Does stainless steel get rid of garlic smells?

Nobody likes stinky garlic hands. So what’s the best way to get rid of the stench?

Rubbing your hands with stainless steel is said to remove the smell. There’s plenty of sensible chemistry that explains how this might work. But before we answer ‘how’ it works maybe we should figure out if there is any truth in the anecdotes.

So how about an experiment?

You’ll need
A clove of garlic
A knife.
A blindfold
A platsic spoon and a stainless steel table spoon of about the same size.

What to do
1. Wash and dry your hands (so they don’t smell of anything to start with).

2. Slice out a piece of garlic

.Slice the garlic

4. Rub the freshly cut garlic between your hands for about 10 seconds.

5. Under running water rub one palm with the back of the stainless steel spoon and the other palm with the plastic spoon (the plastic spoon is our control experiment). Again for 10 seconds each. Make sure you remember which hand was rubbed with which spoon.

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6. Find a willing volunteer, ask them to close their eye or put a blindfold on (with their eyes closed they are less likely to notice any signals from you about which hand has had what treatment).

7. Hold a hand under their chin (that way each hand will be the same distance from the test subjects nose) and ask them to smell it. Then do the same with the other hand. Make sure you don’t tell them which hand got the stainless steel or plastic spoon treatment.

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8. Ask them which hand smelt stronger of garlic.

9. Let me know the results using this survey. We’ll need plenty of tests if we are going to be sure of our results, otherwise it’s just more anecdote.

We’ll get back to you with a conclusion when enough results are in.


A special thank you to Sheffield Hallam University, Specialist Laboratories & Facilities – Sheffield Business School for allow us to film in their kitchens.

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