Why do Onion makes us cry?

Have you ever cut an onion and got into tears even though you are not sad? Most of the people who have ever tried to chop onions have encountered teary eyes. Have you ever thought why it is like this? Want to eat onions, it’s not a problem but as soon as your knife touches the Onion your eyes start burning and tears start to flow out from your eyes?

When you cut an onion it releases a gas called Propanethiol S-oxide. Onion has ammino acids sulfoxides that takes the form of sulfenic acids in the onion cells. Onion also contains enzymes but that is contained separately in different cells than sulfenic acids. So when we cut onion the enzymes and sulfenic acid mix and produce the gas Propanethiol S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound. When this gas react with water of your eyes it forms sulfuric acid and causes burning sensation in your eyes and affects tear glands thus causing watery eyes.

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So how to avoid teary eyes while chopping onions?

The most obvious thing that comes to our mind is to close our eyes while burning sensation starts but I think it’s not a good idea to close eyes while chopping because in the end you might end up losing a finger. Rubbing your eyes is also not a good idea as your hands are full of acid which helps in making tears in the first place.

1. Keep the fan off as otherwise the air will be constantly in circulation thus causing the gas to spread thereby increasing burning sensation.

2. Refrigerate the onions before chopping as refrigeration will freeze the enzymes and prevents its mixing with sulfenic acid.

3. Wearing safety goggles is also a good idea as it will prevent the gas to come in contact with your eyes.

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4. Keeping the chopped onions in the water bowl while chopping will prevent the generation of gas.

5. Lightening a candle is also a great way as the gas emitted will move toward the burning flame of the candle and thus making your eyes secure.

These are few methods to avoid teary eyes while cutting onions and if you have any other method do share with us so that our readers can use that method and prevent watery eyes.


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Harsh is a curious writer who loves to explore his surroundings. There are many websites who provide answer to people queries but no single website alone resolves the curiosity of people. Curious Mind Box is an initiative to resolve the curiosities and answer every What, How and Why question that comes into your mind.

5 thoughts on “Why do Onion makes us cry?

  • September 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    cut down onion in 2 pieces and put it in a bowl filled with water and pour a little salt into it and leave onion in this bowl for 5 mins. Now you can chop it without any tears 🙂

    • September 17, 2015 at 11:03 am

      If you peel an onion from its tail side towards its head it tends to make u cry less… one of Grandma tips

      • September 17, 2015 at 7:50 pm

        Thanks for your advice. I think our readers will surely benefit from it.

  • September 16, 2015 at 8:41 am

    just chew gum while you cut the onions duh

    • September 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks for your advice. A very curious idea.I think our readers will definitely try this idea.


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