Cooking Tips

How to Get Garlic Smell off Your Hands

We love cooking with garlic, but handling it leaves our hands stinky. Here’s how to fix that.

Published June 12, 2023.

So many recipes include a clove or two—or even 40!— of fresh, fragrant, earthy, pungent, spicy, sweet garlic. (Can you tell how much I love garlic?)

Usually, our test kitchen recipes call for it minced, which is easiest to do with a garlic press. You get perfectly minced garlic instantly and it cooks more evenly, distributing flavor throughout the dish. 

But handling garlic puts off a surprising number of home cooks—nobody likes having the persistent scent of garlic on our hands. And washing only seems to go so far in removing the smell. 

But never fear. We have the solution.

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Here’s some good news: While it sounds a little unbelievable, rubbing your garlicky hands on stainless steel helps. Although the mechanism hasn't been verified by science, it's hypothesized that sulfur-containing odorous molecules that cling so persistently to skin will happily transfer themselves to steel. Those molecules can then can easily be washed away from the steel with soap and water. 

There’s even a stainless-steel bar of “soap” called the Amco Rub-A-Way Bar designed to help you out. We’ve reviewed it, and it does work. You just rub it on your hands like soap and then wash with actual soap and water, and voila, the garlic scent is gone. 


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Another way to get rid of the garlic smell? Use some sugar. Wet your hands with warm water, sprinkle with a tablespoon of granulated sugar, rub for a minute, and then rinse off. The sugar crystals act like porous sponges to absorb some of the odor molecules.

But here’s a better, one-step way to do the same thing. No extra ingredients or gadgets.  

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Our longtime-favorite kitchen-tested garlic press, the Kuhn-Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press, just happens to be sturdily constructed of solid stainless steel. Its curved, comfortable squeezing arms are even shaped a bit like (you guessed it) that steel bar of fake soap. 

After you press garlic, it’s always a good idea to wash the press immediately, since garlic residue has a way of drying into cement and clogging up holes in the press. So go ahead and run water and pull out any garlic residue, while rubbing your hands all over the press, then grab a soapy sponge and give it a quick wash and rinse. In a few seconds, the press is clean —AND the garlic smell is completely gone from your hands. 

Now that you know, I hope you enjoy handling garlic without the scent on your skin—and will use plenty of delicious fresh garlic in your cooking.

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