Could Stainless Steel Be Part of a ‘Life Hack’?

Nobody is entirely sure where they came from, when they started or why they still seem to be everywhere, but the chances are that if you have a social media account, then somebody has posted a ‘Life Hack’ for you. Life hacks are the modern, turbo-charged equivalent of the “Handy Hints” – the kind of help pages that used to appear in just about every type of magazine giving you little tricks of the trade in everything from photography to cake decorating to home brew beer.

It’s rare that one of these digital Top Tips catches our attention, but there’s a recent one that certainly has! We found a product, which is widely on sale, called stainless steel soap and it’s not actually soap at all – it’s a soap-bar shaped piece of stainless steel that’s used to prevent chef’s hands from smelling like garlic all day.

It’s true that garlic is quite potent stuff and you can use some fairly heavily scented handwash after handling it, only to find that your hands still carry the underlying smell of garlic. The use of stainless steel soap comes from the old wives’ tale about chopping garlic and then rubbing your hands on the kitchen tap to counteract the compounds that cause the smell in garlic, particularly the kind of compounds that stick to your hands.

The question over whether there’s any scientific merit is still ongoing, but from the research that we found, it all appears to rely on a couple of different compounds. Garlic has a lot of sulphuric combinations that give it its taste and smell, the strongest and most potent is called allicin. Allicin is only created when garlic is chopped or crushed, because it takes the combination of an enzyme and an amino acid that are in two separate parts of the garlic cells walls to come into contact to make it. That’s the reason why garlic cloves don’t really smell but become very fragrant the second you cut them.

There’s a logical consistency that the allicin in garlic could cling to the stainless steel and not your hands, thanks to the chromium content. The stainless steel used in the ‘soap’ is about 11% by weight and it gives the steel its corrosion resisting properties; it’s possible that the chromium oxide that’s formed when the steel comes into contact with air and water could bind to the sulphuric garlic compounds, meaning that they’re taken and bound onto the steel and not the chef’s hands.

We admit that, as yet, we’ve not tested this out ourselves, but in theory, there’s nothing to say that washing your hands and rubbing it over with a stainless steel dessert spoon wouldn’t have the exact same effect. The major question that needs asking now is whether there’s a market for stainless steel toothbrushes to help with that very tricky garlic breath?