What is the white stuff on organic apples?

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Kaolin clay spots on apples and leaves

If you’re eating one of our Chelan Ranch organic apples, you might ask, “What is the white stuff on organic apples?” As naked as we’d like our organic fruit to be, even our apples need sun protection. So, we apply kaolin clay to protect the apples while they grow on the tree.

Kaolin Clay – “White Stuff”

To clarify, Kaolin clay, known as kaolin, is a natural, organically approved clay mineral in various regions worldwide. It is a white, soft, fine-grained clay. Kaolin clay is often used in different food products, such as medicines and supplements, as an inactive or “inert” ingredient precisely because it does not impart flavor or taste to the final product. Instead, kaolin’s best uses are for its functional properties, such as absorbing moisture, thickening, or providing a smooth texture in particular food and non-food applications. The name Kaolin clay comes from the location of its discovery at the Kao-ling mountain in China.

Organically Approved

Most importantly, organic certifying bodies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), and similar organizations in other countries, have evaluated a specific grade of kaolin clay and approved its use in organic farming based on its natural origin and low environmental impact.


As a result, the grade of kaolin clay approved for certified organic farming works to protect the fruit from environmental stressors. Here’s how kaolin clay helps organic apples:

  1. Sunburn Protection: Kaolin clay also helps protect apples from sunburn. Apples exposed to intense sunlight, especially in hot and arid regions, can suffer from sunburn damage. The white film of kaolin clay provides a physical barrier on the fruit and reflects sunlight, reducing heat absorption and preventing sunburn on the fruit’s surface.
  2. Reducing Heat Stress: Kaolin clay can help regulate temperature by cooling during hot and dry periods when apple trees are more susceptible to heat stress. By reflecting sunlight and reducing heat absorption, kaolin clay helps maintain stable temperatures around the fruit and leaves.
  3. Improving Fruit Quality: Using kaolin clay can enhance the quality of organic apples by reducing damage from sun and heat, leading to a higher yield of marketable, healthy fruit.

How to Remove

Cleaning is simple if there is kaolin clay or white stuff on your apple.

  1. Rinse Under Running Water: Hold the apple under cold, running water. Use your fingers or a soft brush, such as a vegetable brush, to gently rub the apple’s surface. Most of the kaolin clay will come off.
  2. Wipe with a Cloth or Paper Towel: After rinsing, use a clean cloth or paper towel to gently wipe the apple’s surface to remove any remaining residue.
  3. Soak in Water: If there are stubborn clay spots, fill a bowl with water and let the apple soak for a few minutes. After washing, use your fingers or a brush to gently rub away the clay residue.
  4. Dry the Apple: After cleaning, pat the apple dry with a clean paper towel or cloth to remove any remaining moisture and ensure the apple is ready to eat or use in your favorite recipes.

Remember that kaolin clay is considered safe for consumption, so you don’t need to worry much about removing every trace from the apple. Washing it off as described above should be sufficient for most people’s preferences.

Sunscreen Protection

In conclusion, think of the white stuff (kaolin clay) on apples, similar to applying a natural sunscreen to protect human skin from the sun. In both cases, the goal is to protect a surface (apples or skin) from the potentially harmful effects of sunlight. While the mechanisms and specific products used are different, the underlying principle is similar: applying a protective substance to reduce the impact of solar radiation. Wash or wipe it off the apple easily and enjoy a big crunchy bite that explodes with the unobstructed sweet-tart flavor of a Chelan Ranch organic apple!