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  • Santa Cruz Fungi

How to clean mushrooms

Depending on the type of mushroom you have and how it was grown will change the way that you clean it. For your ease, we've broken it down into a few simple categories so you can wash mushrooms in batches, along with pro tips for different types of mushrooms that tend to be more time-intensive to clean.

Cleaning mushrooms is an important step in preparing them for cooking. It's important to clean mushrooms properly to remove any visible dirt, debris, specks, or bacteria that may be present on their surface. Here are some different ways to clean wild and store-bought mushrooms:

1. Dry brush method

Use a soft-bristled brush (a pastry brush will work) or a clean dry kitchen towel to gently brush off any dirt or debris from the mushroom caps and stems. This method is best for mushrooms that are relatively clean and don't require a lot of cleaning, such as grocery store whole mushroom types like button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms.

2. Rinse method

Give a quick rinse under the faucet with cold running water, gently rubbing the surface with your fingers to remove any dirt or debris. Avoid soaking mushrooms in water, as they can absorb water becoming water logged and mushy. This method is best for mushrooms with a smooth surface, such as button mushrooms or cremini.

3. Damp paper towel method

Dampen a clean kitchen towel and use it to wipe the surface of the mushrooms, gently removing any dirt or debris. Make sure to ring out the damp cloth so it does not have excess moisture. This method is best for mushrooms that are delicate and can be easily damaged by water. This is our preferred method to use when cleaning portobello mushrooms. We don’t recommend using a sponge to clean!

4. Mushroom brush

Use a specialized mushroom brush or brand new paint brush with natural bristles to gently brush off any dirt or debris from the mushroom caps and stems. This method is best for mushrooms that are relatively clean and don't require a lot of cleaning.

After cleaning the fresh mushrooms, it's important to store them properly to prevent spoilage. Here are some tips for storing mushrooms:

  • Store mushrooms in a paper bag or a clean kitchen towel in the refrigerator. Avoid storing mushrooms in plastic bags, as this can trap moisture and cause the mushrooms to spoil faster.

  • Use mushrooms within a few days of purchase or harvesting. Fresh mushrooms have a short shelf life.

Basket filled with wild morels

Types of Mushrooms

Store-bought farmed mushrooms should come fairly clean however there can be little bits of the substrate (material the mushrooms were grown on) on them, which, though it is pretty harmless you likely would rather not eat bits of wood or straw. Always give your mushrooms a quick once over to see what state they are in. The substrate (if there is any) will usually be found near the base of the mushroom, though bits of the material can also get stuck to the cap or higher up on the stem. A great tool for cleaning mushrooms is a brush but you can also use your hands, a towel, or a paper towel to accomplish the same thing. Use a knife or scissors to cut any substrate at the base of the mushroom stem. If there are any other bits left on your mushroom(s) just brush it off.

Wild mushrooms are a little bit more nuanced as there is a bit more variety so we broke these mushrooms down into two subcategories:

Larger Meaty Mushrooms

These mushrooms will often arrive to you with some dirt, leaf bits, and other detritus on them. This is normal and not a problem. You will likely want some tools to help you in cleaning them such as a knife, a brush, a veggie peeler and/or a damp towel or paper towel. Towards the base of these mushrooms is where you may find dirt, sand, and bits of leaf. To clean this portion I like to use either the back of a knife for scraping or the veggie peeler for quick cleaning. Simply scrape or peel off the outer layer of mushroom until you reach the clean flesh underneath. If you find any sections where the dirt is embedded in the mushroom just cut it away until you reach pure clean mushroom. The cap is often the trickiest part of cleaning due to the little cracks and crevices where dirt can get lodged. Cleaning this part of the mushroom is best done with a damp towel and or a brush. Simply wipe from the center of the cap towards the edge using a clean section of towel each time so you don’t just add the dirt right back. Be careful not to get dirt on the underside (gills or pores) as it is difficult to remove from there. To remove dirt from the underside use your brush or even a dry towel to brush it off. Once you have gotten as much dirt and grit off your mushroom as you can - you are good to start prepping them to be cooked.

Delicate Highly Textured Mushrooms

This category of mushrooms often traps dirt, sticks, and leaves in their highly textured bodies but no need to worry - they can be cleaned and are well worth the effort.

Black trumpet mushrooms

Black trumpets are prone to getting pine needles stuck in their funnel-like bodies so there is a special technique!

Tear each one of them in half vertically one or two times making sure that there are no folded up areas where stuff can get stuck and put them in a large bowl. Fill your bowl with cold water and gently mix the mushrooms around so the dirt and leaf bits can settle to the bottom very much like cleaning leeks or spinach. You can repeat this process up to four times depending on how dirty the mushrooms are but often times once is enough. Removing the mushrooms with loose fingers to allow unwanted bits to stay in the bowl you can place them in a salad spinner or squeeze them in a fist to remove excess water. Now they are ready to be cooked!

Cauliflower mushrooms

This is a particularly tough-to-clean species but is worth the trouble. These mushrooms have a highly textured growth habit that makes them prone to trapping lots of stuff in them. To clean simply rinse under the sink while keeping the base of the mushroom pointed down. As you are rinsing you can break the mushroom into smaller pieces rinsing and shaking them out then place them in a large bowl. Once all your pieces of cauliflower mushroom are in the bowl cover with cold water, add about 2 teaspoons salt, and let soak for 10-20 minutes. After that time remove the pieces and put them in a salad spinner, give them a squeeze or let them drain in a colander. Now they are ready to cook.

Lion’s Mane

Due to the way they grow - in a downward direction - Lion’s Mane mushrooms don’t usually require too much cleaning but if they grow near the ground then rain can splash dirt and grit into their toothy body. For these, break them into pieces, cover with some cold saltwater, agitate and let soak for 10-20 minutes. Pull them out and give each piece a really good squeeze to drain all the water out then they are ready to be used.


Morel mushrooms must be thoroughly washed before using in a recipe! Morels are prone to getting pine needles or grit stuck in their honeycomb-textured caps.

  • Soak them in a bowl of cold salt water for 2-3 minutes.

  • Gently agitate then drain and rinse before using.

Always cook your morels thoroughly! Morels contain a toxin that is broken down during the cooking process. Never eat raw morel mushrooms!

Cleaning mushrooms is well worth the effort and an important step. We recommend pretending to be a test kitchen to find which method you prefer! By following these cleaning and storage tips, you can ensure that your mushrooms are clean, fresh, and ready to use in your favorite mushroom recipes.


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