So you want to know if homemade vegetable wash is really effective? I gathered a few common recipes from the interwebs and put them to the test.
I started out with some seriously (read: visibly) aphid-infested greens. Like, veritable ladybug smorgasbord material. Then I mixed three sample batches of homemade vegetable wash.
The first noteworthy observation was that upon immersing the greens in each solution and agitating them, a lot of the aphids broke loose into the liquid, although there were still visibly significant numbers on the leaves. After the agitation, I left each batch to soak for 15 minutes. Here are the results of my homemade vegetable wash trials:
Recipe #1: Adapted from Food.com
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 cups water
After the 15-minute soak and another light agitation, most of the aphids had abandoned ship and were floating loose in the liquid solution, but there were still some clinging resolutely to the leaves. While this recipe was not 100% effective, it did nicely preserve the appearance of the leaves and best facilitated the removal of the last aphids when I rinsed and rubbed them under running water.
Recipe #2: Adapted from About.com
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
This half and half recipe rendered very similar results to the salt and vinegar recipe. The only noticeable difference was that the leftover aphids were slightly more difficult to remove under running water.
Recipe #3: Adapted from Stretcher.com
1/4 tsp liquid dish soap
2 cups water
This solution appeared to be the most effective at initially removing aphids, but again, there were still some clinging to the leaves. Also, this was the only solution that ruined the appearance of the leaves – they became splotchy and discolored. Not to mention that I personally don't prefer my food soaked in soap before I eat it. When I rinsed each leaf under a stream of water to eliminate the last of the aphids, these leaves were the most difficult to inspect because of the splotches.
None of these homemade vegetable wash recipes was 100% effective. I would gauge the range as 75%-80% effective after a 15-minute soak buttressed by two agitations. That's not bad if you're starting out with very few garden pests attached to your greens. In my own kitchen, if I feel the need to soak my greens, I usually soak them in plain water and I have very similar results. It takes a few soaks and rinses to achieve 100%. It seems the rinsing and rubbing with fingers is actually the most effective part of the process.
I am confused, however, as to why, for instance, the author of the first recipe adapted from Food.com endorses the recipe by exclaiming, “[I]t really works and works very well!” My hunch is that if you take a bunch of say, parsley, and soak it in one of these liquid solutions, you'll see a bunch of little bugs and particles that came off, and you'll think, “Wow, look how effective that solution was! It dislodged all that from my leaves!” without realizing that there is still a little bit left.
Also, some of these websites claim that the vinegar helps kill “bacteria” and that dish liquid helps remove pesticides. I'm personally a big fan of bacteria, as they are necessary for our survival (the average healthy person has more bacterial cells in her digestive tract that the entire number of cells in the rest of her body) and I only buy organic produce, so I can't comment on pesticides.
Will homemade vegetable washes help? Yes, but only to a limited extent. If you want all bugs removed, you're going to have to get involved with a little rinsing and finger-rubbing.
Jordan Laio is a Hometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer. Read more articles like this one - http://www.networx.com/article/put-to-the-test-homemade-vegetable-wash - or get help with your home projects on Hometalk.com.