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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Trying to Remove Jalapeno Heat from Hands

Cooler weather and football games kicking into full gear made the weekend dinner menu an easy one. Our Sunday evening meal consisted of a large pot of homemade chili. The responsibility of preparing chili in our home is alternated between my wife and me.  As most of my Sunday was consumed with yard work, chili production fell into her hands for the day. While we both stick to similar recipes, my wife goes down a milder path that produces a tasty batch yet without the influence of chili or jalapeno peppers.

In preparing our meal, I added my own last minute heat by chopping up some jalapeno peppers picked straight out of my garden. I diced these peppers fine and put them in a side dish that served my own personal chili topping. To say these peppers were hot would be an understatement.  The level of heat or scoville units of a jalapeno can be misleading. I have tried some jalapenos that were mild as a cubanelle or poblano on one extreme, and then had some be as fiery as a cayenne or Serrano. Interestingly enough, the peppers I cut were green and red, of which the red peppers had seemed to lose their heat unlike their green counterparts.

My first mistake in performing this task was that I did not wear gloves. I know better and should realize latex or any thin protective gloves are a kitchen essential when cutting spicy peppers.  Some people will even get skin burns from spicy peppers. The capsaicin or heat producing compound in peppers when unabated will quickly absorb into skin tissue. As I threw caution to the wind during prep, I had reassured myself that extreme hand washing would rid me of having any of this capsaicin on my fingers which could be cumbersome when it came time to remove contact lenses at the end of the day. Here was my regimen that I followed to try and remove the jalapeno capsaicin heat from my hands:

1.       I hand washed the dinner dishes which included about twenty minutes of intermittent soaking and wiping of dishes in very warm soapy water.

2.       I washed hands a few more times after clean up.

3.       Following leads from my wife’s internet search, I went through a regimen of rubbing a generous amount of vegetable oil on my hands. The intent was for the oil to absorb some of the capsaicin (the same principal as milk fat that can absorb the hotness of peppers).

4.       After wiping off the oil, I splashed some isopropyl alcohol on my hands and rubbed thoroughly.

5.       Washed the alcohol off with hot water and dish soap.

6.       Splashed a small amount of milk on my hands, rubbed thoroughly and rinsed with soapy water once again.

After going through steps #1 through #6, I proceeded to remove contacts at around 10:30 p.m. unfortunately, the result was as I expected. My eyes endured a few seconds of painful stinging but probably a lot less had I not taken the above measures. While there are some good tricks out there, none of them removed succeeded in removing the capsaicin entirely from my hands.  The only way to get the compound out of skin is through the elapse of time. I was easily able to touch eyes, nose, and mouth the next day without the slightest ping of heat. I also had to break out a new pair of disposable lenses as the last ones were discarded since they were contaminated.

Lesson learned. The only way to prevent this from happening again is to use gloves when handling!

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