Metal deodorant bars for garlic/onion?
August 17, 2006 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Do those metal deodorant bars made to remove the scent of garlic or onion from your hands really work? If so, how? If not, what does?
posted by anonymoose to Grab Bag (23 answers total)
I've found lemon juice works as well as anything.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:54 PM on August 17, 2006

I've always heard that a stainless steel spoon works very well. But I avoid garlic when I can and have no garlic in the house to test before posting. Bah.
But if a ss spoon works then it'd be one less thing to clutter up the kitchen.

Oh, and I stared at your username for a few seconds before I caught on, and now totally for kicks
posted by moonshine at 10:11 PM on August 17, 2006

I've noticed stainless steel does seem to remove onion or garlic smell on your hands; we have a stainless steel sink and I've tried 'washing with soap and water numerous times' versus 'rubbing my wet palms briskly around on the steel sink and then washing once' and the sink does seem to work markedly better.

No idea how, though. Alchemy? Sink gnomes?
posted by Rubber Soul at 10:18 PM on August 17, 2006

Yes, they really do work.

Magic elves, I'm told.

Somebody smart will no doubt post the correct answer.
posted by Aquaman at 10:18 PM on August 17, 2006

A bit more info and a hypothesis here:

How It Works

This is speculation on my part - if you know more about the chemistry behind this phenomenon, please feel free to write me. It makes sense to me that the sulfur from the onion/garlic/fish would be attracted to and bind with one or more of the metals in stainless steel. Formation of such compounds is what makes stainless steel stainless, after all. Onions and garlic contain amino acid sulfoxides, which form sulfenic acids, which then form a volatile gas (propanethiol S-oxide), which forms sulfuric acid upon exposure to water. These compounds are responsible for burning your eyes while cutting onions and also for their characteristic scent. If the sulfur compounds bind to the steel, then the odor is removed from your fingers.

posted by mediareport at 10:22 PM on August 17, 2006

Yes, we have one and it works. Weird but cool.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:27 PM on August 17, 2006

Searching finds other folks who dispute, if not outright dismiss, the hypothesis. Count me as among the curious waiting to hear a plausible chemical explanation; it's a neat question.
posted by mediareport at 10:33 PM on August 17, 2006

I remember Alton Brown saying that anything stainless steel will work just as well as those special scent-remover gimmick things, but I don't remember if he said why, and I certainly can't think of an answer.
posted by wanderingmind at 11:47 PM on August 17, 2006

Cecil is inconclusive. I don't believe it works.
posted by pracowity at 3:09 AM on August 18, 2006

To follow up on what wanderingmind said:

From the transcript of that Good Eats episode:
"W: Thank you. If you'll just rub this special metal bar over your hands under running water, the molecular bonds that hold the garlic to your hands will be gone.
AB: [mockingly] Special metal bar. Vlad, it's a chunk of stainless steel she's working on you with. You could get the same results from a stainless steel ladle, a pair of tongs, heck, this board scraper will do the same job and might I add it will do a lot more. That thing's just a paper weight."

He doesn't really get into (at all) why/how it works, though.
posted by inigo2 at 5:30 AM on August 18, 2006

It definitely works, I used the trick just last night. However, it's true that it's the stainless steel and not the bar that's doing it, and I use the faucet on my sink or sometimes (like last night), the knife as I'm washing it.

This is something that totally flabbergasted me the first time I did it, but it's routine now and something I'm really glad to know about. If you don't believe it works it's easy enough to test since everyone has stainless steel in the house. I'm not sure if it works dry or not, but it does with water.
posted by OmieWise at 5:40 AM on August 18, 2006

Stainless steel definitely works, although you look funny rubbing your hands all over the sink. We also bought some soap specially made to take kitchen odours off your hands - it's made with coffee grounds and peppermint.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:11 AM on August 18, 2006

For onions, I just take some regular table salt and rub my hands with it. Then rinse. Smell is gone.

Costs less than a metal bar, and I don't have to rub every nook and cranny of my fingers on a sink or some kind of metal.
posted by EastCoastBias at 6:50 AM on August 18, 2006

I use a stainless spoon or whatever else is in the sink. It works very well unless you get stuff up under your fingernails, in which case a stainless butter knife or fork tine may be required for extraction.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:50 AM on August 18, 2006

I use a stainless spoon. It works very well unless you get stuff up under your fingernails, in which case a stainless butter knife or fork tine may be required for extraction.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:50 AM on August 18, 2006

It totally works but I have no idea why.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:55 AM on August 18, 2006

You don't really need to rub anything, unless you've been rubbing garlic all over your hands. I just grip the chef's knife I'm using to chop the garlic and run it under cold (note: COLD, not hot) water.
posted by mkultra at 7:47 AM on August 18, 2006

If this does work, how is it possible that your stainless steel pans are not destroying the onion and garlic flavors you want in your food?
posted by jamjam at 9:57 AM on August 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Because cold, running water is the key.
posted by mkultra at 11:30 AM on August 18, 2006

It totally works - but just use a large spoon. No need to pay extra for one of those unitaskers.
posted by vronsky at 2:25 PM on August 19, 2006

I believe it probably does work, though I wouldn't mind seeing some analytical evidence and a plausible mechanism.

My comment was meant mostly to raise the possibility, in the light of this, that stainless steel pans, of which I have dozens to which I am very attached, could be muting-- perhaps drastically muting-- the flavors of the foods we're cooking in them.
posted by jamjam at 2:48 PM on August 19, 2006

Good question. But getting rid of residual garlic oil on your hands is different than cooking actual pieces of garlic in your pans. You could experiment. Rub the bottom of a pan with a garlic clove. Rinse in cold water. Unless skin is involved with the chemical reaction, you shouldn't smell any garlic. Try this in a cast iron or copper or non stick pan. Or compare cooking garlic in oil in the different pans. My guess is that if there is any lessening of the garlic's taste it is negligible at best.
posted by vronsky at 3:32 PM on August 19, 2006

I know this works for fish, i don't know about onion and garlic:

Pour some sort of oil on your hands [think olive or canola].

Rub it all over your hands so they are covered.

Now you can proceed with the fish-chopping or whatever.

When you're done with all that, wash your hands of the oil and you should be virtually smell-free!

disclaimer: this information i got from my brother, who enjoys making dishes with fish, but i've never actually heard it from anywhere else. anyhow, it seems to work.
posted by alon at 12:21 PM on August 22, 2006

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