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Onion Smell on Hands: How to Get Rid of It

I love the flavor of dishes that use a lot of onions, but I hate when my hands smell like onions even days later. A couple of months ago, I had to chop a bunch of onions for a dish I took to the church potluck. I prayed for no one to sit near me at Mass because the smell was so strong! I know lots of women swear by the stainless steel trick (rubbing your hands on a stainless steel faucet or on a piece of stainless steel under running water), but that doesn’t work for me. So, for the rest of you out there with super dry skin, here are some tips to get rid of the onion smell on your hands.

an image of someone chopping onions that reads How to Get Onion Smell Off Your Hands

Before you try these tips, you may want to try the stainless steel trick, as that seems to work for many people. Just rub your hands along your sink faucet or stainless steel utensils like forks or a stainless steel spoon after washing them to get rid of the odor. If that doesn’t work, start with these tips!

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a salt shaker with salt spilled on a cutting board

1. Try Salt to Remove the Onion Smell

Get your hands wet, and have someone sprinkle lots of salt into your palms. Coarse salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt, seems to work best. Rub the salt all over your hands and let it rest for a minute or two, then rinse the salt away. This secret tip works best for me because it sloughs off some of the dead skin cells from my extra dry skin. You could even try a salt scrub (like our lime salt scrub) to make your hands smell amazing and feel super soft!

a picture of hands with nails soaking in water

2. Don’t Forget Your Nails

Do you remember to clean under your nails after chopping pungent veggies? I was forgetting it nearly every time. Grab a nail brush and suds it up with plain dish soap, liquid soap, or a bar of soap. Scrub underneath your nails and rinse with cold water. If dish detergent isn’t strong enough, try laundry detergent instead. (I know it’s weird, but you won’t be doing it that often.)

a lemon cut in half

3. Wash with Lemon Juice to Remove the Onion Smell from Your Hands

Have a lemon on hand? Try washing your hands with some of the juice and some cool water to remove the onion smell on your hands. For easier cleanup, you can also just rub the lemon over your hands, but make sure you get it between your fingers, too.

If you’re all out of lemon, try the same process with an orange instead.

4. Try Some Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are often used as an exfoliator in body products, so why not try some here? Rub some used coffee grounds between your hands and fingers, gently massaging the grounds into your skin. Let them sit for a few minutes before rinsing with clean water. I’ll trade the coffee smell for the onion smell any day!

Why do onions make your hands smell?

When you cut an onion or garlic, it releases enzymes. These enzymes change some of the sulfur compounds in the onion into sulfenic acid. This is why you sometimes cry (or at least get tears in your eyes) when you cut into it! These same chemicals will stay on your skin for a long time (days, even) unless something else neutralizes it. Soap is not enough to take away the smell.

a woman's hands holding onion bulbs

How do I stop my hands from smelling like onion?

The obvious answer is to wear gloves when cutting onions to keep your hands odor-free. Disposable gloves (like food workers wear) are pretty inexpensive and fairly effective.

I’d avoid latex gloves in case someone has a latex allergy. Plus, latex smells bad, too. You’d just be trading one smelly thing for another.

You could purchase a pair of cut-resistant gloves to use in the kitchen when you’re chopping ingredients. Not only do they keep you from touching onions, but they keep you from cutting your hands or fingers, too. Nice!

Other Tips to Prevent Getting the Onion Smell on Your Hands

Use a sharp knife when slicing onions. Dull knives result in more squishing and smashing, which will cause the onion to release even more juices. A sharp knife will cut right through it and minimize that.

Use a food processor or veggie chopper as much as possible. Let it do the work for you! Of course, most require that you at least chop the onion into halves or quarters before putting it in the processor for chopping.

Here’s a YouTube video with a few more tips we didn’t mention that you could try if all else fails.

What trick do you use to get rid of onion smell on hands?

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Saturday 6th of May 2017

These are great tips! Thanks :D