The Surprising Reason Why You Should Start Keeping a Clothespin in Your Kitchen

published May 2, 2022
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High Angle View Of Wooden Clothespins On Table
Credit: Getty Images/Agata Lo Coco / EyeEm

I’ll be real with you: I’ve tried plenty of “life-changing” kitchen tricks over the years, and most of the time they don’t actually work. So when my editor asked if I’d like to test out a new way to keep yourself tear-free when chopping onions, I was skeptical. But because hope springs eternal, I ultimately decided to give it a whirl. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The trick was discovered on a Cup of Jo blog post that asked readers to share their best kitchen hacks. There were more than 500 comments, ranging from simple to wildly creative. Here’s the one I tested: “Clip a wooden peg to your top/shirt/clothing before chopping onions. The peg will ‘absorb’ the onion fumes and save you from watery eyes. Works like a charm!”

Credit: Kitchn Video

For the last couple of decades, I’ve taken a “grin-and-bear-it” approach to cutting onions. Sure, I may shed a few tears — but then I get delicious stir-fry! I wondered, if this tip actually worked, wouldn’t I have heard about it already? The doubts doubled, but I had to admit I was the perfect person to test the trick. See, I already keep a dozen or so wooden clothespins in my kitchen at all times. They’re useful for so many other things, like hanging reusable bags on a line to dry, storing kitchen towels, and keeping chip bags closed. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow
See? A clothespin is super useful.

I had dinner plans for sautéed greens over polenta, so I decided to test out the trick while I prepped my ingredients. In the name of research and *science*, I decided to conduct a control test. I’d first chop one onion without the clothespin and observe my reaction. After a five-minute reset walk outside, I’d come back in and chop a second with the clothespin attached to my shirt pocket. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow
Ready (and a bit skeptical) for the onion-clothespin test.

The first test went as expected. My eyes were already tearing up as I removed the onion’s inner skin. By the time I had diced it, I was blinking madly and could hardly see straight. I transferred the onion to a mixing bowl, wiped down my work station, and went outside for some fresh air. After my tear ducts dried up, I clipped on the clothespin and got to work.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow
All of the onions. None of the tears.

Guess what? It … worked! And remember, folks: I’d tell you if it didn’t. I made sure to clip the clothespin to a spot on my shirt that was close to the onion (on the collar seemed superfluous), so I’m betting that was a key factor in my success. I chopped the entire onion with only a few pricks at the corner of my eyes. It’s not a perfect method, but the difference from my control test was actually noticeable. 

Will I be doing this every time I reach for an onion? Because it’s easy, requires no extra work, and uses an item I always have close at hand … you bet!

What’s your trick for chopping onions without tearing up? Tell us your handy tricks in the comments below.