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I'm a new dad and recently I've been doing a lot of DIY projects that involve metals, which are greased in petroleum based lubricants. I clean my hands thoroughly with hand and dish soap after the work, but I still smell like petroleum. All petroleum based products warn against skin contact on the labels. I am hesitant to touch my baby when I smell like machine oil for her safety. How do I clean my hands thoroughly?

I have a white collar job, and my DIY projects are infrequent enough that its feasible to let mom handle the child care exclusively for a few hours after my repair jobs. However, I'm sure plenty of auto-mechanics and shop workers have had this problem so I'd like to know how they solve it.

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A family member of mine is a mechanic with a baby. Typically, mechanics wear disposable gloves, not only to keep hands clean but to reduce exposure to solvents and chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin. There are many options available which can be purchased online or through a hardware store or auto parts store. You can choose from latex, chloroprene (grip well in wet, puncture resistant), nitrile gloves (come in several thicknesses, seriously puncture resistant, used in medicine), and synthetic gloves (like latex but for people allergic to latex).

In a store, these generally come in boxes of 50 or 100, and when ordering online sometimes they are sold in cases (10 boxes of 50-100 gloves). So if you are searching online and they seem expensive, check to see how many gloves you are getting - it could be 1000!

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    If you cannot wear gloves, for some reason, use a proper industrial hand cleaner like Swarfega or similar abrasive heavy cleaner. These get rid of oil and grease really well. – Rory Alsop Aug 5 '13 at 15:35
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Pour a small amount of distilled white vinegar into the palm of your hand and rub it into your skin for up to 45 seconds before washing it off with warm, soapy water. Vinegar is nontoxic.

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  • As someone with a scientific background, I'm unfamiliar with this and would really like to learn why a mild acid would have any effect on petroleum products and/or their removal. Do you have a link for this where I could do some more reading? – anongoodnurse Feb 16 '16 at 23:02
  • This response assumes the chief complaint is the petroleum smell, not the presence of the products themselves. – Kurt Feb 17 '16 at 18:50

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