This Viral TikTok Hack Will Keep You From Crying While Chopping Onions

With all the attention given to this topic, you'd think people were trying to solve global hunger or cure a disease. OK, crying while chopping onions might not be life-or-death, but it is annoying. And someone on TikTok may have found a cure.

First, a quick review of a few of the many solutions you'll find out there. Some just don't work. Don't bother chewing on bread while chopping, or microwaving the onions first (via BuzzFeed). Other no-tears onion chopping hacks will work. You can freeze your onions first, but you'll expose yourself to cold discomfort that Greatist likened to frostbite risk. You can also purchase onion goggles (available at Amazon), but unless you're a prep cook at a French onion soup stand, are you really going to make the investment?

No matter what life hack you're looking for, you're likely to find it on TikTok. So it's no surprise TikTok user @cerealeatingghost has come up with a tear-free onion hack that actually works. Her TikTok has been viewed nearly 500,000 times so far and has attracted the attention of BuzzFeed. TikToker @cerealeatingghost was responding to user @xxbaileyelizabethxx, who said in her post that at 20 years of age she felt like a 50-year-old woman, chopping onions — and crying — to make lentil soup.

"Let me share my onion wisdom, so you don't have to cry anymore," @cerealeatingghost says in her video. "All you have to do is get a damp paper towel, fold it up, keep it on your cutting board."

Science can't explain the no-tears chopped onion hack on TikTok

Setting a damp paper towel next to your onions to prevent tears while chopping them sounds too easy to be true. But several other TikTokers confirmed that it worked, including @noplanvanlife and @paigeejenna.

The reason onions make us cry when we chop them wasn't fully understood until 2002 when scientists in Japan discovered an enzyme in onions that starts a tear-jerking chain reaction (via Library of Congress). During onion chopping, this enzyme is released and leads to the creation of the chemical syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which soon fills our kitchen workspace and irritates our tear ducts. On TikTok, @cerealeatingghost said the offending chemical is attracted to water, which is why the wet paper towel trick works. The eye-burning irritant finds the paper towel before it finds your tears, the TikToker said. But onion choppers over at The Kitchn asked a university chemist to confirm this TikTok theory. The chemist reported that "there is no scientific reason" for this chemical to be drawn to a wet paper towel. It would simply spread everywhere in the room, not just to water sources.

The Kitchn joined the chorus of those saying the paper towel hack worked but wondered if a placebo effect was fooling people. Then again, they saw no reason to abandon the wet paper towel method. Either that, or you could start storing onions in your freezer.