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I made some habanero salsa last night for the first time (my god, was it delicious) and took care to clean everything that was used. I figured I was good when I had no problems taking my contacts out afterwards. So, fast forward to this morning. The slap chop was still out to dry (stop having a boring pepper, stop having a boring life!) so I put it all away aand then found out the hard way when I went to put my contacts in that I did not in fact clean the tools well enough.

So, I've now got a slap chop, 2 knives and a cutting board which all need to be cleaned of the oils. What's the best way to do this? I can throw them all into the dishwasher at once if needed, none of the plastics should melt.

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I used a wooden spoon when making jam, and my batch of pear jam had a surprising bite. Surprising until I remembered that I'd made a killer hot pepper jam a few days before. –  thursdaysgeek Dec 29 '11 at 20:44
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I think as long as you're using a good, oil-cutting soap and your utensils are non-porous (and consider wearing gloves when washing), you shouldn't have any issue. –  Catija Mar 22 at 4:45
    
I've heard that Mao people rub hands with ash after chili prep... how about baking soda or clay powder? I would cut/taste a potato or some bread to test each method you try –  Pat Sommer Mar 26 at 21:19

7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You have a few options, including what should have worked. Capsaicin will dissolve in high-proof alcohol, so if you have a bottle of 151 you might have a go with that. Vinegar can also be used to dissolve the oils. These are probably more effort and expenditure than they're worth though.

You were on the right track; soap should have worked. In all likelihood, due to the concentration of the oils you simply did not wash it sufficiently. It requires quite a few passes (especially if the cutting board is porous) of hot, hot water and suds. As it is fat soluble you can try cleaning more thoroughly with most any soap with a de-greasing agent.

Moving forward, I have heard tell of spraying with non-stick spray to ward away the oils. I haven't felt some inordinate compulsion to do this and cannot attest to its efficacy, however with a slap chop and its nook and crannies you may find it a suitable use case.

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lots of soap worked out along with the dishwasher :) Thanks for the help! –  MGZero Dec 30 '11 at 15:19

Dilute bleach denatures the capsaicin nicely. Mix 1/4 cup bleach with 1 gallon water. Soak your equipment 5 minutes and rinse thoroughly. [insert "standard warnings on using bleach carefully" here].

Unfortunately, @mfg's suggestion of vinegar will not work any better on capsaicin than it would on a stain of vegetable oil. You need something that will either chemically alter the capsaicin molecules (something like bleach) or a strong surfactant (something like Murphy's Oil Soap). Rubbing alcohol is said to work as a surfactant, and I have heard it used on capsaicin, but I have not tried it.

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If you're really concerned that your normal dish soap will not do a good enough job, capsaicin is extremely soluble in alcohol.

A quick bath in an alcohol and soap mixture (the higher proof, the better) will severely dilute the capsaicin and enable you to wash it away more thoroughly.

Also, the boiling point of capsaicin is listed as 410F(210C) so holding your utensils at this temperature for a while will cause it to boil off of the surface(although it will not disappear 100% in any reasonable time). It goes without saying, but do not put plastic objects in this type of environment and wood will not burn at this temperature, but will discolor after some time and probably be structurally unsound afterwards depending on the type of wood and the original moisture content thereof.

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I'm not sure deliberately boiling off capsaicin is a good idea... I guess if there's only a minimal amount it'd be okay, but have you ever heated chilis in a too dry pan and immediately started coughing? It can be pretty strong. –  Jefromi Mar 27 at 3:27
    
True, but when working with chilies of more than ~250,000 scoville units in a cooking application, an industrial hygienist would recommend wearing a respirator, gloves, goggles, etc. I wouldn't argue with them. –  Mr. Mascaro Mar 27 at 13:51
    
That reminds me of the day my then boyfriend/ now husband left a pot of pasta sauce that had one pepperoni (sold as mild) simmering alone in the kitchen and I started wheezing and coughig when I went in. These vile fumes even kept the compost bin maggot-free in hot summer... –  Stephie Mar 28 at 20:39

Experience tells me that it is not the utensil that is hard to clean, but the surface upon which you cut the produce. Dropping a plastic cutting board in the washer and hand cleaning the knife has never yielded problems for me. That said, I've cut chiles on my wooden countertop and then prepped a meal the next day only to find myself in tears after touching my eyeball.

I don't know how hot naga chiles are, but I've been growing and processing Carolina Reapers and Trinidad 7 pot chiles for a few years without issue.

Take great care if you try to can these chiles! The fumes are seriously dangerous!!!!

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Surfactants rock where capsaicin removal is involved.
I used to make a very sharp, hot - habanero jelly for the select few around Xmas. I wore gloves to cut 1 kilo of habaneros that I grew in my backyard. After the jelly making was done, all my kitchen instruments were soaked in a dilute solution of vinegar. Once soaked, I ran out of the kitchen (the vapours can be a little strong too). Unfortunately the next day the nerves in my right fore-finger were on fire. My hand protection on the right hand, had a small hole in it. It turns out that habanero juice seeped into that hole...and marinated my finger the whole 4 hours I was chopping away at raw habaeneros. After a week of uncomfortable nerve irritation, I soaked my finger in vinegar...low and behold - relief! Holly

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I have found that oil works well to get rid of chilli oil.

Use a little vegetable oil and rub in well, then use soap to remove all of the oil.

The logic is that the vegetable oil "picks up" and dilutes the chilli oils and also provides a much greater volume of oil that can be cleaned more easily. The soap contains surfactants that grab the vegetable oil and pull it away from the surface.

This also works on hands.

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As someone who regularly uses very hot chillies, I have the following advice:

  1. Use gloves (I don't, but I am told it helps. I use my hands, but wash them carefully).

  2. Cut the chillies on a metallic surface: they are easier to clean; wooden chopping boards hold a residue.

  3. Wash hands and all surfaces with vegetable oil first. The oil will be sticky (and, simultaneously, slick), so you have to do this patiently. Small amounts of oil are usually fine.

  4. Wash the oil off with dishwashing liquid (you can use a drop or three of the liquid concentrate).

  5. Finally, rinse your hands and all surfaces with water.

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