According to friends and family, I am a little obsessed with Bar Keepers Friend (BKF). It is ever-present in my undersink caddy, and I am happy to extoll its cleaning prowess to all who will listen.
In fact, if we are friends, and you have an occasion coming, expect a bottle. My love runs that deep.
Why Bar Keepers Friend is the Best Friend
I met Bar Keepers Friend when I was 18, and working at Nectar’s in Burlington, Vermont. It was love at first use. After a grueling shift slinging beer and shaking margaritas, a co-worker introduced me to the miracle cleanser that is now a staple in my cleaning regime. Back then I used it to polish brass bar rails and get our stainless steel sinks uber-shiny, but our relationship evolved over the years to include so much more.
And now it comes in a soft cleanser version, making it even easier to use on multiple surfaces (including bathroom tile).
Chemist George William Hoffman developed the product in 1882 when he discovered the powerful cleaning qualities of oxalic acid, naturally found in rhubarb and spinach, on one of his own pots. He created a powder with the ingredient and sold it to taverns to polish and clean brass. The tavern owners were so enamored they called it Bar Keepers Friend, and a legacy was born.
How I Use Bar Keepers Friend in the Kitchen
I love that the oxalic acid cleanser is effective on rust, hard water scaling, and burnt-on grease without the use of bleach. I always test a small spot first, and never leave it on for long—it doesn’t require the soak times normally associated with tough stains. Trust me, the acid will eat away at finishes with prolonged exposure.
Oh, and it is fantastic for discoloration on chef ‘s knives. I have the same Wusthof Classic 8-inch chef knife I bought for my first restaurant kitchen job. 25 years later, it is still gorgeous and razor-sharp thanks to Bar Keepers Friend and a little whetstone TLC.
Here are my favorite (sometimes surprising, always effective) ways to employ Bar Keepers Friend:
Water spots on barware: Especially in the last year when my home mixology game ratcheted up, it has been a lifesaver against sticky residue marring all those stainless steel tools.
Stubborn stains on cookware: When you invest in beautiful cookware, you want to keep it new-ish looking but inevitably, discoloration and oil stains happen as you use it. A squeeze of BKF, a dobie, some warm water, and a little elbow grease gets pots and pans shiny and spot-free.
On one particularly stubborn old pot, I broke out the steel wool (not the one with soap) after the dobie just didn’t get the job done. That pot looked as fresh as the day I bought it. I use steel wool sparingly though because BKF is an acidic cleanser.
Rust spots on silverware: This was a new one for me. My husband always wanted nice, matching silverware so when we moved into our new home (right before the pandemic), we bought some gorgeous Fortessa Arezzo stainless steel sets in the hope one day we would entertain again.
One of the knives developed some rust spots, even though I hand washed and dried them. No worries because BKF banished the spots immediately.
Hard water stains and food debris on the dishwasher: Another new use in the last year, my Bosch dishwasher had some spots on the door that would not come off with stainless steel cleaner. Not to be beaten, I broke out BKF, dabbed a little on, let it sit a minute and scrubbed it with my dobie. It looks brand new.
Gardening pots and plant stands: Last summer during my pandemic gardening craze, I realized the potential of BKF. I already used it on my shears, trowel, and rake, but my plant stands and pots were suffering the effects of salt air and blanketing humidity. I squeezed a drop on, scrubbed lightly with a dobie, and found a new reason to love this product.
Bonus, it removed the remnants of the sticky label left on the bottom of one of the pots!
So yes, you could stick with your usual cleanser, or old standby baking soda and lemon, but once Bar Keepers Friend enters your life, you will wonder why you waited so long.