Bar Keepers Friend: What is this Magical Stuff?

The most intimidating part of cleaning cookware and appliances in the kitchen is knowing which products to use. One of our favorites is Bar Keepers Friend (BKF). It has blown our minds and has so many useful applications. Now it is a kitchen staple at Gygi’s and in our own homes. And here are all the reasons why. 

Bar Keepers Friend

Bar Keepers Friend has been going strong since 1882. The active ingredient in this magical cleaning product is oxalic acid, a natural compound that’s found naturally in lots of fruits and vegetables like rhubarb and spinach. The ingredient works at a molecular level and the acidity breaks down the bonds of stains like rust and lime deposits. And it is no wonder we are completely obsessed!

How Was Bar Keepers developed? 

An Indianapolis chemist named George William Hoffman accidentally discovered the power of oxalic acid while cooking rhubarb. When he finished boiling it, he noticed that the pot he cooked it in was cleaner and sparkled more than ever before. It piqued his curiosity as a chemist and he immediately got to work trying to figure out what happened. 

Turns out oxalic acid is a white, crystalline solid naturally found in a lot of fruits and vegetables. Given the acidic nature, this byproduct has been used as a brightening and cleaning agent – most noteworthy for removing rust and hard water stains as well as mineral deposits like lime and calcium from hard, nonporous materials. This is different from other powder cleansers which are alkaline (bleach-based) which is why BKF is more effective against rust stains and mineral deposits. It also contains other detergents that help soften dirt and grease. 

At Bar Keepers Friend, the Oxalic Acid generally comes from plant/vegetation waste from industrial suppliers–waste not, want not.  And the contents of BKF do not degrade or expire if stored in a dry environment, which is why the powdered product doesn’t come with a lid. Those who need to cover their BKF for safety or peace of mind can use a sandwich bag and a rubber band, but the product does not require an air-tight seal. A large canister or BKF can take several months before you go through all of it. 

What is the Best Way to Use BKF? 

The application is pretty straightforward. Simply wet the surface to be cleaned, and then apply a small amount of the BKF product to the surface. Allow it a couple of minutes to set and activate (one or two minutes is generally all you need for routine surface cleaning). Then, with a damp cloth or the soft side of a sponge, clean and polish the area. Just be careful to avoid any abrasive sponge or it might scratch the surface. Finally, make sure to rinse the surface until the water runs clear and then it polish with a dry microfiber cloth to make it shine. For more information about proper cleaning procedures with BKF, you can always check out their official website

Where Should I Use Bar Keepers? 

Bar Keepers Friend is as gold as the packaging when it comes to cleaning in the kitchen. You can use BKF on stainless steel pots and pans, cookware, flatware, sinks, and stovetops. It can also work to remove grime from the glass on the oven door, baking dishes, and cloudy glassware (as long as you use a gentle hand). It also works on chrome, porcelain,  formica, and copper. That said, you DO NOT want to use it to clean porous surfaces like marble, uncoated cast iron, nonstick pans, wood, plastic, or melamine. 

What is the Biggest Mistake You Can Make with BKF? 

Our generation is trained to think that if you let the cleaning product sit for a really long time it will make cleaning easier. For example, leaving the pot of spaghetti sauce remnants in the sink with soapy water overnight will loosen the grime and make cleaning a breeze. There are so many cleaning products that you spray on, let rest, and simply rise off. But this is NOT the case with BKF. You shouldn’t let this product sit for too long, especially on metal surfaces, because it can cause some discoloration or etch the surface of whatever you are cleaning. Start with one minute or two minutes and then clean and rinse. Then, if necessary, go again with a fresh layer of powder. 

We get it, life is an endless cycle of dirtying things and cleaning them. But BKF will be your literal best friend. It is a powerful weapon that makes the clean-up effort so much easier. And once you have tried it you will never go back. 

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Carol-Lynn Beck
    March 20, 2023 at 3:08 pm

    My favorite cleaner! I love how it gets the brown junk off the bottom of pans and gets red dye off the kitchen counter and …and… and!!

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