Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
Listen, we all know chopping onions can be a ball ache. One minute, you’re happily making a nice dinner and then, bam!, you’re red faced and sobbing, as if you’ve just been dumped by your teenage sweetheart.
Queue eyes stinging, hands frantically rubbing and the people you live with watching on with a half sympathetic smirk.
The problem is, you can’t avoid chopping onions, they’re in pretty much every meal. So, how do you stave off those teary eyes?
Perhaps even more annoying than a bout of unprovoked tears is the amount of onion chopping hacks that simply don’t work at all.
In the world of TikTok and social media crazes, we’ve seen people biting down on wooden spoons whilst chopping and even dicing their onions with goggles on (honestly, who has time?!).
But there’s another intriguing hack doing the rounds, which also claims to prevent tears altogether. Apparently, if you leave a wet paper towel on your chopping board (or nearby) when you cook, it prevents the chemicals from the onion reaching our eyes.
Sounds unbelievable, right?!
Australian woman, Shilo, posted the tip on Facebook, writing: “Bet you didn’t know this.
“The reason why you cry when you chop onions is that the chemical in the onion is attracted to the nearest source of water, which is usually the eyes.’
‘Now this is a tip you can use!”
And the hack reached more than 10,000 people, many of whom also claimed it had worked for them.
Now, we’re not one to take any hacks at face value here at Twisted, so we decided to try it out for ourselves.
Sceptically, we dampened our kitchen paper and popped it by your onions, and what do you know?, our eyes actually didn’t start streaming as they usually would.
We wouldn’t go as far as to say we had no reaction at all – there was very much still a bit of stinging, but we will say the paper towel tip significantly reduced the reaction, and got rid of tears altogether.
Explaining how the phenomenon works, Dr Alona Pulde, a leading doctor at Lifesum, tells Twisted: “Many plants release chemicals that irritate other beings (animals or humans) as a protective measure to prevent being picked and eaten.
“Onions do so with a chemical that forms an irritating acid (lachrymator compounds) which causes our eyes to tear. The amounts of acid produced is small so, although annoying, it is not harmful.
“Water is said to help draw the irritants away from our own eyes – whether it is running water near where you are chopping or water soaked in a paper towel near your onion.”
The reason water helps is because the sulphuric acid from the onion is drawn to the wet paper, meaning your eyes are exposed to less enzymes and you hopefully therefore cry less.
And it’s for this reason that some people also suggest cutting onions with the tap running.
As is always the way with these TikTok hacks, the experts are divided on just how affective this trick is, and some say the evidence that sulphuric acid is drawn to the water is rather scarce.
We’re still not sure whether the hack genuinely works, or whether it was just the placebo effect, but either way this could certainly be worth trying if you often find your eyes streaming in the kitchen.
If it doesn’t work for you, Twisted‘s Senior Food Producer, Seren, says there’s another tip she swears by above all else.
“A sharp knife always does the trick,” she says. “It minimises the onion from releasing lots of the enzymes that make you cry.”