Why Is Garlic Sticky ? Here’s What’s Going On

As beautiful and delicious as garlic may be in a recipe, it’s a real pain to peel and crush. Partly because it’s so small and tedious, but it’s also sticky. Once you cut the garlic, or worse you crush it, you’re in a world of sticky, messy pain. Crushed garlic will stick to you, the knife, the board, the garlic press, and anything you’ve ever touched. And they will all smell like garlic.

But why is garlic so sticky ? Is there any way to prevent it ? And how do you get that garlic smell off your hands after you’re done ? All this and more, coming right up.

garlic sticky

Why is garlic sticky ?

Garlic is sticky due to a sulfur compound (mercaptan) that is attracted to other compounds that contain sulfur, such as cysteine, which is found in skin, nails, and hair. When the two sulfur compounds come into contact (the garlic juice with the cysteine in your skin) they form  very tight bond that can last for days.

This translated into a physical bonds as well, turning your hands sticky. It’s also the reason the garlic juice will almost always end up under your nails and not budge for days on end.

If you’re wondering why the knife gets sticky, it’s due to garlic juice buildup. It dries and then builds up upon itself, leading to an eventually sticky knife. This applies to the garlic crusher as well.

And porous surfaces such as wood and many plastics will hold into that garlic juice forever. They need a good rub down with lemon juice as soon as you’re done using them.

Is sticky garlic bad ?

No, sticky garlic is not bad, It’s simply a sign that the garlic juice is good and it will be a very flavorful one. You see the sulfur compound released by garlic is only possible if the garlic was grown in the appropriate soil. So it’s quite the opposite of a bad garlic clove.

If your garlic is sticky when it’s raw and uncut, it’s sign that it’s simply gone bad. In this case you will notice the garlic has probably grown some blue mold as well, or is very close to doing so.

Read also: Why Is Garlic Spicy ? 

How do you keep garlic from sticking ?

There are ways to keep garlic from sticking, and most of them are fairly easy. These are not 100% guarantees that your hands will never smell like garlic. But they are measure to make sure the garlic juice does not stick as easily or as much to your hands and the utensils.

1. Wet your knife and hands

Water dilutes the garlic juices, leading to less bonding power so it can be more easily rinsed off. You still need to wash everything thoroughly afterwards, it’s just going to be easier. Just be very, very careful your hands don’t slip on the knife if you’re going to chop it.

2. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and use a crusher

A bit of olive oil – or any vegetable oil – is going to create a barrier between your hands and the garlic juice. This will make things very slippery, so do not use a knife, use a garlic crusher instead. Make sure that has a coat of oil as well.

3. Sprinkle coarse salt

Another idea is to use salt, especially if it’s coarse salt like seasalt. Cut and peel the garlic as usual, then place the cloves in a crusher. Crush them into a bowl, and once all the garlic is there, add some coarse salt. Get a tablespoon and start mixing and mashing he garlic with the back of your spoon. You’ll further crush the garlic and release more juice, and add a few drops of water.

The result should be a vaguely creamy, slightly foamy garlic juice that is hot, smelly, and pure 100% garlic. It will also mean you hands do not come into direct contact with the crushed garlic, only the spoon does.

How to remove garlic smell from hands

If your hands smell like garlic and you’d like to have them clean, there are a few things you can do to make the smell go away. Remember, we have to break down that bond, and once the garlic has dried on your hands water is useless.

1. Lemon juice

Rub a bit of lemon juice onto your hands, remember to go under the nails. This should be painless, unless you’ve got any cuts that you weren’t aware of. Lemon juice will neutralize the garlic smell, and its acidic composition will break down the garlic juice.

2. Fresh parsley

A lot of people recommend using fresh parsley alongside garlic, to tone down the effect. So if you’re using both, crop the raw, fresh parsley after the garlic. Your hands may get a bit green, but the smell should mostly be gone. This may work for some ,and not for others. Not everyone reported good results with parsley.

3. Deep scrub with dish soap

If you’d rather have a cleaner shot at this, wash your hands with some dish soap. it’s a very strong and harsh chemical, and it will dry out your hands if you keep using it every time. But just this once, you should be fine. Unless you have a skin condition, in which case the garlic will not help either.

When you’re washing your hands be sure to use the dish sponge too, just to be safe. Rub a bit of soap under your nails and along the cuticles as well, to make sure you got every place where the garlic may have seeped.

Rinse your hands very, very well in hot water. Pat dry, immediately apply moisturizing cream.

4. Rub a bit of oil on hands, then wash away

You can take the dish soap one step further. First rub a bit of oil on your hands, or nails, to make sure you break down the garlic juice’s bond with your skin, Any oil should do. The wash away with dish soap like we discussed above, and the garlic smell should be gone.

Always wear gloves when prepping food !

A tip from someone who’s been there: always wear gloves when handling smelly food, garlic included. We wear gloves when we peel and cut any onions, garlic, leek, shallots, etc. Any and all meats and fish, since they need to be rinsed and bits of meat can come off and get stuck under your nails.

Anything that could potentially leave a lot of residue on your hands is a reason to wear gloves. They can be reusable, or they can be sturdy gloves that you then wash, it’s up to you. Just use protection and this way your hands really won’t have a reason to smell like garlic, will they ?

If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.