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Curing Garlic Breath and Hands

posted in Spices and Seasonings by Kathy Maister

Aside from tasting great, many people claim garlic has medicinal effects. They also claim that, in a pinch, it can ward off evil demons. Personally, I have no experience of that. I can warn you that it can cause your breath to have a distinctive odor. The smell even seems to permeate through your skin the next day.

Some say chewing parsley helps. I say…plan your social life carefully!


Garlic’s healing powers come from the sulphorous compounds it contains. But those compounds feed the bacteria in your mouth, causing bad breath.

Parsley is the best weapon against garlic breath. That’s why many recipes that include garlic also include parsley. Chewing parsley with your garlicky meal seems to contain the problem to some extent.

But it’s not enough to just sprinkle a little parsley on top of what you’re eating. You need to chew at least one sprig of fresh parsley, ideally more, with your meal. Chop up a sprig of fresh parsley or two and add it to the meal somewhere, or put it on the plate as a garnish.

Basically you can’t get rid of garlic breath. But you can mask it. Toothpaste, mouthwash, strong chewing gum, and commercial remedies for bad breath might camouflage your breath for an hour or two after eating garlic.

Some people say that chewing cardamom seeds work as well as parsley, though it’s hard to work those seeds into the meal. Cardamom seeds pack a powerful punch of flavor, and not everyone likes them, but try them and tell me how they work out!

To remove the scent of garlic from your hands, try rubbing them on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds! (I’m not kidding!) If you don’t have a stainless steel sink you can actually buy, for about $12, a stainless steel bar of soap.

Blomus makes these bars, whose sole purpose is to remove not just the smell of garlic, but fish odors as well. I have no clue how this works, but I promise you it does. Does anyone know why?

Any body have further questions about (or comments on) garlic?

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Pam said:

Great hints about garlic, parsley and a stainless steel sink or stone? I do love the added advice about planning your social calendar carefully! Great info on all levels. Keep the blogs coming!

Bethany Riskin said:

Another way to get rid of the garlic, fish and onion odors on your hands: while running your hands under cold water, rub the blunt edge of the knife over them. (How does this work???) That said, I’m gonna have to get me one o’ them stainless steel soaps!

Thank you, Kathy, for reminding people to eat their parsley. I’m a huge proponent of this green garnish. Parsley is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. It’s a member of the carrot family and has high levels of beta carotene, vitamin B12, chlorophyll, calcium, more vitamin C than citrus fruits, and an abundance just about all other known nutrients. I have been known to swipe the garnish of parsley off other people’s plates to get the benefit from its value. So, don’t think of it as merely a garnish; eat your parsley, even if your only objective is to cleanse garlic breath!

Eva said:

Rubbing your hands on a stainless steel faucet (which most people probably have) also works. I’ve heard that you can also rub the cub of a stainless steel ladel but then you have that to wash. Just to follow up on the previous comment about eating parsley as more than garnish, when I traveled in Turkey it was used heavily much the way we use lettuce. I had sandwiches which had an abundance of parsley leaves for example. Tabouli, of course, uses it as a main ingredient. It’s really delishious stuff that tends to be under used in our culture.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Eva! Yes parsley is on my weekly shopping list. I put it on everything!

jenny said:

garlic hands issue is easily solved by rubbing some lemon or lemon juice on them…smell gone instantly!

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Jenny! When buying fresh galic everyone should be sure to buy fresh lemons as well!

Brittany said:

The reason why the stainless steel removes the garlic odor is the same reason your hands have a metallic smell after handling coins. The metal oxides create a break down of oil in your skin. Scientists think it works like this: When touching objects made of iron, perspiration from skin causes the iron atoms to gain two electrons. The doubly negative iron atoms react with oil in skin, causing them to decompose, forming 1-octen-2-one.

Kathy Maister said:

WoW! Brittany you are brilliant! I love your scientific explanation on removing garlic orders! Thanks! (And for those of you who would like a scientific explanation on the “5 Second Rule” of dropping food on the floor, click here!)

henry said:

If you want as much garlic cloves as your little heart desires, visit the Hotel Vancouver – the Griffin Restaurant. They have a very nice buffet and one of the components is a huge platter of roasted garlic.

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Henry, Wow, I guess you really do need to plan your social life accordingly! :)

Grant H. said:

I’ve found some success with getting rid of garlic odors (both in the mouth and in the hands) with lemons. I’ll chew a piece of lemon rind and all if my breath is garlicky, and will also “wash” my hands with a piece of lemon.

L.B. said:

Eating a couple of slices of lemon with sugar helps instantly. I do it every time.

I even rub some lemon juice into the cutting board and it removes any odors.

If you can’t eat lemon because of its acidity eat oranges or grape fruits. It’s less efficient but it works pretty well too.

Kathy Maister said:

Yes, I agree, lemons really do the trick! But my all time most used method to remove garlic odors from my hands is to add a drop of soap on my hands and rub them on my stainless steel sink. The sink gets cleaned and my hands end up smelling fresh!

Deshaun said:

After going to all the trouble of peeling the garlic so it can be eaten, it hardly makes sense that one would want to rid the fingers or breath of that terric aroma. I’ve found that by exhaling one’s grlicky beath in nooks and crannies, there follows a definiitely decline in the insect population.

Denise said:

To get rid of garlic breath I take eatwhatever.
It’s this very cool breath freshener….you swallow a few jellies then suck on a mint and voilà, in 10 minutes your breath smells superb. love this stuff

Melinda said:

I am so glad I stumbled into this! After I cook with garlic, it’s so difficult to get rid of the smell on my hands, when I go online afterward even my keyboard tray smells garlicky! Thanks.

Stinky Croat said:

I have used this method to rid my breath of garlic smell: Take 1/2 of a teaspoon of freeze-dried coffee, and put it directly in your mouth. Swirl it around for a few minutes, and then spit it out.

Chocolate covered coffee beans do the trick too, and taste darned good. I have even heard of people chewing coffee beans or grounds ad then spitting them out.

Try it, it works!

Stacie -former bad breath sufferer said:

The stainless steel works by neutralizing the compounds in garlic. Chewing anise seeds work well too, but they have a very strong flavor. If you go into Indian restaurants, they usually keep those and cardamon by the register.

Garlic actually gets into your bloodstream and is expelled through the lungs and breath. It doesn’t last too long, and garlic has so many great benefits, that you should only avoid it if you have a hot date or an important job interview! LOL

joy said:

I love garlic in pretty much everything.

Thanks for the tips!

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