The Truth About TikTok's Viral Shower Onions

TikTok has unveiled the latest in anti-odor bathroom products, and the hot discovery is a lot cheaper than a scented candle, luxury diffuser, or Poo-Pourri. It's ... onions. Unpeeled, uncut, unabashed onions. In a basket, above the toilet tank, and onion-ing proudly for your guests to see.

It all began with a video by user @karalynndunton, which has now been viewed 6.8 million times. Dunton visited the home of a guy she had been chatting with during the coronavirus lockdown, and when she went to his bathroom, she knew she had found someone special. "Omg you guys I think I'm in love," she wrote, panning his clean loo from decorative seashells to shower featuring multiple bottles of actual soap. What sealed the deal was a glass bowl of onions resting on the toilet. "He even has shallots," she said, taking a bite of a small white onion while planning to "wife him up."

What are shower onions?

If you find yourself asking, "Why?" you are not alone. According to many of the video's 14,000 comments, plenty of people have never heard of shower/bathroom onions, but Yahoo News Australia reports that the TikTok trend goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. "Back in the days of plagues," Onions Australia representative Lechelle Earl told Yahoo, "it was quite the done thing to pop an onion by the bedside or in the corner of the room to soak up any germs." Nowadays, Earl said, some people still do this to absorb unwanted odors such as fresh paint or, you know, bathroom smells.

There is no scientific evidence that onions can protect against viruses or bacteria (via USA Today), but Earl said that she herself turns to onions when a family member "has a sniffle" and suspects that TikTokers tuned into the trend as a result of the pandemic. People may be "revisiting the past and placing cut onions in their homes to avoid contracting COVID," Earl said.

As it turns out, the TikTok was just Dunton's joking attempt to go viral, and her date did not actually keep onions in his bathroom, she revealed to BuzzFeed. But the blowback revealed a pungent reality: Many people believe in onions' powers against odors, as is evidenced by countless articles on sites like Lifehacker and Bob Vila. The only way to know for sure is to try it yourself. Maybe just don't eat the onions afterward.