My eyes, the burning!
July 22, 2007 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Tricks for sanitizing hands after handling very spicy peppers?

I'm not a pussy about spice. I can handle it. But we have some thermonuclear habaneros growing in the garden, and I chopped one today. I used some plastic wrap between it and my hand. The infernal oil penetrated or got around that. I kept my pinky elevated so at least one digit would be safe to, you know, scratch with. I washed my hands repeatedly.

I just carefully scratched near my eye with said pinky and it burns. Oh, my eyes, the burning!

Since the habanero plant is quite productive, this problem is going to repeat. I need a way to get the habanero fire-juice off me.
posted by adamrice to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pour cooking oil over your hands, and make sure that they're pretty well coated. Now take lots of dishwashing liquid, and wash your hands very thoroughly. If you want to try overkill, rinse off first in water, then in vinegar. But continue to be careful about touching any sensitive part of your body, just in case.

And for future chopping, I'd recommend one of the little electric choppers.
posted by dilettante at 5:52 PM on July 22, 2007

Lots of good answers here. Milk is probably the quickest at the moment if you have any on hand. Otherwise some kind of alcohol (rubbing, whatever). If that doesn't work, try ingesting the alcohol (make sure it's one of the kinds meant for this)--that should make you feel better.
posted by anaelith at 5:56 PM on July 22, 2007

I've done this, too many times.

I've used rubbing alcohol to remove the oil. I've also used dish soap and whatever other potent-looking degreasers have been handy.

Then I've sat around with my hand (and the part I stupidly touched with the hand) in milk, ice, iced milk, various lotions and potions and...

Take an aspirin and buy a good pair of gloves. Seriously.
posted by kmennie at 5:57 PM on July 22, 2007

I stand by my answer here.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:59 PM on July 22, 2007

As I suggested in the thread cerebus19 links to, I would recommend you soak your hands in any dairy product you have on hand. Capsaicin is nonpolar, so fattier dairy (cream) is better for eluting the capsaicin and pushing forward casein binding.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:04 PM on July 22, 2007

I have mixed both horseradish and red hot peppers with kefir for cold dips and been disconcerted (and embarrassed), several hours later at dinnertime, to find that my initially eye-watering concoctions had lost all heat.

The combination of yeast and bacteria had apparently detoxified them.

So I recommend drying your hands thoroughly, so that the chlorination in the water can't kill your little pals, and then coating them with kefir as if it were hand lotion. You could try a living yogurt too, but I can't vouch for that personally.
posted by jamjam at 6:37 PM on July 22, 2007

Wear gloves. Seriously, as a chef, I promise you it's the only way to ensure that you won't burn yourself later. Buy a box of latex gloves and they'll last you all year.
posted by BradNelson at 7:21 PM on July 22, 2007

I agree with BradNelson, but would recommend non-latex gloves (e.g., nitrile). Latex can become an allergen after frequent use -- having swollen, itchy, red hands is not very fun.
posted by i love cheese at 7:42 PM on July 22, 2007

Third the gloves. It's the only method that always works for me. Everything else is a crapshoot. It only takes a tiny trace of oil to annoy those sensitive mucous membranes.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:56 PM on July 22, 2007

Fourth the gloves...a box is pretty cheap and handy to have around the house for messy jobs in addition to handling the spicy peppers. As a contact lens wearer and lover of spicy things, they are very necessary.
posted by mmascolino at 9:20 PM on July 22, 2007

Wash your hands in milk or add a big pinch of sand in with your soap/water.

Milk is the traditional "ow ow my mouth is burning (from spicy foods)" solution.

Sand will effectively turn your standard soap into grit soap and act as a bunch of little sandpapers to get the tough stuff out of there.
posted by vanoakenfold at 8:16 AM on July 23, 2007

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