a thorough kill.”

200ppm is achieved at 1 tablespoon food-grade chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Option 2: 35% Food-Grade Hydrogen Peroxide Wash

According to a hydrogen peroxide fact sheet, which also includes warning, safety and storage tips, “mix 11 ounces of distilled or reverse osmosis water with 1 ounce of 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide” to yield a 3% solution. Soak 20 minutes.

35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide is available at Amazon.

Option 3: 5% Food-Grade Distilled White Vinegar Wash

LEAST EFFECTIVE. Vinegar does not kill harmful bacteria like E. coli. Since this wash should be used at full strength, without dilution with water, a spray application may be most appropriate, as submersion may require large amounts of vinegar. Spray to soak for 5 minutes. Because this wash is the least effective against microbes, using this wash followed by the hydrogen peroxide wash is more effective. The vinegar wash is most effective, however, in removing wax applications applied to produce like apples.

After at least a minute of submersion, use utensils to remove the produce from the wash solution, letting it drain into the sink for a few seconds, and then submerge the produce into a bowl of cold tap water.

Swish (or pump) the produce around for several seconds before holding the produce near the bottom of the bowl. Consider repeating at least three more times: refill the bowl with cold tap water, swish (pump) the produce for about 30 seconds, and empty the bowl of water. When you feel confident that the produce is clean, consider a final rinse with filtered water to reduce chlorinated tap water and/or go on to the drying process.

While clean absorbent towels can be used, a salad spinner is an inexpensive time saver that can help to remove excess water. When using towels, consider spreading out the leaves and stems of the produce on a towel laid out across a counter.

Consider applying a second towel on top and pat/press dry, or leaving the produce on the bottom towel (after removing the top towel) to air dry. Afterwards, you can shred the produce with my bare (clean) hands into bite size pieces and into a salad bowl for eating.[/toggle]

Washing revives and keeps produce fresher longer by removing microbes that would otherwise break down the produce. The fresher the produce, the more vital its nutrients. Eating it sooner rather than later is typically more nutritious.

When produce must be stored, be sure to use clean (sanitized) bins and containers to avoid recontamination. Store produce at an appropriate temperature and in the right environment to prolong freshness. Consider an airtight vegetable bin in your frig for washed produce. (My refrigerator has two vegetable bins, so I designate one for unwashed produce, and one for washed produce. I clean/sanitize the bins based on usage.)

I prefer washing and rinsing produce in bowls rather than sink basins because I am more confident in my ability to sanitize bowls than entire sink basins. I also find it faster and easier to wash bowls than entire sink basins.

While glass or Corning Ware-like bowls may be the easiest to sanitize and best for washing produce since they will not react chemically with the wash solution, they can break if dropped. While stainless steel is used in many kitchens, it is a metal that may react microscopically and chemically with the wash solution. I choose hard plastic bowls instead. They are lightweight and appear dense enough to tolerate the wash solution well.

Using cold water rather than warm water helps to keep produce vessels closed and less open to drinking in the wash solution. In addition, cold water helps keep produce crisp and fresh.

Wear waterproof gloves with any chemical wash. Chemical contact with the skin, eyes, etc. can be harmful. (If you experience accidental contact, rinse thoroughly with water.)

When you prepare your produce for washing, remove any store stickers, bruised sections, browned or soft leaves, and moldy or soft berries and grapes.

Apply a soft scrub brush to dirty produce like beets, potatoes, mushrooms, and root vegetables.

While it may seem unnecessary to wash thick-skinned produce that you intend to peel, (i.e. bananas, avocados, oranges, pineapples, pumpkins, kiwi, carrots, potatoes, squash, potatoes, etc. ) your hands and fingers can become contaminated when you handle their skins, as can the surfaces you set the produce on or in. If you do not wash this produce, then when you peel or cut them, your hands and utensils can contaminate the meat within the skin, and any surface your fingers, utensils or produce contacts. Washing also prolongs freshness.

Soft-skinned produce, particularly berries, are more susceptible to getting soggy with chemical washes. Reduce the immersion time to avoid ruining their texture.

I never wash garlic and onions. Their innate antimicrobial properties seem good enough! (I do not wash thick skinned produce that I eat quickly, i.e. avocados.)

Leave fruit stems intact until consumption, i.e. grapes. Stems act as seals, keeping the outside world from getting inside, prolonging freshness.

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