What Prevents Lettuce from Going Bad? Paper Towels vs. Vacuum-Sealing

Home » What Prevents Lettuce from Going Bad? Paper Towels vs. Vacuum-Sealing

Sneak Preview: How can you prevent your lettuce from going bad so fast? This is the result of our paper towels vs. vacuum sealing experiment.

So what is the best way to keep cut lettuce from going bad? Is it vacuum-sealing lettuce into a glass jar or can you simply lay a paper towel inside the jar?

2 jars -one vacuum-packed compared to jar containing paper towel on top

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Not long ago, a reader left the following comment:  “The food saver is expensive and a lot of effort. You can get the same result by placing half a paper napkin on top of your lettuce before you seal the jar. It absorbs the liquid, keeping the lettuce good for a solid week.”

I decided to run a simple test to find out if my reader was right. Keep reading to find out the results.

logo for saladinajar
Join our community of adventurous cooks, and start creating homemade food worth sharing.

If you want inspiration and exclusive tips, add your email and press the button. (Don't worry. I won't sell your email.)

Can a paper towel replace vacuum-sealing lettuce into a glass jar?

The paper towel idea came from one of my first posts about vacuum-sealing cut lettuce. Preserving chopped romaine this way helps me avoid wasting money on lettuce-gone-bad.

adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”gH8Iq0qE” upload-date=”Tue Jan 22 2019 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)” name=”How To Vacuum-Pack Chopped Lettuce To Prolong Freshness” description=”A tutorial showing how to vacuum-pack chopped lettuce into Mason Jars for prolonged storage up to 10 days. No brown edges or wilted leaves.”]

I’m used to these kinds of challenges from a select few commenters. I take them seriously.

You can read about two previous experiments. The first was a comparison of various attempts to keep lettuce fresh. The other was an experiment about cutting lettuce with a plastic knife.

How do I know when lettuce is going bad?

You can tell when lettuce is going bad when the edges start to turn brown. The leaves will become limp and thin as the lettuce starts to dry out. The lettuce will take on an acrid odor.

As long as you do not cut the leaves, the lettuce will stay fresh longer. Once you cut or chop the leaves, the edges will go bad quickly if not preserved. My answer to this problem is vacuum-sealing the chopped lettuce.

When no oxygen is present in the Mason jar with the cut lettuce, the deterioration process slows down considerably. With that in mind, let’s set out the rules for our little experiment.

Rules for comparing paper towels with vacuum-sealing:

  • Cut lettuce into small ready-to-eat pieces. That’s important. I want my lettuce salad to be ready to eat in less than a minute when I walk in the door for lunch. Easy-to-grab junk food is less tempting when I’m famished if I have a jar of chopped lettuce at hand.
  • Store the jars in the same location in the same refrigerator. The jars are also filled with the same heads of lettuce so the original freshness is the same.

In each picture, the paper towel jar is on the left and the vacuum-packed jar is on the right. As you can see in the first picture above, the cut romaine is equally fresh on Day 1.

comparing  after 7 days

Can you see that the paper towel sample is showing its age?

after 11 days

Which jar would you choose? (See random thought #4 below.)

Random Observations

  1. I can’t resist commenting on my reader’s assessment of the vacuum-sealing idea. Yes, vacuum-pack machines can be expensive. But, I have written about two excellent alternatives that are much, much cheaper. See this post and this one, too. Reynolds Handi-Vac; Wide-Mouth Vacuum Attachment
  2. About the work involved: It may take upwards to an hour to prepare 5-6 jars the first time. But after a little practice, you should be able to reduce the time to 30 minutes or less. Promise!!
  3. Consider the healthy eating habits you are promoting by making your salad easy to grab and eat.
  4. Eleven days is pushing it, even for vacuum-sealed lettuce. It’s possible you will detect the slightest older-lettuce smell in a jar this old. But within a few seconds, (when the oxygen hits it), the smell is gone. You could always give the lettuce a quick rinse.

Warning: Always store vacuum-sealed cut romaine in the refrigerator. Make no mistake! Vacuum-sealing is not a heat-processed canning procedure.

p.s. Thanks to the reader who left this comment. I always welcome new ideas and like to try as many as I can.

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. Amanda Rhodes says:

    Very cool experiment! I need to save this idea for future science fairs!
    My random thought: I like the weird looks I get when I pull out a jar of lettuce from my lunch at work. It always brings about questions. 🙂

    1. Yes, good idea on the science fair project. Not difficult and easy-to-see results!

  2. I always used a moist paper towel, but it still would look similar to teh dry.
    Vacuum sealing is CHEAP if you buy these things…under $20, which we’d spend easily on that ROMAINE (not sure how other lettuces last vacuum sealed) we all throw out because it’s gone bad… just put the handi-vac nozzle on top of the foodsaver lid and press button to count of 5 (do not overdo or you will not be able to get the lid off!) Sometimes you can find the Reynolds Handi-Vac at Ollie’s Outlets:
    $10.25+ Reynolds Handi-Vac (https://www.amazon.com/Reynolds-00590-Handi-Vac-Vacuum-Sealing-Starter/dp/B000XY8PDW/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1504278104&sr=1-1&keywords=Reynolds+Handi-Vac)
    $8.94 – FoodSaver Mason Jar Sealing Lid (make your you purchase wide mouthed or regular mouthed depending on what you use). ($8.94 https://www.amazon.com/FoodSaver-T03-0023-01-Wide-Mouth-Jar-Sealer/dp/B00005TN7H/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504278059&sr=8-1&keywords=foodsaver+mason+jar+lid)

    1. Ido, THANK-YOU SO MUCH for providing the links. I just did not take the time to put them in my post but I’m going to go back and add something to my post to let people know you added them.

      I have never not been able to get the lid off of my jar. An old-fashioned opener helps but I can usually get it off with my fingers after years of practice. Thanks so much for writing.

  3. Carolyn Maybury says:

    Wow, the food I like to eat… thank you!

  4. I got a great food saver vacuum sealer from Kohl’s. We don’t have space in our current kitchen to keep it out – so I don’t use it as much as I should. Love it! I hadn’t tried it for lettuce that’s a great instruction tip.
    Kohls does great housewares sales I plus there was an extra discount when I checked out so it was more than 50% off and I feel like the way it helps me preserve food that would otherwise get thrown away is worth the investment. We bulk buy meat and vacuum seal it for the freezer – definitely worth the investment.

    1. Good to know, Jan. Thanks for sharing. I have the same issue with space and vacuum sealers. That’s why the handheld sealers are my best friend.

  5. I love your comparisons!! I have to tell you that I have been saving my precut veggies like cucumbers, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers and in ziplock bags with an absorbent paper towel (viva) in the bottom and they last forever. The type paper towel makes a huge difference. I just took out diced onions last night that are 11 days old and they were still perfectly crisp. Mushrooms will last up to 3 1/2 weeks if you remember to change out the paper towels.

    1. Hi JoAnna,
      Good to hear from you. This is interesting, but I have a couple of questions. 1. What other brands of paper towels have you tried to compare to Viva? And question #2: How often do you change the paper towel inside the bag? Or do you ever change the towels? Just curious. Can’t wait to hear from you.