Why do you have a bad smell on your hands?

Most of us put our fingers or hands to our face countless times a day without even realizing it. But it is possible that on one of those occasions we realize that the hands have a strange smell.

Strange hand odors are usually temporary and tend to go away on their own. Hands and nails tend to pick up odors simply because they are touching different things. However, certain culprits don’t just keep odors confined to your hands. Some foods, drinks and medications can cause an increase in body odor in general, which could be noticed in these extremities. Less commonly, unpleasant odors may also develop due to an underlying medical condition.


The reasons can be very obvious or something totally random. They may even harbor an underlying health problem, of which bad odor is a warning sign.

touch something stinky

Spicy foods like onions or garlic have a strong sulfur odor that can linger on hands after handling. We may also notice a musty or metallic odor after touching coins or other metals that contain iron, which occurs when metal compounds break down in the presence of oils on the skin.

These types of contact odors usually go away on their own, but you may be able to speed up the process by rubbing your hands together with a stainless steel object (such as a fork, spoon, or faucet) or an odor-absorbing stick. Although studies have not looked into the deodorizing powers of stainless steel, it is believed that lingering odors are transferred away from the skin when they bind to the molecules of the steel.

food or drinks

Strong-smelling foods or drinks (like garlic, onions, curry, and alcohol) don’t just tend to linger on your breath. Food compounds can also be excreted through sweat glands that are present throughout the body, including the palms of the hands. And when sweat mixes with bacteria on your skin, you may start to smell strange odours.

We should notice that the odor dissipates as the food or drink passes deeper into the digestive tract and eventually out of the body. But if we want our hands to stop stinking in the meantime, lathering up with an antibacterial soap can help.


Certain medications can cause you to sweat more, which could result in a more noticeable odor (like skunk or foot) on your hands. These medications include:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors used to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Opioids used to treat pain.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that are often used to treat depression and anxiety.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants used to treat conditions including depression and OCD.
  • Penicillin. Although it doesn’t make us sweat more like strong-smelling foods or drinks, its compounds can still be excreted through sweat glands throughout the body, causing an odor when sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin.

To look for a quick solution, we can wash with an antibacterial soap to combat odors with short-term medications, such as penicillin. But if we’re dealing with hand odor caused by a medication that’s been prescribed for long-term use, we’ll talk to our doctor. It may be possible to adjust the dose or try a different medicine.

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If the palms seem constantly plagued with smelly sweat or moisture, we could have bromhidrosis. The disorder, characterized by excessive sweating , can cause the hands or other parts of the body to have an unpleasant odor when the sweat mixes with natural bacteria on the skin.

Bromhidrosis is not caused by poor hygiene, but not washing often enough can make the problem worse. If the problem seems to affect the hands in particular, a frequent antibacterial soap may be helpful. We can also control sweating by using an antiperspirant on the palms of the hands. In more severe cases, treatments such as iontophoresis (a procedure that sends mild electrical currents through the skin’s surface to reduce sweating) or Botox injections can also help. These are prescribed by a dermatologist.

cleaning chemicals

The cleaning chemicals that are used in most homes will contain different chemical agents that will create a strong chemical odor in the environment, and when the chemicals come in contact with a person’s skin, they can also leave their smell of smoke. chemical on the skin

Depending on the chemical cleaner that gets on your hands, some can be potentially dangerous if they come into contact with a person’s skin, especially hands, so it’s important to wash your hands immediately to remove the chemicals and their odor from your hands. the skin.

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Nail fungus

If foot odor seems to linger around the nails in particular, we could be dealing with nail fungus, or what doctors call onychomycosis.

Nail fungus is most likely to attack the toenails, but it can also affect the fingernails. In addition to that bad smell, fungus-affected nails can look thick, yellow or whitish, brittle or brittle, or have a distorted shape.

In some cases, an antifungal nail treatment can effectively combat the fungus, although results may take months to be seen. Persistent fungal infections may need prescription oral or topical antifungal medications. We will consult a dermatologist so that he can determine the best treatment.

Certain health conditions

Certain health problems can cause the entire body, including the hands, to give off an unusual odor. A sweet, fruity smell could be a sign of undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes , while a smell of bleach could indicate a person has liver or kidney disease .

If we notice that the body and hands emit a fetid and acrid odor (like rotten fish or garbage), it could be trimethylaminuria. This is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body cannot break down trimethylamine, a smelly chemical found in certain foods. When trimethylamine builds up in the body, it can begin to be released through a person’s sweat, urine, or breath.

If we suspect that there is a medical condition behind the smelly hands, we will go to a doctor, who will be able to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. There is no cure for trimethylaminuria, but the odor can be controlled by making dietary changes and/or taking vitamin B12, probiotic supplements, antibiotics, or activated charcoal.

How to eliminate the bad smell?

The process of getting rid of the odors that contaminate a person’s hands will be difficult and sometimes will require a lot of trial and error to completely eradicate the odors from the skin of the hands.

Different causes of hand odor will vary in severity, some may be stronger than others or may take longer to clear from the skin. When it comes to remedies and solutions to use to eradicate a variety of bad odors, many people can use lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, or other homemade solutions that can hopefully work to eliminate odors that hand soap does. can’t delete. from someone’s hands.

However, not all of these solutions will work to remove those odors completely and will simply act as a minor solution. Therefore, the creation of other products and solutions have emerged on the market for consumers to purchase to help with the problem of odor on their hands.