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I've heard touching stainless steel after chopping and handling garlic helps but I haven't found it to work all that well.

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8 Answers 8

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The smell of garlic is due to sulfur compounds. When you rub your hands against stainless steel, the iron of the stainless steel will react with some small volume of those compounds, but much more will remain in your hands. Rubbing your hands against an iron object does not work.

The sulfur smell compounds are water soluble to slightly water soluble, so rinsing your hands in cold water and then soap and water should work as well as the recipes suggesting Noxzema, lemon juice, salt, baking soda, raw potatoes, tomato paste solutions, or mouthwash.

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I not agree that you just have to use water and soap, the smell will remain. I use a specific hand soap or, when not available, some lemon juice. – Lorenzo Jul 19 '10 at 11:35
I agree. There are times when I smell the garlic even after a long wash. In those cases I rinse my hands with mouthwash and let it mask the garlic smell. Time does the rest. – papin Jul 19 '10 at 13:31
I use the mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide, which probably helps oxidize the sulfur compounds that cause the strong smell. Should have thought of that earlier. – papin Sep 18 '10 at 15:32

A quick rinse with some lemon juice. Then wash your hands normally with soap and you're done.

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Stainless steel does work, but you have to rub it over your hands under running water. As noted above, this causes a chemical reaction that breaks down the garlic oils so they can be rinsed away. Using hand or dish soap in addition to the steel helps speed this process.

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This always works for me and my family, too. We just use the faucet itself as the stainless steel object in question. – JustRightMenus Jul 19 '10 at 14:08

I always use a stainless steel 'hand soap', such as this one with a little bit of regular hand soap. Wash for about 30 seconds and the garlic smell's gone.

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Washing your hands by rubbing your fingers on a stainless steel knive under running water works really well.

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And conveniently washes the blood away at the same time! – Ward Jul 19 '10 at 21:58
I do this all the time, avoiding the sharp edge, of course...Just rise my chef's knife, gently rubbing the flat side against the fingers that held the garlic. It takes seconds, completes two tasks simultaneously, and is completely safe. – moscafj Jul 18 at 11:12

I always have some coffee around to remove smells like that from my hands. It's not so sci-fi like rubbing steel over your hands, but works for me.

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I find that cold water and lemon juice works best. There's also a theory that cutting a potato in half and rubbing it on your hands will work but so far I've never tried it!

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I was recently reading up on this subject because, not matter how many times I washed my hands after chopping garlic, the smell would still be there even a couple days later.

I tried the "stainless steel" approach, but didn't see any results. The "coffee grounds" approach did help some, it works well to cover up the smell at least. At the same time I was trying these methods, I accidentally discovered a better solution. I was building an evaporative fan, using copper tubing and in handling it, the garlic smell instantly went away and my fingers and slightly smelled like copper but no garlic!!

I imagine this has something to do with the chemical reaction with stainless steel mentioned in this string, but copper seemed to work a lot better. Further testing may be needed, but wanted to share what I had found.

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