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How to Get Onion Smell off Hands: Three Easy Methods From Kitchen Pros

Bonus: It works on garlic too!

Whether you’re making homemade onions rings, mixing onions into a casserole or chopping them up for burger toppings, it’s no secret that these bulb vegetables can leave behind quite the stench. Not only do they make a kitchen smelly, but they cause your hands to have a funky odor too after you’ve been handling them. No one wants to walk around smelling like onion all day! The save: Cleaning pros share how to get onion smell off hands so you can still enjoy adding the vegetable to your meals.

What causes onion smell to stick

A woman cutting onions
Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

The pungent roots can cause all sorts of trouble when a recipe calls for them. You can reduce the tears they bring on with these helpful hacks, but you can’t prevent onion juices from making your hands smell.

The reason? The chopping process releases enzymes that create sulfenic acid, the smelly chemical that adheres to your hands. Your hands may smell of onions for days because the acid needs to be neutralized, and the soap you often reach for after chopping veggies won’t do the trick.

How to get onion smell off hands

1. Stainless steel

A stainless steel sink can be used to lift onion odor from hands
Image Source/Getty

Since plain soap is usually not enough to lift the odors from skin, you’ll have to consider other alternatives. The clever option you likely already have at home? “A stainless steel sink works just fine,” says Enereyda Morales, a cleaner for Dallas Maids.

All you have to do is rub your hands a few times on the clean sink basin. The same acids that make onions smell (and tears flow!) bind to steel, leaving your hands odor-free. 

Related: The Best Way To Clean a Stainless Steel Sink? Plain Old Flour, Says Cleaning Pro

If you don’t have a stainless steel sink available or want something more convenient, you can buy a stainless steel “bar soap,” like Amco Rub-a-Way Bar. The small item is specially made to nix stubborn food odors from skin.

“You just wash your hands and then rub this stainless steel bar like you would with soap, and poof, the smell is gone!” says Taylor Anderson, a lead cleaner for Super Cleaning Service Louisville. “It’s easy to clean and you can even toss it in the dishwasher. No more stinky hands after cooking, which sounds pretty awesome to me!”

Some experts also recommend using a stainless steel utensil (like a serving spoon) as seen in the video below which also highlights how helpful the bar and a sink can be. Bonus? It works for garlic stench too!

2. Salt

A hand holding salt to remove onion odor
1_nude/Getty

Stainless steel is one of the most effective ways to remove the onion odor from hands, but it’s not the only thing that can eliminate the smell. Many common household items can do the trick, as well.

One you likely have in your pantry? Salt! “Wet your hands, apply some salt (around 1/2 teaspoon) and rub it all over your hands,” explains Morales. “Rinse with water and then wash with soap.” Though soap alone doesn’t do the trick, the coarse salt has an extra cleaning power. It will scrub away lingering food particles from the onions that are causing the odor. (Click through for more uses for ).

3. These bathroom staples

Another simple but effective option? “Mix mouthwash and toothpaste, rub your hands for 30-60 seconds and rinse,” adds Morales. The abrasive toothpaste will scrub particles just like the salt. Meanwhile, the mouthwash’s natural odor fighters instantly neutralize the onions acidic compounds.


For more kitchen hacks, clixk through these useful stories!

How to Sharpen Knives at Home Safely + the One Thing You Never Want to Do with Your Knife

How To Open a Can Without a Can Opener: The Hacks Homesteaders Swear By

How to Cut Onions Without Crying — Pro Tricks to No More Tears!

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