Stainless Steel As An Odor Remover?

Note the question mark in the title. I HAD to write about this because I had never even heard about it before, and once I did, I couldn’t find any concrete info on HOW it works.

The other day I was walking around Sur La Table (name dropper!) and saw something I hadn’t noticed called the Wonder Bar. It looked like a metallic bar of soap in packaging boasting that it could safely and effectively wash away odors without soap. Specifically, it targeted onion, garlic, fish, and poultry…along with chemicals, solvents, fishing bait, and my personal favorite, human-scent.

does it work? if so, how?

But nothing on the package said exactly what it was or how it worked. It was a $10 mystery that I was willing to pay the price for. I figured it had to be some interesting mix of complex alloys and minerals. Essentially, it is stainless steel in the shape of a bar of soap. This ability of stainless steel to remove odors is also one of the listed features of the Joseph Joseph Garlic Rocker.

As I started trying to look up how this thing even worked I came across a lot of literal wives’ tales. Or, more like moms’ tales. Someone would ask how stainless steel works for removing odors, and while no one had the exact answer, many people had stories about their mother saying after cutting onions, just run your hands under cold water and wipe them on the faucet. Or, run your hands under cold water and rub them on the flat part of a stainless steel knife…or a spoon…or a bowl…anything stainless steel with cold water seemed to be the consensus.

speculative theories

So, many people knew of it working, but no one knew HOW it worked. Most of the theories agree that when the cold water flows over the water that helps the odor molecules bond temporarily to the metal and then get washed away. Some feel that it creates an ionization process that eliminates the odor of the molecules.

You may remember learning about how stainless steel is made and that it is a mixture of steel, chromium, and nickel. As people continued to guess at how it worked, some said it was the nickel in the stainless steel that bonded with the odor molecules. But, some also said it was the chromium, and other said it was the steel.

It seems to work. It doesn’t get rid of 100% of the odor, but it knocks it down a couple notches for sure. The nice thing about the Wonder Bar, in regards to the hunter/fisherman types out there who want to keep fresher hands in the outdoors, is that it is hollow inside, so it floats if you accidentally drop it in water.


One thing I can’t pass up sharing, in regards to it fighting “human-scent” is this little story from from Larasaurus at

“Stainless steel worked great on garlic smell, yadda yadda. But what was really cool was our friend (and masseur) Jonathan showed up straight from a massage he’d given some icky old guy who wore a lot of icky-old-guy cologne. Jonathan reeked–I mean, reeked of it. He’d already washed his hands twice, and he washed them again after the smell was still knocking me out and I gave him shit about it. So we had him try the SS treatment. Now, it didn’t totally eliminate the cologne smell, but it reduced the offensivity factor by about ten: you couldn’t smell it unless you were sitting next to Jonathan, instead of across the room from him. True story.”

Wonder Bar Patent

The packaging didn’t have a website, but it had a patent number. The best explanation they give from good ole Patent 6,039,938 is as follows:

“The present invention is a permanent, hollow, buoyant, metallic bar which upon rubbing removes odor as odor molecules bond to the metallic bar instead of hands and are then washed away by liquid.”

So there you have it. Has this ever worked for you? What is your trick?