The Best Way to Get Garlic Smells Off Your Fingers

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

My kids love to help me cook, which is equal parts rewarding and frustrating. It all starts with good intentions — lessons about healthy food and passed-down recipes — and quickly devolves into an egg-cracking, kale-throwing, glorious mess. Toddlers are super tactile; they want to be elbows-deep, feeling and tasting everything they can get their hands on. So naturally cleanup is a big part of the ritual. Huge.

The walls, floors, and countertops are pretty easy to wipe down. It’s the remnants of cooking on their bodies (and in their hair — how did that get there?) that are tricky. I don’t actually want to give them baths every time I make a meal, but it’s a little sad when your 2-year-old is walking around smelling like a vinaigrette.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

So when I read about a trick using lemons to clean garlic off your fingers, I was ready to give it a try. I always love a chemical-free cleaning solution, especially around the kiddos! (I also don’t have one of those stainless steel bars of soap, but we almost always have lemons in the house!) I enlisted my two helpers in a very scientific experiment that went something like this:

  1. I pulled apart three cloves of garlic and gave them to my older kid to peel. They each gave a clove a nibble (yuck). I minced the rest into smaller pieces.
  2. We all gleefully massaged the garlic pieces to get as garlicky as possible. We then washed our hands and smelled our fingers. My older one declared she smelled like garlic bread. Excellent!
  3. I sliced a lemon in half and we vigorously massaged our food again. This time, it was the citrus. We then rinsed our fingers. All traces of garlic smells were gone!
  4. The kids ate the lemon slices.
  5. The lingering lemony smell faded much faster than lingering garlic smells usually do.

It was a success! I rarely go out of my way to caress my ingredients, but I’m happy to feel up my citrus if it means that my family will not smell like garlic bread when we go to bed at night. Plus, it’s a chance to think like a kid again and explore all your senses while cooking — as long as you don’t happen to have any paper cuts!

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