Garlic, the delightfully pungent and flavorful allium, makes an appearance in nearly every savory dish I make. If I’m not mincing raw garlic to zest up the flavor of soups and pasta sauces, I’m slicing it into slivers for stir-fried veggies or grating it into a paste. The trouble when cooking with garlic—and lots of it—is that its signature aroma also ends up perfuming the hands, imparting a scent so bold it could repel a vampire in and of itself. Oh, and not to mention, the smell lingers, too.
I’ve tried several methods to get the garlicky smell out of my hands. I tried rubbing my hands with lemons, but it was no match for the bulb’s odor. I even used coffee grounds, and still to no avail. As a last resort, I used a mixture made of salt and baking soda, and though it worked to dispel the odor, the ingredients were abrasive and I couldn’t imagine routinely using the technique as someone who frequently uses garlic in their cooking.
Among the methods I’ve tried, nothing has been more conveniently effective than the Acmo Rub-A-Way Bar ($8), a slab of stainless steel with a shape reminiscent of a bar soap, which is marketed towards absorbing garlic odor.
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Why the Acmo Rub-A-Way Bar?
Steel “bar soaps” are a dime a dozen, but I was curious about Acmo’s version. If not for the saloon-like slab serif font etched onto its surface (I’m a sucker for utilitarian products that look cute), then for its 4.5-star overall rating on Amazon after more than 18,000 shoppers chimed in. “It is like magic! No more onion or garlic smell on my hands when cooking,” raved one Amazon reviewer, with many others agreeing.
Until I tried it for myself, I was admittedly skeptical. Sure, it looked like bar soap, but it wouldn’t produce the sudsy lather that I commonly associate with getting squeaky-clean, so how could it be any more effective, if at all, than regular soap? Not to mention, the scientific evidence surrounding steel’s ability to whisk away garlic odor is slim at best.
However, according to Mark Lorch, PhD, a chemist and professor at the University of Hull, in an article for BBC Science Focus Magazine, there’s reason to believe that stainless steel could potentially get the smell of garlic out of one’s hands. He wrote that steel contains chromium, which creates an oxide layer that protects the material from rusting, and the oxide layer may act as a magnet for allicin, the sulfurous chemical responsible for garlic’s fragrant aroma, transferring the scent from your hands to the steel.
My review of the Acmo Rub-A-Way Bar
With nothing to lose (except, perhaps, $10, exclusive of the Amazon shipping fee), I purchased the Acmo garlic-absorbing bar and put it through the test over the course of several months. I’ve since peeled, sliced, minced, grated, and crushed garlic for recipes that called for anything from several cloves to whole heads of the allium—and suffice it to say that Acmo’s stainless steel bar has not disappointed.
1. It’s easy to use
Using the Acmo Rub-A-Way Bar is straightforward: You use it as you would regular bar soap, rubbing the bar between your hands. It’s not indicated how long you should use it for, but I typically use it for 30 seconds at a time. The manufacturer also mentions that you have the option to use the Acmo Bar with or without water, but I prefer to run my hands under running water, which makes the bar easier to maneuver in my hands while helping get rid of the sticky residue when handling raw garlic.
2. It’s convenient
Acmo’s Rub-A-Way Bar isn’t just designed for absorbing garlic odors—it can also help absorb the lingering smell of other sulfur-containing foods, like onions and seafood, such as fish and shrimp, which I’ve found works to great effect. This makes the bar convenient to have in the kitchen, particularly among those who often use their hands when cooking. Plus, the bar tucks away nicely for storage (I keep mine next to my kitchen sink), and you can also throw it in the dishwasher to clean it between uses.
3. It works
After placing the Acmo Rub-A-Way Bar through the wringer, I’m happy to report that it lives up to its claims. I noticed that it lifts the smell of garlic from my hands, and though it won’t get rid of the aroma entirely (it can’t get under your fingernails), this bar works better than any other method I’ve tried in the past. It will set your back $10, but you can use it for years to come. Plus, the fact that it’s easy and convenient to use makes it worthy of a place in my kitchen.