Here’s the claim: If you put a wet paper towel next to onion while you cut it, the chemicals that make you cry are drawn to that instead of your eyes.
Supposedly, those chemicals like moisture. So if the wet paper towel is closer to the onion than your eyes are, that’s where they’ll go. But the same hack made the rounds a year ago. So a writer tested it out and found it DOESN’T work.
They tried red, white, and yellow onions, used paper towels that were damp, wet, and soaked, and still cried every time. They even tried cutting it ON a wet paper towel, and that didn’t work either. They rated the hack a zero out of 10.
Another popular one they tried worked better though. Their eyes didn’t sting as much when they left the onion’s ROOT on. And that one’s backed up by the National Onion Association.
They say the best way to avoid stingy eyes is to chill the onion for 30 minutes. Then peel away the outer layers, but DON’T cut off the end with the root. That part of the onion has the highest concentration of the compound that makes you cry.
(If you’re curious, that compound is called “propanediol-S-oxide.” It stings because it’s converted to sulfuric acid when it hits the water.)