After picking berries, you are often left with a pail full of berries, some leaves, some sticks, pieces of stems, sometimes little white worm creatures and some dirt.

Is there an easy way to clean a whole bunch of them at once so that you are left with just the berries?

  • Never pick fallen berries from the ground that have or may have come in contact with animal droppings or urine in order to avoid E. coli. This has been my practice for years.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 23:22

4 Answers 4


I usually combine the two answers above- pick into a container, when done transfer the berries one by one to a strainer. Get rid of anything suspicious.

Wash thoroughly with cold water, if needed let the berries sit in a bowl with water for a few minutes and rinse again.


The type of berry may matter. I am often picking very ripe blackberries, so you can't do much like shaking or tumbling without damaging the berries. What I do pick for speed, letting whatever get into my box or pail, then when I am done, transfer the berries one by one into a new container. I don't have to really look at them or pick stuff out, I just quickly pick one out of the first container and dump it into the second and it actually goes very quickly. When you are done with the transfer, the little sticks and bugs and whatever generally ends up in the bottom of the original container. Spiderwebs are too hard to clean off, so I usually just pitch those berries, and I do a little quality control and throw out any obviously rotten or unripe berries that made it in.

And then.... blackberry liqueur! If a bug or other contaminant happened to make it it, the alcohol will sterilize it and the berries get strained in the final step anyway.

  • Good point about the checking. Half-eaten berries as well seem common for me.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:39

The first thing is to pick them carefully in the first place, discarding any stems and most bugs. The more exposed berries are easier to pick cleanly, as of course are the largest ones. Then with blackberries (for example) putting them in a large container of clean water can get rid of leaves and other bits of plant, which will float. I go for fairly high up berries in hedgerows along roads or even paths because they should be cleaner to start with and I don't want to strip the bush bare anyway.

Another method I use is freezing them (in a plastic box) until I'm going to use them. They're much more robust that way, and the bits tend to stay behind in the box, or you can shake the berries in a colander and rinse to defrost. Again make sure you don't put any stems in the box. This works in my case even for using a lot at a time (such as for jam or wine), because you don't have to gather them all at once.

But berries that have been frozen are less good for eating raw than freshly picked. So if you find ones that are small and tasty but not juicy, freeze them for cooking; big juicy ones: eat straight away. If you're camping or picnicking, you don't really even need to rinse them, just pick and eat, but look at what you're eating.


I've cleaned blueberries on a windy day by gently pouring from one container to another, letting the wind "winnow" the debris. The berries must be dry, i.e. not washed, undamaged/squished. It works well. Best if the berries are handpicked, not by a rake.

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