The Downside of All Those Silicone Spatulas

by moderndomestic on January 14, 2010

Spatulas

There's a problem with these spatulas.

One of the things that I loved about reading Julia Child’s Memoir, “My Life In France” is her descriptions of her cookware. By her own admission, she was quite the kitchen gadget fiend, and outfitted her kitchen with professional equipment long before kitchenware companies marketed “professional” lines to home chefs. But what really struck me was how durable all her equipment was – her copper pots, giant stone mortar and pestle, and sturdy whisks were meant to last a lifetime.

By comparison, a lot of the stuff in my kitchen is plastic. Spatulas? Plastic. Cutting boards? Plastic. Plates? Plastic (well, melamine). For awhile I had plastic mixing bowls, although I upgraded to those nesting glass ones. Even my new food processor (which I love with the fire of a thousand suns) has a large plastic ring in the lid that allows it to latch closed.

And don’t get me wrong, I love me my silicone spatulas. But especially now that I don’t have a dishwasher, I’ve realized that there’s a big downside to plastic – it smells.

Like, it really smells.

Whenever I chop garlic on one of my plastic cutting boards, no matter how hard I scrub them, they always smell faintly of garlic. My silicone spatulas have a vaguely savory, garlicky smell, borne of stirring various tomato sauces and stir fries. My flat silicone spatula I use for flipping eggs smells . . . well, like eggs. And my Tupperware smells like soap – I’ve actually had to throw some of it away because it made my food taste soapy.

The smell thing is a huge problem for baking – like, if you’re chopping tomatoes on a garlicky cutting board, it’s not the end of the world – but if you’re chopping chocolate or strawberries it’s a big problem. Once I made a vanilla custard that had an “off” savory flavor – it took me awhile, but I realized the culprit was my spatula. Before rolling out pastry, I always sniff my cutting board to make sure that it doesn’t smell strange. And the one time I made a garlicky sauce in the food processor, I had to wash the lid a couple times in the hottest water I could before that plastic implement in the lid stopped smelling like garlic.

So far I’ve dealt with the plastic problem by trying to have separate plastic tools for my pastry and baking, but I always worry that something will leak through and I’ll end up with an off-tasting frosting. The food processor lid is especially worrisome, since I don’t really want to have to buy a separate lid just for processing savory stuff.

I know that plastics are the future and everything – but sometimes I wonder if they’re just creating a whole other set of problems to deal with. Especially for us bakers without dishwashers.

Does anyone else have this problem?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

mamatrekkie January 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

I don’t think my palette is as finely tuned as yours so I have not noticed this. but now I am worried about my guests.

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moderndomestic January 14, 2010 at 10:12 am

Really? You’ve never sliced, say, fruit on a cutting board and noticed that it tasted like garlic? To be fair, plastic doesn’t just have this problem – wood does too. Growing up we had a wood butcher block counter that I couldn’t slice chop fruit on, because it picked up the garlic taste.

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mamatrekkie January 14, 2010 at 10:32 am

I can’t say I have noticed. I did grow up in a house where absolutely everything had either garlic or vanilla in it. But I think I would notice if an apple tasted like garlic. Once upon a time before I was way too busy I actually tried to reserve my chopping boards for different things. Even then I think I cut the garlic on the same one as the fruit.

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katy January 14, 2010 at 10:56 am

I have never noticed this. Have you tried soaking the offending plastic in vinegar (cheap white distilled would do)? Then rinse well? Vinegar both disinfects & is supposed to remove smells. I find the smell of the vinegar itself dissipates within a few minutes. I do most of my cleaning with dilluted vinegar & castille soap mixture.

Although, I may be like previous commenter & just not have as fine of palette as you!

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moderndomestic January 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

No – that’s a great tip. Thanks!

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k8 January 14, 2010 at 11:48 am

I flatly refuse plastic anymore. I threw away all my tupperware and invested in glass pyrex storage bowls for this very reason. The spatulas, I’ve learned to live with. Soak them in lemon juice after garlicy or onion-y exploits. Everything else is metal or wooden.

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Alice January 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I’m a fan of wooden spoons, which don’t seem to retain smells like that. Maybe for the cutting boards you could dedicate one to savories like garlic and onions. I think I’m going to do that when I get around to buying a second cutting board. I definitely need to start replacing tupperware with pyrex too, but it’s not in my budget right now, sadly.

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Bonnie January 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm

For the food processor lid, boil a big pot of water, dump it in the sink with a little soap and let it soak for a while. This should duplicate the temps of the dishwasher.
Tupperware has finally come out with a line that does not stair or retain odors. You saw it when you were here. Downside, more expensive and does not seem to go on sale often.

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moderndomestic January 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm

That’s a good idea. Although, when I’m making a big dinner, I use my food processor multiple times for multiple dishes, and I can’t do that, say, for five or six washes.

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Jill MacDougall, PhD January 15, 2010 at 9:02 am

Plastics contain chemicals that contaminate foods. Plastics are made from petrochemicals (gasoline based products) that can leave residues in our foods that alter hormones and become carcinogenic. This is worsened when these plastics are heated as in microwaving. I’m not sure how much plastic is in the silicone products, but I believe there is some, which your blog pretty much confirms, because of the absorption of smell. I use wood and stainless steel as much as possible.

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Allen August 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I love the silicone spatulas, especially the ones that are like spoons, BUT, all of ours seems to taste like soap and this is starting to impart a slight soapy taste to some dishs. These spatulas are used to stir hot things on the stove, chilis, vegatables that are cooked hot with oil, etc. and work very well seemilng like they would last forever. I have tried many things to get rid of the soap taste but I now believe it is hopeless and they must all be tossed out and replaced. I am pulling the wooden spoons back out.

A foodie!

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Rachel July 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

This is definitely frustrating. In addition to dealing with it on our spatulas and other plastic/silicone utensils, my roommates and I have plastic bento boxes that we use daily. Unfortunately, not only the little silicone cups, but the boxes themselves have begun to smell like a combination of salad dressing and Dawn dish soap.

We’ve tried baking soda pastes, vinegar soaks, and super hot water, all to no avail. I’m going to try a lemon juice soak tonight, since lemon juice works great at getting the smell of garlic and onions off my hands.

Here’s hoping! I may be going back to wooden spoons and paper bags, soon…

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Elizabeth August 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I notice this! It drives me crazy my silicone spatulas always have that soapy taste. I hate it, I avoid cooking with them now… and I’ve only had them for 4 years. They are just ewwww. I’m attempting boiling them in vinegar water right now (and sat down and googled to see if anybody else had the same problem as me while they boiled and if anybody had any suggestions to fix the problem. Boiling water and vinegar just seemed a logical try. And I found your site. At least I know I’m not crazy.

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Irene September 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I am currently soaking my silicone spatulas in warm water and vinegar – they smell. Washing them in the dishwasher did/does not help. So don’t fret about the dishwasher. The dishwasher has imparted a cascade odor layer to accompany the garlic/onion smell. So there are layers of funk. Plan to let them soak over night, if it doesn’t work I will have to toss.

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sallycwitt December 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm

My silicone spatulas smell of soap-either dish soap or dishwasher detergent. I’m throwing 3 out tonite as I can’t stand the smell and taste. My wooden spoons and spatulas smell of food, but not of soap, so I prefer them. Anyone else notice this?

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Erin February 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Looks like everyone finds this post when they google “how do I get rid of the smell on my silicone spatulas?” I notice pretty often and just licked some buttercream off a disgusting garlic/pepper/onion spatula. Hope it doesn’t ruin the 2 dozen cupcakes I’ve already frosted for a bake sale. May try the vinegar thing tonight. Wish somebody would update their post and let us know if it works.

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moderndomestic February 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I wish I had a better answer! I’ve just designated certain silicone spatulas for savory food, and certain ones for pastry. I know that soaking brushes in vinegar will get out weird smells, but I haven’t tried it with the spatulas, since my system works pretty well. Can anyone else testify to the effectiveness of the vinegar soak?

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Sally Hillman February 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I have the same problem with handwashing my silicone spatulas, but I have another problem with running them through the dishwasher: they smell/taste like the Cascade detergent! Eww.

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Jude March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I’m in a low income bracket & don’t have the luxury of tossing things out & replacing them so find ways to compensate. Bear with me while I explain – I promise to get to the point!

I HATE coffee (when I gave up smoking decades ago, I gave up coffee too). But my mom loves it & saves the large red plastic containers for me to store various dry ingredients in. But they REEK of coffee. So I wash them with hot soapy water & then put them in the sunshine for maybe a week, bring then in to rewash & use. The combination of UV rays & fresh air removes the odour – & I’m very sensitive to the smell of coffee.

The same would likely work on silicon spatulas but haven’t noticed any lingering smell on mine though so haven’t tried this. I have one good sized silicon spatula with a long wooden handle that I use for stirring savoury dishes & have 2 others with regular handles for baking only. They look different from my wooden handled one so no worries that I might switch accidently.

Another idea is to check that there’s no ‘guck’ where the handle slots into the head. I pull off the head once in a while to check & clean the slotted hole with a soapy Q-tip. Good to check.

And lastly, all sorts of materials hold odours & the only one know for certain doesn’t is glass. Try storing gasoline in a steel container (those huge gas cans). When it’s been in the metal container for a while,nothing can get that gas smell out. Odours are just airborne molecules that reach our olfactory bulb enabling us to smell things. Those same molecules attach themselves to the molecules on the surface of a container. The material of some containers such as plastics allow for quick attaching while most metals don’t. UV light from sunshine & its warmth help break the attachment (bond) & fresh air gives it a chance to dissipate. Mind you, some bonds won’t break no matter what. Bonds that form from storing foods cooked with both oils (fats) & tomatoes stored in some plastic containers. I won’t go into the chemistry of it but it’s why you’ll never get the smell of some foods out of plastic items.

As for the cutting boards, why not mark the 2 sides?one for savoury foods & one for non-savoury? It’s what I do & a separate board for meat only.

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