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I bought these two 2" solid steel ball bearings for the purpose of rolling them in my hands. Just for something to do while sitting at my computer, without those silly bells inside. (They're still a bit noisy, but it sounds much cooler than bells.)

Aside from being moderately scary (I cracked my ceramic sink while cleaning them, when I dropped one about six inches. Some shards exploded off of the underside...don't tell my wife, luckily it's not leaking), I'm wondering if there's anything I need to worry about health-wise.

I've read that they might have nasty lubricants on them, and that rubbing alcohol should clean it. I soaked them in alcohol for the night, then rubbed them down with an alcohol soaked washcloth, and then cleaned them with soap and water.

But they still smell, and it makes my hand smell as well. Not that strong, but significant and yucky, and I'm wondering if it's something to be concerned about, or if that's just the nature of steel.

How can I thoroughly clean them? Is the smell something to be concerned about, or should I just wash my hands when I'm done and forget about it? Is there a safe way to coat/paint them, without causing further health issues? Anything else I should know?

Thank you.

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    $\begingroup$ aliteralmind, welcome to Chemistry.SE, and great question. Here's something that's tangentially related ... chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/7916/… $\endgroup$ – Dissenter Dec 29 '14 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ the deleted answer was actually quite good; I don't know why the owner deleted it. In any case the smell likely results from a redox reaction between iron ions and organic molecules on your hands. $\endgroup$ – Dissenter Dec 30 '14 at 2:04

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