How to Clean Every Mushroom Type the Right Way

To soak or not to soak? To brush or not to brush? Learn how to clean portobello mushrooms and other favorite varieties with our helpful guide.

washing mushrooms
Photo: Con Poulos

There is a myth in the cooking world's collective memory that says washing mushrooms is a bad idea—but this isn't true. Mushrooms are mostly water, so a little more is not going to change their flavor or texture. These fungi also lose moisture when they are exposed to heat, which means any extra water is simply going to cook out. The takeaway? You can wash mushrooms with a clear conscience. We're here to help: Learn how to clean all the different varieties of mushrooms the right way with our helpful guide.

There's just one caveat: Wash mushrooms just before you need them, since unwashed mushrooms last longer in the refrigerator.

How to Clean Portobello, Button, and Cremini Mushrooms

Common store-bought mushrooms like portobello, cremini, buttons, and shiitakes often arrive with some peaty-smelling growing medium clinging to their caps. Cleaning every single cap with a cute mushroom brush is perhaps a therapeutic meditation, but bad for time management. Here's how to speed things up:

  • De-stem the mushrooms (save the stems to use in stuffing or broths).
  • Fill a large bowl with water and dunk the mushrooms into it. Swirl the water around with your hands, and drain the mushrooms at once.
  • Lay the mushrooms on a double layer of cotton dish towels and pat them dry.

Cleaning Oyster, Maitake, and Other Cultivated Wild Mushrooms

Yes, the term "cultivated wild mushrooms" is an oxymoron, but we think you know what we mean. These mushrooms can be washed, too.

Oyster Mushrooms

Storebought oyster mushrooms should be washed like buttons or portobello. Note that they tend to be very clean.

Hen of the Woods

Also known as maitake, this mushroom requires a gentle touch. Its caps are very delicate (at least when cultivated) and tend to break.

  • Trim their ends, and soak the mushrooms for five minutes.
  • Drain, and dry very well and carefully; a salad spinner is perfect for removing moisture from the frills. (If you don't have a salad spinner; bundle them gently into a thin cotton dish towel and swing them like a windmill. This is best done outside.)

How to Clean Chanterelles, Morels, and Other Wild-Foraged Mushrooms

It makes sense that these mushrooms need more careful cleaning, since they are wild foraged and may have dirt or grit from the woodland floor or harbor bugs.

Wild Hen of the Woods

Unlike the delicate cultivated hen of the woods, the wild hen is a much larger and sturdier mushroom. It grows at the base of trees or on tree roots on the ground and can be gritty and should be washed more aggressively.

  • Cut the mushroom into pieces before washing.
  • Submerge the pieces and agitate to move them around in the water.
  • Remove, check all dirt and grit has been removed, and pat dry between clean kitchen towels.


Chanterelles are wild summer mushrooms that are either pristine or covered with the duff of the forest floor, depending on where they were collected. Whether you have foraged them yourself or bought them (they cannot be cultivated), check chanterelles carefully for tiny bug holes at the stem end. If there are no bug holes, wash them following the method for wild hen of the woods.

If you do see tell-tale pinpricks, heed these tips:

  • Add salt to the washing water: 1 tablespoon per 4 cups of water. Swoosh to dissolve the salt, then add the mushrooms. Soak the mushrooms for 20 minutes.
  • Drain and repeat.
  • Dry the mushrooms on a double layer of cotton dish towels.

The salty water will evict any tiny creatures. This method works for any foraged mushroom that may be harboring critters, but that is usually only an issue in summer.


Morels' honeycomb-texture makes them an exception when it comes to cleaning mushrooms. They need to be brushed before they are halved and cleaned.

  • Brush them using a mushroom brush. Halve them lengthwise (they are hollow inside).
  • Wash the halved morels by swooshing in a bowl of water.
  • Dry in a salad spinner.

If you wish to keep the morels whole, brush them and wash as directed above. Then change the water and wash again, before drying in a salad spinner.

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