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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

How Stainless Steel Removes Odors

By October 10, 2009

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Have you heard about removing odors from fish, onions and garlic by rubbing your fingers across stainless steel? Has this worked for you? Forum visitor nodrog39 tried it and has proposed an explanation for how it might work:
I found this site from a Google search of garlic and stainless steel after having tried the trick of rubbing my soapy hands over a stainless steel surface. The odor was significantly reduced. The explanation provided at this site was not direct enough to satisfy my curiosity. So.....I am a retired metallurgical engineer, Go Gators. Stainless steel is made stainless by an addition of chromium to iron from about 6% right on up to 30%. The stainless tag comes from the fact that a thin but persistent layer of chromium oxide forms on the surface and protects the iron base metal. There are two basic types of stainless steel, ferritic or magnetic, which contains iron and chromium, and austenitic, which is non magnetic and contains substantial amounts of nickel along with the chromium. I am proposing that it is the nickel that does the work, perhaps as a catalyst to promote the breakdown of the offensive organic molecules. Otherwise it is the chromium oxide, which is the first layer on all stainless steel. Any of you garlic smelling, practitioners that have had success with a magnetic stainless steel sink, sound off. After making a large pot of spaghetti sauce, I tried the trick with an old pure nickel crucible from my alchemy days and it worked even better.

cheers and regards,
nodrog39
What do you think? Does that sound reasonable, or do you have a better explanation?

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