When you want to add flavor to a recipe, one of the easiest ways to do it is by sautéing a little garlic or onion and using that as part of the base for your dish. But, long after you’ve chopped or minced or sliced these aromatics, you may have noticed that the smell of garlic lingers.
And lingers. And lingers.
You’d think washing your hands with soap and water would remove the fragrance of eau de garlic that’s created when the aromatic is chopped. A little science of why the smell of garlic is so intense: Garlic contains a variety of sulfur compounds, and when you chop it, you release some of them. And while those compounds help food taste great, they’re pretty intense when they hang around on the breath or skin. Once your body has metabolized the compounds, the smell disappears, but for some people, that may take up to two days.
So how do you make your hands stop smelling like garlic or onion? Try one of the five tips below!
How to Remove That Garlic Smell from Your Hands
Prevent It In the First Place: Use Gloves.
Wearing thin gloves while you mince garlic cloves or slice onions might feel silly, but creating a barrier between your skin and the vegetables keeps the smell from sticking around.
Use thin, restaurant-style gloves—as thick gloves will make it harder to grip your cooking utensils and can result in a knife injury. Losing a digit is one way to remove the garlic smell, but it’s not one we recommend.
Along those lines, you may have heard that spreading olive or sunflower oil on your hands before prepping works to create that barrier. Doing so makes it almost impossible to safely use a knife. And even if you escape unscathed, you’re going to end up smelling like garlic bread.
“Brush” Your Hands with Toothpaste and Mouthwash
Toothpaste and mouthwash get rid of garlic hands as well as they get rid of garlic breath. Simple pour a bit of mouthwash in one hand and some toothpaste in the other, rub together for about 30 seconds and rinse. The same chemicals that help brush the remnants of your meals off your teeth do the same for your skin.
Try a Squeeze of Lemon
When life gives you lemons… use them to remove the smell of garlic and onion! First, check your hands for small nicks. The citric acid from the lemon neutralizes garlic’s smelly compounds, but it will also get right into those cuts and make you forget all about the garlic smell. No cuts? Then simply squeeze lemon into one hand, rub your hands together and work it in and voila!
Get a Cup of Joe
As you did with lemon, all you have to do is rub coffee—either the whole beans or grounds—on your hands. The aroma of the coffee erases the smell of garlic and onion and simultaneously exfoliates your skin, leaving you with soft, delicious-smelling hands.
Use Stainless Steel to Remove the Garlic Smell
This trick has been passed down for generations. My grandma told me she was the first person to try the method, but a friend recently revealed her mother taught her the trick too. Regardless of this method’s true origin, it works… to a degree.
How does stainless steel remove odors? When you cut garlic, it releases sulfur molecules which bind to your skin. Stainless steel’s chemistry is such that it’s able to bind to these molecules that sit on your skin. Just rub your hands with stainless steel—a spoon or this special bar of steel “soap” will work—and cool water.