The Best Way to Remove the Smell of Garlic from Your Hands

Get rid of the lingering smell of garlic, onion and fish once and for all!

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April 07, 2021
By: Carlos Olaechea
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Most chefs and cooking instructors advise that the best tools in your kitchen are your hands. From mixing and marinating to chopping and trimming, your hands are bound to touch food while you’re in the kitchen. While soap and water can get rid of most food odors on your hands, there are certain food smells that just seem to remain on your skin even after thorough scrubbing. It’s something that many home cooks just deal with, but the lingering scent of especially potent foods like garlic have got people exploring new options.

That brings us to the stainless-steel, odor-removing bars that allegedly remove all strong smells from your hands just by rubbing them like you would a bar of soap. We’ve been intrigued by these products for a while now, so we finally decided to test a couple variations out. Here’s what we thought.

First, What Exactly Are Odor-Removing Bars?

The majority of odor-removing bars on the market are made from stainless steel. The idea behind them is that steel molecules bind to the sulfur molecules left behind on your hand from handling pungent foods like garlic, onions and other alliums. Most manufacturers market these products primarily for removing garlic smells from skin, but many claim their products can remove other odors like fish and spices.

Most models are shaped like a bar of soap, but some come in other shapes with features like silicone bristles. While shape might seem like a unimportant detail, I found that it does make somewhat of a difference. When testing, I found that you want an odor-removing bar that fits into the palm of your hand and covers the most surface possible on your hands. I also found that bars with silicone sleaves were noticeably less effective than more traditional models.

The Best Odor-Removing Bar

Most odor eliminating bars on the market are stainless steel, but the model I found to be the most effective was made entirely out of solid T3 copper. This is the heaviest odor eliminating bar that I tested, and the manufacturer actually states that it is 99% solid copper. As such, it has a pleasant feel in my hands and feels almost therapeutic to rub it. What really sets this bar apart from the competitors, though, is that copper is antimicrobial and is even registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as such. So, on top of claiming to eliminate odors, it also can disinfect your hands. The Clean Copper Home Soap Bar also comes with a cleansing cloth and storage bag. This bar was the most effective at eliminating garlic and smoked herring odors from my hands but it took two uses to completely removed all the odors. Unlike stainless steel bars, this one is not dishwasher safe.

Some Important Notes

While most odor eliminating bars on the market are stainless steel, but I found they were able to remove the majority of the garlic smell from my hands initially but still left a faint odor in addition to a slight metallic scent. After about five to 10 minutes, the garlic odor would reappear in full force. The stainless-steel bars did slightly better with the smoked herring but did not eliminate the odor from my hands altogether.

It’s also important to note that your body plays a big role in how effective these products work. Depending on porosity of your skin, stainless steel models or copper models might be more or less effective. The amount of time you wait between handling aromatic foods and washing your hands can also affect how deep the scents will penetrate your skin. After testing these four models, I believe that — while they’re no replacement for soap and water — they make for an extra line of defense to remove lingering odors.

How We Tested

I test four different models of metal odor-eliminating bars: two were plain stainless steel, one included a silicone scrubbing sleeve and one was made of solid copper. To test the efficacy of each product, I handled raw garlic and dried, smoked herring. I chopped four cloves of garlic to make a paste, which requires pressing the side of the blade and scraping against a cutting board repeatedly. This is common technique to mince garlic exposed my hands to the ingredient more than other methods. I rinsed any food off my hands before cleaning with each bar. If I smelled garlic on my hands again, I would note how much time elapsed and then wash my hands again with the odor-removing bars. I repeated this process for each bar I tested.

After washing my hands with soap and water thoroughly, I handled one fillet of smoked herring, rubbing it on my palms and fingers. Because herring contains a lot of oils, I needed to do a precursory wash with some dish soap to remove those oils. Despite using soap, the pungency of smoked herring was so intense that the odor remained on my hands, allowing me to test the effectiveness of each bar.

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