How to Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands

Whether you were dealing with gasoline, cooking with onions, or bleaching your clothes, you may have an unpleasant smell lingering on your hands. Fortunately, there are a variety of home remedies you can use to help your hands smell nice and clean again.

EditIn a Hurry?

After you’ve washed your hands with soap and water, try splashing some mouthwash on them to get rid of the bad smell — mouthwash can kill smelly bacteria. If that doesn’t help, try washing your hands with vinegar or rubbing alcohol. For really strong smells, soak your hands in a bowl of 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 3 parts water for several minutes. For more ways you can get a bad smell off your hands, like using baking soda or coffee grounds, keep reading!


EditChoosing a Quick Fix

  1. Wash your hands with soap and cold water. Always use cold water for this, as hot water can dilate your skin’s pores and let the odor-causing oils and dirt penetrate further. Create a nice lather with the soap and scrub your hands together thoroughly before rinsing them with cold water.[1]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 1 Version 2.jpg
  2. Splash your hands with antiseptic mouthwash. In addition to neutralizing odor-causing compounds, mouthwash can kill the bacteria on your hands that can cause odor. Scented varieties will also lend a minty smell to your hands that can cover up any remaining odor.[2]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 5 Version 2.jpg
  3. Remove the odor from your hands by rubbing a stainless steel item. Simply take any stainless steel item (such as a piece of silverware or a mixing bowl) and rub it all over your hands under cold running water. Continue until the odor is neutralized.[3]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • Any stainless steel item will work for this method, including the basin of your sink if you have a stainless steel model.
    • You can buy stainless steel bars of soap that are designed specifically for removing odors from your hands.
    • This method is great for removing the smells left from garlic or onions.
  4. Rinse your hands in vinegar to suppress the stench. When you rinse your hands with vinegar, you don’t need to rub your hands together. Simply splash on some vinegar and let your hands air dry. If you want to reduce the vinegar smell, you can wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.[4]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 6.jpg
    • Vinegar is good for removing smells left from fish or onions.
  5. Rub your hands together with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Pour into your hands and rub them together until the rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer evaporates and your hands are dry.[5]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • Since alcohol can be very drying on your hands, it’s best to only try this method once and move on to another if the odor still lingers.

EditMaking Scrubs and Pastes

  1. Squeeze toothpaste onto your hands to tackle the smell. Squeeze a little section of toothpaste — the kind that has baking soda in it is best — onto your hands and rub them together. After you’ve been rubbing them together for a couple of minutes, wash your hands off with clean water.[6]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 6 Version 2.jpg
  2. Rub your hands together with wet salt to create a scrub. Pour a small amount of salt into your hands and rub them together. You may want to moisten the salt with some water to improve its adhesion. When finished, rinse the salt away with water and dry your hands.[7]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • You can also lather your hands up with dish detergent before sprinkling salt on your hands. Scrub them together to begin eliminating the odor, and rinse your hands with clean water once you’re finished.[8]
  3. Cover your hands with coffee grounds for great-smelling hands. If you don’t mind your hands smelling like coffee, use coffee grounds to eliminate any odors. Cover your hands entirely with coffee grounds and then gently scrub your hands together in a bowl of water. As an alternative, you can also rub whole coffee beans together in your hands until the odor starts to disappear.[9]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 8.jpg
  4. Make a paste of 1 part baking soda and 3 parts water. Mix together 1 part baking soda with 3 parts water in a bowl to create a paste. Rub the paste all over your hands thoroughly for at least 1 minute. Rinse the mixture off with clean water afterwards.[10]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 9.jpg

EditSoaking Your Hands

  1. Combine 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 3 parts water. By mixing together hydrogen peroxide and water, you’ll create a disinfectant that’s safe for your hands. Soak your hands in the mixture for 1-3 minutes, and then rinse your hands off with clean water before drying them.[11]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 10.jpg
  2. Neutralize the odor on your hands with lemon or lime juice. Lemon juice can be used full-strength, or it can be diluted with a small amount of water to reduce its harsh effect on your skin. Lime juice works as well. Just squeeze the lemon/lime in a bowl of water and soak your hands in it.[12]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • Putting 1 part lemon or lime juice in a bowl with 1 part water is an effective method for soaking your hands.
  3. Add of vinegar to water for a diluted option. Fill a small bowl with regular water and pour in of vinegar. Soak your hands in the mixture for 2-3 minutes. Rinse your hands with clean water after the time has elapsed.[13]
    Get a Bad Smell off Your Hands Step 12.jpg


  • Wearing gloves when working with strongly scented ingredients will help prevent lingering odors on your hands. You can also purchase specific tools designed to peel and cut ingredients like garlic without requiring hand contact.


  • Note that salt, lemon juice, vinegar, and solutions containing alcohol can irritate cuts and bruises on your hands. You may want to avoid these methods if your skin is cut or otherwise irritated.

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