DOES STAINLESS STEEL REMOVE GARLIC SMELLS FROM HANDS?
We’ve teamed up with Prof Mark Lorch, a chemist from the University of Hull, to test whether life hacks really work – and we need your help!
You may have heard that rubbing garlicky hands on something made from stainless steel, such as a spoon, removes the whiff. You can even buy stainless steel soap! But does it work? No one has really tested it under scientific conditions, so my fellow chemists and I (funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry) devised a citizen science experiment to see whether it’s a hit or myth.
Hundreds of people took part (you can see how to do the experiment at bit.ly/hitormyth) and their results showed that this trick does work! Which leave us with the question of how does it work? We are testing some theories in the lab, but this is what we think so far:
Garlic is full of sulphur-containing chemicals, that give it its familiar taste and odour. One of them, called allicin, is probably responsible for making your hands smell. Stainless steel is an alloy, which is predominantly made of iron but also contains chromium. The chromium forms an oxide layer on the surface of the alloy, protecting the iron from rusting. It could be that the oxide layer reacts with the allicin from the garlic, making it cling to the surface of the stainless steel instead of your hands.
You can also conduct our next experiment, which investigates how to stop flowers from wilting. Read on to find out more!