There aren’t many things that can bring me to tears like that part in ET when he dies, and Elliott lives.😢😢😢  Granted this isn’t just crying, it’s more sobbing over a ugly short brown extraterrestrial who was accidentally left behind on Earth.😭😭😭

With his baby blues, credible telepathic abilities & power to heal injuries with his touch, this was one cute little alien so who wouldn’t be weeping? 

Other than that what makes the tears flow?  Perhaps hearing a sad song on the radio?  But one thing absolutely guaranteed to turn on the waterworks every time is……….  onions.

Yes, indeed these crispy outer layered baubles; a great way to inject and build flavour in any dish, they are sharp, pungent and have the ability to turn you into tearful, eyes stinging, nose running, boohooing wreck who fails to enjoy the nutty and sweet flavours they offer when cooked. 

If like me, you are tired of turning into a blubbery mess whilst whipping up the latest onion inclusive recipe then it’s important to experiment with a few tips to stop the weeping, as well as understanding why onions make everyone so misty-eyed. 

Why do onions make you cry? 

In an onionskin, it’s all about the chemicals.  Onions contain naturally occurring amino acids called sulfoxides.  When you cut into them, their cell walls become damaged which causes the sulfoxides to be converted into a super-annoying and irritating tear inducing gas. 

The gas wafts from the onion into your eyes, which then begin to sting producing tears in an attempt to wash the gas away.

The best bet for cutting the tears is to keep the gas away from eyes in the first place.  If only it were that easy ……… 

So here goes with a few hints & tips to how to make life chopping onions an event without the tears …….

Super Sharp Knife

This sounds a bit patronising as why would anyone attempt to cut an onion with a blunt one?  However, it has been proven that a sharper knife cuts cleaner causing less gas-releasing damage to the onion’s cell walls.    

Make sure you point your knife away from the tubes. Because onion "flesh" is tubular in construction, pointing the tubes away from you while cutting as this will keep the onion from spraying in your eyes. (Nothing worse than onion spray!) 


No, we are not going to make an onion sandwich and I know this like some of the others to come sounds totally ridiculous.  But it works!   

Why?  It is likely because the spongey texture of the bread which absorbs some of those noxious gases before having the opportunity to float up your nose and eyes. 

Remember hold the bread between your front teeth and keep your lips open slightly. 

Plus, who doesn’t love a little snackette whilst they cook? 


This could be the perfect match to keep the tears at bay!  By holding an unlit match between your two front teeth while cutting an onion will keep you from tearing up. The red end of the match absorbs the sulfuric compounds before they can reach your eyes.  By doing this, the gas emitted from the onions will get absorbed by the end of matchstick before reaching your eyes. 

Note; a lighter should not be used as a substitute! 

Wooden Spoon

Hold a wooden spoon between your teeth as this will help absorb the onion smell.  

Unfortunately for me the tears just kept on coming and the only thing different was I now have a wooden spoon covered in bite marks! 


Chewing gum before, during or after cutting onions promotes production of saliva. Saliva absorbs the vapours emitted by cut onions, preventing them from condensing on the eye and causing tears. 

It is best to start chewing gum before starting to cut onions, and to remember to breathe through the mouth while cutting the onion. 


By putting vinegar on the chopping board, the acid within it destroys the properties of the enzymes. 

However, when tried it didn't seem to do anything but waste my vinegar(not that I have a great demand for it) and presents a slightly acidic taste to the onions. 

Lemon Juice

Rub lemon juice over the knife’s blade.

Cut lemon and rub lemon before cutting onions. Make sure you use the lemon after every few cuts as the lemon juice is a powerful, natural odour absorber and sucks up all the nasty sulphur before it hits your peepers! 

Didn’t work for me but used any leftover lemon with a G&T so not all bad!


Like before dampen the knife and then pour a bit of salt over it before chopping commences.  The salt makes the onions weep a noticeable amount of water, significantly more than normal and, strangely, seemed to help ward off tears a tiny bit, but not much. 

Drinking Water

Drink a tall glass of water a few minutes before chopping onions. Dry eyes grab for any bit of liquid in the air

Drinking water didn’t make any difference, but it did keep me hydrated in my overheated kitchen! 

Leave the Root Intact

By leaving the root intact significantly reduces the number of tears you will shed. 


15 minutes in the freezer will definitely reduce your level of irritation while cutting an onion, but it will be a little tougher to cut and it will be difficult to remove the papery, outermost layers. 

Cold slows the conversion of sulfoxides that become those awful eye-stinging gases leaving you in tears. 

But it can be a chilling experience especially when your hands feel on the verge of frostbite.  The plus side is no tears; it works!  Halleluiah!  There is an onion god after all! 

Cold Water

Prepare a cold-water bath for your onions to chill them down.  This will slow down the production of the gases.   Regrettably it is not as effective as the freezer method and watch out as the onions can become slippery little suckers which means your slicing will slow down.

This wasn’t the best, but better than nothing. 


By refrigerating the onion for 30 minutes before cutting it produced only very mild irritation — more like a prickling sensation in the eyes - only blinded temporarily!


There is no proof this will work but if freezing and cooling onions are optional to prevent tears why not heat these tough little layered bad boys and nuke them instead? Recommended time 30 seconds. 

But be warned as it makes the onion slightly softer which then becomes more challenging to slice and tougher slicing means more damage will happen to the onion cell walls, which means the release of more gas and the onslaught of more tears! 

I cried so much I needed to evacuate room. Conclusion this method is a complete failure in addition to the unwelcome smell which will haunt your kitchen; which is a particular kind of gross! 


Cut the onion near hot running water or a cloud of steam. Steam from a kettle or pan of water will do the trick. The steam will draw out the vapours -from the onion, dissipating them. 

Goggles – Onion & Swimming

  • Onion

Seriously onion goggles – oh yes!  Everyone should have this kitchen accessory.  A great stocking filler or present for the person you know who has everything and let’s face it we all know someone!  But be wary of the online one-size-fits-all onion goggles as the odds of them fitting isn’t 100%. 

  • Swimming

Surely to goodness if these little plastic eye suckers are designed to keep chlorinated water from getting in then surely they must be able to block a little bit of onion gas? 

You might get weird looks from everyone, but that’s a small price to pay for tearless onion cutting experience.

If you start your chopping session wearing goggles, they work great. But if you start without goggles, chop a few, then put them on, they are as much use as a flammable fire extinguisher! 

If you have a pair of swimmer's goggles or chemistry goggles that actually fit your face – you know the ones that leave that attractive imprint, this is one of your best bets as no onion air will be getting in there! 

If they don't fit, all that happens is you will be cutting an onion whilst wearing weird eye coverings whilst the tears continue to gather.

No goggles?  You could try to improvise with a pair of sunglasses (Victoria Beckham huge take up all your face sort of sunglasses are recommended for the task in hand).  

Okay you may feel and look ridiculous in the kitchen and in the knowledge that this Greta Garbo look will not be as effective as goggles as there is no seal around the eyes but hey babe looking hot and mysterious whilst crying could take on! 

Contact Lens

If you don’t wear contact lenses, seriously consider changing your way of thinking as the theory is that they’ll protect your eyes from the droplets even though some say the contacts will only trap the droplets between your eyes and the contacts. Having an eye phobia of not being able to touch my eye makes me a sissy not able to attemot this one and still crying!

Face down

This is not referring to you, put the cut-side of the onion face down as less gas will float up toward your face. 

But it’s impossible to keep all sides of a cut onion facing your cutting board at the same time. 

For me this didn’t seem much different from how I normally cut an onion, so it didn’t help me cry any less.


Not you!  Cutting an onion under water will prevent the sulfuric compounds from reaching your eyes causing you to tear.

But use a wide, flat dish to provide yourself with maximum workspace or put your cutting board in the sink and cutting the onion under cold, running water.

A Fan

Not one that just claps loudly at your every move and applauds loudly at your onion cutting technique, instead use the one on your cooker to blow away the tear-inducing sulfuric compounds Or put your cutting board onto the hob and let the fan suck the fumes up and -away from your eyes. It really works! 


Whistle while you work. Whistling makes a significant airflow, specifically away from your face, which keeps the onion mist away from your eyes. Just pick a catchy tune that you won't want to stop whistling and you can cut as many onions as you need. 

Stick out your Tongue

Breathe through your mouth and stick your tongue out. This will draw the gas over your wet tongue. 

The olfactory nerves are closely located to the tear duct nerves will be by bypassed and no tears will be generated. 

But when you forget and breathe through your nose. Instant tears! 

Light A Candle

The gas released by the onion is drawn into the flame of a candle and the flame absorbs some gases so in theory you will be able to cut onions without tears

The upside is your kitchen will smell gorgeous but remember to blow it out after you're finished cutting the onions. 

Buy Less Pungent Onions

Sweet onions are less cry-inducing than white, red, and yellow onions, so consider trying one of those instead. 

Avoid Old Onions

Ever cut an onion that seems to make you tear up more than usual? 

Chances are you were using an older onion and contain more sulphur and hence produce more propanethial S-oxide when you cut them. 

Old onions are particularly hard on the eyes.  Steer away from old onions to avoid waterworks in the kitchen and use fresh ones as soon as possible.


Polite Dos & Don’ts  

Don’t rub your eyes during cutting onions as the onion juices are on your fingers.

Washing your hands thoroughly after chopping the onions will prevent this. 

Strong onion odours can be removed from hands by rubbing them with dry salt or you can also try rubbing lemon juice over your hands or running your hands over a stainless-steel tap or spoon before washing with soapy water. 

If nothing works for you and your eyes are red, sore and stinging, then flush your eyes with cool water or an eye bath. Alternatively, blot your eyes and eye area with a damp, piece of paper towel to remove all residue of the gas. 

Symptoms should disappear relatively quickly.  Go outside and expose yourself to fresh outdoor air or open a window to dilute the gas.  


The last resort is stopping eating them!