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Garlic's Aroma and Stainless Steel 

Life Hacks: Garlic Smells

If you handle garlic, by crushing it with a knife, chopping it, or just playing with it, your fingers may have a repugnant smell.  Okay, it's fun to play with garlic.  This strong odor can linger for hours.   I've been in this situation and it really does not bother me.  Yet for some folks, the stench of garlic on your fingers is something you want to get rid of - as quickly as possible.

Every once in a while, if we're lucky, someone will suggest to us, a tip that will solve one of life's many problems.  Is this the end of the journey?  Do you trust what they say?  hmmm.   Let's explore the true, tried, and tested life hacks that tie into rigorous scientific testing.   Here are a few tricks you can use to eliminate the smell of garlic from your hands and fingers.

  • Lemon juice, vinegar, rubbing your hands with salt.   This works for fish smells but it does not always work for garlic.

  • Toothpaste?  Squeeze some toothpaste onto your hands with baking soda —and scrub it all over.  Wait a minute before washing.  Did this work?  Oh no! 

  • Stainless steel. This works.  Stainless steel, of all things, has been shown to remove the odor of garlic. Kitchen gadget companies have even created stainless steel soap-shaped bars, for you to store in your kitchen, for removing kitchen smells from your hands. But using virtually any stainless steel surface works, too. Try your stainless steel pancake flipper.  What about your stainless steel spoon?  Just hold your hands under cold running water while rubbing the stainless steel for 10-20  seconds. Magically, time slows down and the smell will be gone.  Do you miss the smell?  I would!

Let's explain why stainless steel works.

What is the chemistry of garlic and stainless steel?  Garlic contains molecules of sulfur. When cutting garlic, the molecules are transferred to your skin. Washing your hands with water heightens the smell because the water causes the sulfur to turn into a diluted solution of sulfuric acid. When you touch stainless steel, the molecules in the stainless steel bind with the sulfur molecules on your hands, thus transferring the molecules (along with the smell) to the metal.   Stainless steel can also help remove onion or fish odors from your hands and fingers. So the next time you're handling garlic, onions or fish, as part of your kitchen prep, try stainless steel to remove odors. You'll be surprised at how well it works.

Surprisingly, a head or bulb of garlic doesn’t smell of garlic, until your drop it, smash it, or slice it ... then smell it again. When cells are crushed, the chemical reaction converting alliinase and alliin into allicin is almost instantaneous.  This reaction can last for quite some time.  And when allicin degrades, it produces even more smelly sulfurous compounds, including diallyl disulfide. These all contribute to garlic’s characteristic aroma.

Look into using  "Stainless steel soap".  It is a palm-sized piece of stainless steel, in the form of a soap bar.  Its purported purpose is to neutralize or reduce strong odors such as those from handling garlic, onion, durian, guava, salami, or fish.  Some companies that produce stainless steel soaps claim that the odors these foods cause result from sulfur, which turns into sulfuric acid upon washing the hands. The aim of the stainless steel soap is to then bind to the sulfur molecules, thus removing them and the associated smell from the hands.

Try it yourself and let us know.  Did it work?   

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