I can’t tell you if this is scientifically accurate, but: I’m pretty sure I’m genetically predisposed to be extra-sensitive to onion-cutting. I can barely look at an onion without sniffling, and even if my knife is the sharpest knife in the world and I move at lightning speed, I always end up with stinging eyes and tears running down my face. And, it runs in my family — my brother and father have the exact same reaction. Because of this, I have been a long time user of onion goggles (or just regular swimming goggles, depending on my mood), but when TikTok told me there could be another way to cut onions and not cry uncontrollably — well, it felt like my destiny to test it out.
When scrolling through the #onionhack hashtag on TikTok, you’ll find two camps of true onion-hack believers. TikTok duo @partyshirt went viral testing out @cerealeatingghost’s onion hack that told onion-cutters to place a wet paper towel on their cutting board. The idea behind this is that the acid onions release is attracted to a water source (aka your eyes and nose), so if you place another water source — in this case, a wet paper towel — closer to the onions and their tear-inducing acids, then you shouldn’t cry. In the TikTok, @partyshirt tested the hack out with a red onion and found that it worked: They were both tear-free.
The other half of OnionTok says that leaving the root of the onion on while cutting it works best because the acid lives in the root; so, if you don’t cut the root off, then the acid can’t be released. This method seemed a little more difficult to execute to me because it involves horizontal cutting, but I am an explorer and a risk-taker and will do anything for investigative onion journalism, so I faced my fears and got chopping.
Now, I am not a scientist, nor did I do well in high school biology, but I do vaguely remember enough about lab processes, so I know that variables are important. In this experiment, the variable is the type of onion. I got three onions to test — a red onion (which is what appears in most of the viral TikToks), a yellow onion, and a white onion. With each onion, I tried the Paper Towel Method and the Root-On Method and recorded my results. Ahead, please find my very scientific findings — I believe in the science community we call this a scientific report, but don’t quote me because, again, I’m firmly not a scientist.
Paper Towel Method
This method, for the most part, failed spectacularly. It worked best with the yellow onion, but as soon as I moved from slicing to dicing, my eyes filled with tears. The white onion and red onion both stung almost immediately. I tried varying amounts of wetness, from damp to sopping, on the paper towel, and even tried cutting the onion directly on top of it, but with every stroke of the knife, the sting worsened. Honestly, I think if this method works for you, you are either magical or are cutting quick enough to not fully soak up the onion juice. Basically, 0/10: I do not recommend, unless you are a wizard.
I had a bit more success with this method, particularly when it came to the white onion. I cut an entire half of a white onion without crying. However, once the root was completely cut off, the acid reached my eyes and nose and I definitely cried. The yellow onion started off strong, but my eyes started stinging a quarter of the way through. The red onion, which apparently is not even supposed to make people cry at all, was the worst of the three, and I started to cry the second I sliced into it — even with the root on.
The moral of the story is: TikTok hacks are not always effective, and my eyes are sensitive as all hell. If this worked for you, congratulations, you are further evolved than me. And while I’m not above the viral TikTok clear-pot-lid-in-a-hood move in a pinch, for now, I’ll be sticking to my tried-and-true onion goggles.