Especially This All-Purpose Cleaner is the Secret to Keeping a Clean Home

Photo: Donna Boyle Schwartz

What was I thinking? When I replaced my brown porcelain kitchen sink with a white version, I had no idea that everything—and I do mean everything—would make a white sink look dirty. Regular consumption of coffee, tea, red wine, tomato sauce, red cabbage, mustard, orange juice, and balsamic vinegar all combine to make our kitchen sink a veritable “stain factory.” Add to this the fact that our countertops are also white, and you can see why we need a powerful and versatile cleaning product to keep the kitchen from looking perpetually grimy.

An additional factor in our cleaning conundrum is sharing our home with a succession of rescue parrots; the fumes from ammonia- or bleach-based cleaners can be toxic to birds. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to living in filth since we found Bar Keepers Friend, an environmentally friendly, low-odor, multipurpose powdered cleanser.

We use Bar Keepers Friend inside and outside our home, as well as on our boat, because the product is easy to use and works great on common kitchen and bathroom stains. It also effectively tackles uncommon grit and grime on our patio furniture, car hubcaps, boat deck, and more. Read on for just a few of the best uses we have found for Bar Keepers Friend.

Verdict: Bar Keepers Friend is an excellent product to keep in a home cleaning arsenal; this very versatile powdered cleanser works on all types of nonporous surfaces both inside and outside the home.

Rating: 9/10


Photo: Donna Boyle Schwartz


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Is It Nontoxic?

Bar Keepers Friend is made from nontoxic, environmentally friendly ingredients and is safe to use around pets and children. The manufacturer lists the ingredients in Bar Keepers Friend as “mineral abrasive, oxalic acid, surfactant, and water-softening agent.” The most important thing to understand about Bar Keepers Friend is that it is based on oxalic acid, which means the overall cleanser is acidic instead of alkaline. In fact, the company website says the product was originally created in 1882 from the acidic compound found in rhubarb “after a chemist noticed how clean his pot became when he boiled the plant.”

Because the product is acid-based, it is highly effective against rust, mineral scale, hard water stains, limescale, tarnish, and other stains. This differs from many other powdered cleansers, which are alkaline and are often combined with bleach or ammonia. Bar Keepers Friend is also biodegradable and safe for septic systems. And, it doesn’t release noxious odors into the surrounding air, which is a big plus, especially if you have chemical sensitivities or allergies.

Especially This All-Purpose Cleaner is the Secret to Keeping a Clean Home

Photo: Donna Boyle Schwartz

How Easy Is It to Use?

Using Bar Keepers Friend is about as basic as you can get in cleaning. First, wet the surface; then, sprinkle a generous amount of Bar Keepers Friend on the surface. Make a paste with the powder and water, adding water until the paste is about the consistency of wet sand. Then use a sponge or a soft cloth to apply the paste to the surface, with a higher concentration of the paste on any stained areas. Let it stand for about 1 minute, and then rub the paste in a circular motion from the center outward. Wash the area with hot soapy water, and rinse and repeat if needed until the surface is sparkling. Tougher stains might need a bit more rubbing to eliminate them, but it really is just that easy.


There are a few points to note, however: Make sure to rinse the area well; if the surface isn’t rinsed thoroughly, it may be left with a gritty residue. Also, never mix and match Bar Keepers Friend with other cleansers since many are based on alkaline components and contain bleach or ammonia. Mixing the acid-based Bar Keepers Friend with bleach or ammonia can create dangerous toxic fumes. So, stick to Bar Keepers Friend by itself—honestly, once you try the product, you probably won’t ever need any of those other cleansers again.

What Can It Clean?

One of the main things that I love about Bar Keepers Friend is its versatility. It cleans surfaces all around the house, including kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Outside, I use it on the patio furniture, the gas grill, and on garden tools, as well as on our cars and boat. The product is excellent at cleaning and removing stains on all types of nonporous surfaces, including porcelain and ceramics, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, bronze, copper alloys, glass, and solid-surface countertops.

In the kitchen, I use it to clean the sink, countertops, stove cooktop, microwave interior, backsplash, and the bottoms of stainless steel and aluminum cookware (don’t use it on cast iron or pots and pans with nonstick interiors). I also use it to remove coffee and tea stains from ceramic mugs and to remove stains and knife marks from porcelain dinnerware. In the bathroom, Bar Keepers Friend is great for removing soap scum, hard water spots, toothpaste splatters, rust, and other stains from sinks, faucets, toilets, bathtubs and showers, and ceramic tile and grout (although it is not recommended for use on colored grout).

I also use Bar Keepers Friend outdoors to clean the interior, the grates, and the stainless steel exterior of the gas grill and to remove tough stains from patio furniture and garden tools and equipment (especially before storing everything for the winter), and to clean our cars and outdoor decor.


One other less common usage is on our boat: Most boat owners will tell you that the bane of their existence is the black streaks that stubbornly appear on the sides of the boat. Bar Keepers Friend cleans those black streaks in a jiffy without dulling or scratching the fiberglass finish; the product also removes the black specks, grit, and grime from nonskid boat decks.

Be aware, however, of a few surfaces on which you should not use Bar Keepers Friend. These include colored grout, polished stone countertops—such as marble or granite—lacquered, painted, or mirrored surfaces, and precious metals like gold and silver.

Photo: Donna Boyle Schwartz

How Much Does It Cost?

Bar Keepers Friend is available at most full-line retail stores, as well as from multiple online sellers. The product typically comes in a 21-ounce can, but 12-ounce cans and jumbo multipacks are also available. The average retail price is around $2.00, and that is a very small price to pay for such versatile cleaning power that works on multiple surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, and outdoors, making it an exceptional value.

As an added value, you can ditch many other cleansers in favor of Bar Keepers Friend, including other powdered cleansers and sprays. And, the product lasts for a very long time—I typically get several months of use out of one 21-ounce can, and there is no expiration date. One caveat when it comes to storage: It’s essential to keep Bar Keepers Friend dry; storing it in a damp environment will cause the powder to clump or harden. To prevent moisture from entering the can, secure a piece of plastic wrap around the top with a rubber band, store the can in a zippered bag, or repurpose an existing plastic lid from another product.


How We Reviewed Bar Keepers Friend

I first became acquainted with Bar Keepers Friend when I searched for a product to clean the bottoms of my stainless steel and aluminum cookware. The company that makes my cookware used to sell a cleanser specifically designed for aluminum but discontinued it. Since I hang our cookware on a pot rack, I needed a product to keep it all looking nice since the pots and pans are always “on display.” I called the manufacturer, and they suggested Bar Keepers Friend. I am not disappointed: Bar Keepers Friend is great at removing the baked-on residue from my cookware!

From there, it was a process of experimentation: Kitchen sink? Check! Countertops? Check! Bathroom sink? Check! Then, I saw a fellow boat owner using Bar Keepers Friend to remove nasty black streaks from his boat, and I discovered a whole other world of uses for this handy little powder. I’ve tried the product on nearly all of the recommended surfaces and have been happy with every outcome. The company’s website lists a plethora of other suggestions, including using Bar Keepers Friend to whiten sneakers, clean vinyl siding, and polish musical instruments. If you have something to clean or shine, check out Bar Keepers Friend.

Photo: Donna Boyle Schwartz

Is Bar Keepers Friend Right for You?

Bar Keepers Friend has several features going for it: The product is versatile and multifunctional, so you don’t need a closet of different products to cover all the various cleaning jobs in and around your home. It is environmentally friendly, nontoxic, and thus, safe for households with pets and children. Bar Keepers Friend doesn’t emit any noxious odors or VOCs, unlike many other cleaning products, and consequently, it is ideal for people who suffer from allergies or chemical sensitivities.


This product is also budget-friendly: A 21-ounce can only costs about $2.00 and lasts for several months with regular daily use. Since the powder doesn’t expire, Bar Keepers Friend will last even longer if you don’t use it every day. Also, it’s available at most major retailers, both in stores and online, so you never have to do without. The best feature of Bar Keepers Friend is that you can use it virtually anywhere—kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoors. The product cleans appliances, countertops, tile, porcelain, ceramic, stainless

steel, copper, brass, fiberglass, chrome, glass, and more—literally any nonporous surface. And because Bar Keepers Friend is an acid-based cleanser, it is great for removing mineral stains, rust, hard water spots, soap scum, lime and calcium scale, baked-on residue, and tarnish. And best of all, it even gets the coffee and tea stains out of my favorite office mug.

Final Verdict

Bar Keepers Friend is a versatile, multipurpose powdered cleanser that cleans surfaces all around the house, including kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and garages. The product is also handy for outdoor use on items such as patio furniture, grills, garden tools and equipment, cars, and boats. Bar Keepers Friend excels at cleaning and removing stains on all types of nonporous surfaces, including porcelain and ceramics, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, bronze, copper alloys, glass, solid-surface countertops, and more.

Use Bar Keepers Friend on sinks, countertops, cooktops and stoves, cookware, dinnerware, ceramics, tile and backsplashes, noncolored grout, bathtubs and showers, faucets, toilets, tools, and equipment—the list is nearly endless. Bar Keepers Friend is nontoxic, environmentally friendly, and safe for use around pets, children, and people with allergies or chemical sensitivities. Bar Keepers Friend is available at most full-line retail stores, as well as from multiple online sellers. The product typically comes in a 21-ounce can with an average regular retail price of about $2.00. In addition, the powder never expires, making it an exceptional value for any household cleaning needs.