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So you know how important it is to sterilize seeds and now you’re just looking for the best way to do it. That’s perfect because this post shares 10 different ways home sprouters can clean their seeds at home.
The seed cleaning methods list contains natural and chemical solutions, giving you several options, with some being better than others.
Choose one, choose a few, but don’t choose none.
Whether you’re looking to sterilize them or sanitize them, or simply to know the difference between the two, these posts share various acceptable ways to clean your sprouting seeds.
It’s a necessary staple in sprouting knowledge to learn this, so if you’re just getting going with sprouting, let us get on with it.
Cleaning Seeds For Sprouting Isn’t Really Optional
Whether you’re using your own seeds or those from a trusted source, seed cleaning methods are important to learn because jar sprouting’s environment is a prime location for food-borne bacterium and mold spores to catch root and thrive.
These pathogenic microorganisms are quick to take over mason jars due to the humid, moist and warm environment.
Any one of these seed cleaning methods will remove most of these fungal spores and bacteriums that cause horrible illness; E.Coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus and then mycotoxins.
Latest estimates document approximately 1300 seedborne organisms capable of being pathogenic. Most are fungi; seedborne fungi have been reported on 305 host genera in 96 plant families (Richardson 1996).– National Reforestation and Restoration Directory
1,300 pathogenic microorganisms, and most are fungi.
That means they’re probably all mycotoxin producers, the substance to blame for its insidious reputation. I’ve dealt with black mold poisoning. And now I’m a super-sterilizer because of it. Take my word for it before you have to learn it the hard way.
With sprouts, you have many documented cases of food-borne illness.
You don’t have that with microgreens, which grow in less risky environments.
You don’t even have to disinfect all seeds for growing microgreens.
The same contaminated sunflower seeds can give you both luscious, healthy sunflower microgreens..
And a jar full of toxic sprouts.
It’s the same case for any seed that can be both sprouted and grown as a microgreen (alfalfa, broccoli, pea, radish sprouts are some).
Another reason why it’s so important to sanitize sprouting seeds is because of the sprouting seeds themselves.
Seeds have these tiny natural divots or microscopic cracks on their coatings where pathogens hide and are able to survive basic seed cleanings.
Seed sanitization removes or at least reduces the number of these harmful pathogens on seeds. It disinfects them and makes them safe to sprout.
It’s a level above seed cleaning, which mostly just removes dirt and debris and grime, but for the actual bacteria and fungi inhabiting their comfy seed crevices, it’s a fun water show you’re doing for them.
So keeping to just a simple seed cleaning before you soak your seeds is a dangerous practice.
But cleaning your seeds before sanitizing them is an essential practice.
Fungi and friends are more apt to remain on the seeds after you’ve sanitized them if you didn’t clean them before beginning your chosen seed cleaning method.
Combine all that with the fact that sprouts are mostly eaten raw…
Now you see the significance of seed sanitation for home sprouting.
Luckily all of these sprouting seed cleaning methods will disinfect, sanitize and even sterilize.
Because it’s for sprouting, seed cleaning means seed sanitation.
Seed cleaning solution power rating:
- Sterilize – sterilizes
- Sanitize – makes things safe
- Clean – not enough for pre-sprouting
The most thorough would a sterilization, but you want to hit at least the level of sanitation.
This means you’re disinfecting in a way that is more than just a clean.
If you’ve gotten into the rhythm of washing fruits and veggies with a natural pesticide-residue removal solution first, soon enough you’ll get into the rhythm of sanitizing your seeds too.
In review of seed cleaning’s importance:
- Putting the seeds into a garden bed? Seed cleaning not really necessary.
- Growing microgreens? Sometimes you need to disinfect seeds.
- Jar Sprouting? Seed disinfection is mandatory.
5 Seed Cleaning Methods For Jar Sprouting Perfection
The following seed cleaning methods are for all types of sprouts.
The list does not include wet seed cleaning methods. Seeds with gelatenous casings like tomatoes are not used for jar sprouting. The process of sprouting, especially for consumption, is more commonly associated with seeds that do not have a pulpy outer layer and are easily hydrated and germinated, such as beans, peas, and various small vegetable seeds.
Adding one of these seed cleaning techniques to your sprouting routine will help to ensure you flawless jar sprouting results, time and time again.
Method #1. Pure, Undiluted White Vinegar
If you’re more inclined to the natural things in life, this is a great seed cleaning method. Naturally disinfecting feels better than doing it with bleach in my opinion.
Even for sprouting, a full seed sterilization with bleach instead of a lesser disinfectant, vinegar, may not be necessary because vinegar’s natural disinfecting power is strong enough to take care of the common bad guy bugs.
Seeds won’t be considered sterilized with just vinegar. But sanitized, yes. And that’s all you truly need to do. Sanitizing takes care of all the common sprouting pathogens. If you have a good environment for sprouting (always around 70 deg in the room with air flow, etc.), then I’d do this method.
Otherwise you have vinegar or bleach, the ultimate seed sterilizer, that you can use.
Did You Know?
Another reason to choose vinegar is the fact that it enhances germination.
Method #2. 0.05% Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach
Calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite are both effective seed sterilizers. The common thread in the sprouting industry today says to avoid sodium hypochlorite because it’s too aggressive and likely phytotoxic.
But sprouting researcher Jed Fahey says he’s always used a 1:10 bleach-to-water ratio using 5% sodium hypochlorite with perfect success.
Sanitizing seeds with 5% sodium hypochlorite:
- Pour bleach into some water at a 1:10 ratio (making it be 0.05%)
- Leave them in the 0.05% for 10 minutes after the pre-clean.
- Give an extra long rinse to remove any traces of bleach
Method #3. 2% Calcium Hypochlorite Bleach
2% calcium hypochlorite is the sprouting industry’s adopted recommended bleach seed cleaning method.
Different ratios and timings are used, but the seed cleaning technique is the same with both hypochlorite solutions.
Sanitizing seeds with 2% calcium hypochlorite:
- Prepare your 2% calcium hypochlorite solution (dilute stronger forms down).
- Place the seeds inside the 2% solution directly.
- Leave in 5-10 minutes, depending on the seed.
- Rinse extremely thoroughly before the final strain.
Remember that no extra additives should be used in your chosen food-grade bleach. Calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite will be the active ingredient.
Method #4. Hydrogen Peroxide – Hot and Cold
Hot Hydrogen Peroxide Seed Cleaner: Armed with a cooking thermometer pour ….. into a pot and get it up to 140 degree Fahrenheit temperature (60 deg. Celsius) using your thermometer. Once achieved, you submerge your seeds into it (a strainer makes this part easy). Move the seeds around inside often throughout to ensure even sanitizing. Total time should be 5 minutes.
- Note: Maintain that 140 temp throughout to ensure proper seed sanitation
Cold Hydrogen Peroxide Seed Cleaner: After rinsing, and in a non-reactive container, cover your sprouting seeds up to an inch over them with a 3% hydrogen peroxide. Soak for no more than 5 minutes with the occasional stir to make sure even seed coverage.
Method #5. Apple Cider Vinegar and Soap
Soap makes vinegar more effective at killing bacteria by reducing its surface tension.
If you’re looking to clean your seeds using things you already have at home, this one you can likely do right now. It’s also my preferred method. I don’t have to deal with bleach and ACV is always within an arm’s reach in our home.
How to clean seeds with ACV and soap: You don’t even need a good natural dish soap for this one. Any dish soap and ACV is perfect for sanitizing sprouting seeds with apple cider vinegar. Just add a drop of the soap to the 1:10 ratio ACV to water and let it sit for 10 minutes. Follow through with a good rinsing before soaking.
Final Seed Cleaning Tips
These tips will help ensure you grow un-contaminated jar sprouts.
- Rinse first BEFORE starting the sanitization process.
- Clean the room and sprouting outer-environment.
- Always use sterilized sprouting equipment and very clean hands.
- If not using your own, use certified, tested seeds.
- Skim out casings to reduce chances of food born illness.
Can Cleaning Impact Seed Germination?
Cleaning’s Rating Scale: Most Clean to Least
Are tainted sprouts always noticeable?
Mold can be spotted more easily, but mold spores and bacteriums which cause food borne illness can get by without a sight, smell or taste.
However, the final test, EATING them, may be more accurate than any bacteria test! (this is a joke, please don’t do it if you’re suspect on your sprouts for any reason).
Sprouting Seed Cleaning Summary
To review the necessity of seed cleaning..
- Sowing into a garden bed? Seed cleaning not necessary.
- Growing microgreens? SOMEtimes you need to disinfect seeds.
- Sprouting seeds? Seed disinfection is essential.
This sprouting knowledge staple post reviewed common practices for sanitizing seeds before sprouting, the things you need to do it at home, and then how to do it.
The disinfectants used were sodium and calcium hypochlorite, then white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and hot and cold hydrogen peroxide versions.
The sources I used for the information are listed below. I recommend checking out the Rhonda Patrick and Jed Fahey interview.
What’s your favorite seed sanitization method?
Thanks for coming by the Sprouting Fam blog!
- Broccoli Sprouting Activity. From https://health.oregonstate.edu/sites/health.oregonstate.edu/files/moore-center/pdf/broccoli-sprouting-activity.pdf
- Q&A #17 with Dr. Jed Fahey + Rhonda on Sulforaphane and Moringa. From: foundmyfitness.com/episodes/jed-fahey-q-a
- Sproutnet Seed Sanitization Research List. From https://sproutnet.com/seed-sanitation-chlorine-sprout-safety-research/
- How To Disinfect Seeds Article. From: https://www.bootstrapfarmer.com/blogs/microgreens/how-to-disinfect-seeds-before-planting-and-sprouting
Next up: 36+ Different Types Of Sprouts For Home Sprouting (Categorized By Feature/Benefit)