How To Clean Oyster Mushrooms?

You’re just back from the woods with a bumper crop of oyster mushrooms; now what do you do? Perhaps you’ve heard that you shouldn’t wash mushrooms because they absorb too much water; is this true? If so, are there other methods of removing the dirt and debris that’s clinging to your harvest? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk about how to clean oyster mushrooms.

Can You Wash Oyster Mushrooms?

Can You Wash Oyster Mushrooms

All types of mushrooms act a little bit like sponges; they absorb water quickly and easily. This is because their flesh is filled with pores.

With that in mind, you have to be careful about how you clean mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, in particular, are very absorbent and will take in an extreme amount of water if you leave them in a bowl to soak.

Some people recommend washing wild-gathered mushrooms by dunking them in bowls of water, swishing them around, and quickly removing them. However, this method doesn’t work for oyster mushrooms–they will absorb too much of the wash water.

That said, you can wash oyster mushrooms; just not by dunking or soaking them.

Which, of course, brings up a very good question: how, exactly, are you supposed to wash oyster mushrooms?

How to Wash Oyster Mushrooms

Before we go any further, we should point out that it isn’t always necessary to wash your mushrooms. If you grow your own mushrooms inside from a growing kit, or if you buy them at the store, chances are they’ll already be pretty clean.

The only time you really need to wash these mushrooms is if you foraged them from the woods and they are covered in dirt, bugs, and forest debris.

In this case, a quick rinse of the mushrooms under running water would be a good idea.

If you have large clusters of mushrooms, gently cut them away from the base of the stem that holds them together. Place them in a colander.

Using your kitchen tap or sprayer, gently and quickly run water over the colander full of mushrooms, shaking them around carefully so the water runs over all of them and doesn’t saturate some more than others.

There is no need to keep running the water until every last speck of dirt is removed; just get the worst of it. The water should at least loosen up any specks of dirt it doesn’t remove, and you will be able to easily clean away any of these specks with a paper towel or a mushroom brush later.

After you are done rinsing the mushrooms, place them in a single layer on a towel or on layers of paper towel. Allow them to drip dry before attempting to cook with them.

Rinsing your mushrooms in this manner will allow you to clean them but will prevent the oysters from taking on too much water. Yes, they will still absorb some water, but it shouldn’t be enough to affect the quality and texture of your mushrooms when you cook with them. 

Other Ways to Clean Oyster Mushrooms

Ways to Clean Oyster Mushrooms

Of course, many people prefer not to wash their mushrooms at all, believing that any amount of water absorption diminishes the quality of the cooked mushrooms. If you are in this camp, are there any ways you can clean your dirty oysters without using water?

Let’s take a look at three alternate methods for cleaning your oyster mushrooms.

Use a Paper Towel

This is by far one of the most popular methods of cleaning oyster mushrooms. It is a very gentle method of cleaning.

Fold up a piece of paper towel and dampen it with water. You don’t want it to be soaked and dripping; wet it just enough so that it feels damp.

Gently rub the paper towel across the top of the mushroom cap, applying just enough pressure to remove any dirt or debris without bruising the mushroom or removing some of its color. Turn the mushroom over and rub the paper towel across the underside and down the stem, being careful not to damage the gills.

Using a damp paper towel to clean your mushrooms will remove any superficial dirt, though it won’t work well for removing bugs or harder to reach dirt stuck between the gills. For that, you may need to move onto one of the other methods below.

In the meantime, check out this video to see how to clean oyster mushrooms with a paper towel:

Use a Mushroom Brush

Many foragers use mushroom brushes to clean all different types of mushrooms. Even if you don’t have a mushroom brush, you can use a pastry brush instead, or even a soft-bristle toothbrush.

Take the mushroom brush and gently swipe it along the length of the gills on the underside of the mushroom. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this could break the gills.

You can also brush across the top of the mushroom cap if it has any dirt or debris stuck to it.

You may need to brush over the same areas several times if the dirt is really stuck on. Again, be careful not to brush too hard, but with a little patience and persistence you should be able to brush all the dirt away.

 Using a mushroom brush allows you to get into all the nooks and crannies of the mushroom without using water.

Use a Knife

If your mushrooms were found in the wild, you may notice quite a bit of dirt and debris around the stem base. You can clean this by simply cutting away the bits of dirt with a knife.

Keep in mind that that stem base doesn’t have to be perfectly clean; you’re going to cut the mushrooms away from it and discard the stem.

Once you have cut away this stem base, check each individual mushroom; there still may be some dirt from the base clinging to the stems. Scrape this away with your knife.

You can also use the knife to pick out bits of debris from between the gills and to scrape away any dirt stuck onto the cap

Using a knife may be a bit more tedious than using a paper towel or mushroom brush, but it is highly effective at removing all kinds of debris from your mushrooms.


There are a variety of different ways to clean oyster mushrooms. Dunking these mushrooms in water isn’t recommended, but you can give them a quick rinse if you need to. You can also clean them with a damp paper towel, a mushroom brush, or even a knife.

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