How to Wash Lettuce and Other Greens

Woman washing organic kale in kitchen sink
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
  • 01 of 07

    Start with Fresh Lettuce or Greens

    Red Leaf Lettuce
    Red Leaf Lettuce. Photo © Molly Watson

    Whether you have spring greens from a specialty grower, arugula you've grown in your windowsill, or hearty winter greens like kale or collard greens, start with fresh-picked lettuces or greens whenever possible. This following method works for head lettuce or loose or bagged lettuce. For loose or bagged lettuce, just skip the second step of tearing the lettuce into pieces.

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  • 02 of 07

    Tear Greens Into Bite-Size Pieces

    Tearing Lettuce Into Bite-Size Pieces
    Tearing Lettuce. Photo © Molly Watson
    Smaller leaves can be left whole, and hearty greens like Swiss chard or Dino kale to be cooked whole can be simply rinsed off. But most greens will be easier to handle, cook, and eat if broken down. Tear, rather than chop, greens to minimize bruising and keep their crunchy texture. Although super stiff greens like collards and kale and be chopped rather than torn with no ill effect.
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  • 03 of 07

    Swish Greens In Cool Water

    Swishing Lettuce
    Swishing Lettuce In Clean Water. Photo © Molly Watson

    Fill a large bowl, the bowl of a salad spinner (leave the strainer section in!), or a clean sink with plenty of cool water. Add the lettuce or greens and swish them around to loosen and remove any dirt. Dirt and debris will sink to the bottom while the greens will magically float above all that mess.

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  • 04 of 07

    Lift Lettuce Out of Water

    Lifting Lettuce Out of Water
    Lifting Lettuce Out of Water. Photo © Molly Watson
    Lift the lettuce or greens up and out of the water, leaving the dirt and debris behind, and put in a colander or on a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. If you used a salad spinner, just lift out the strainer insert (as pictured). Otherwise lift the lettuce out by hand, putting it on clean paper towels or into a clean colander.

    Note: Do not pour the water and lettuce out into a colander together, the dirt that has sunk to the bottom of the water will end up back on the greens all over...MORE again.

    Spin the lettuce dry in a salad spinner or pat it with towels or roll it up in paper towels to dry the leaves as thoroughly as possible. Use the clean lettuce in a salad, cook, or see the next step for storing washed lettuce.

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  • 05 of 07

    Lay Lettuce On Paper Towels

    Lettuce On Towels
    Lettuce On Towels. Photo © Molly Watson

    To store the lettuce or greens: Lay several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel on a clean work surface. Spread the lettuce or greens evenly on top. I find a length of 2 large or 3 regular paper towels or one large dish towel works well for a large head of lettuce or bunch of greens.

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  • 06 of 07

    Roll Up Lettuce In Layers of Clean Towels

    Lettuce Rolled In Towels
    Lettuce Rolled In Towels. Photo © Molly Watson
    Roll up the towels with the lettuce in them. The towels will absorb any remaining moisture, which will keep the lettuce from wilting, while also maintaining a very slightly damp environment to keep them from drying out. That one-two punch will help them last much longer than lettuce stored other ways.
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  • 07 of 07

    Put Rolled Up Greens In Plastic and Chill

    Lettuce Ready to Chill
    Lettuce Ready to Chill. Photo © Molly Watson
    Store the towel-wrapped lettuce or greens in a clean plastic bag and chill. Lettuce stored this way will last several days longer than uncleaned or un-rolled greens.