What Is Bar Keepers Friend?

Bar Keepers Friend is a powdered cleaner that can be used to clean a variety of surfaces. It is made by SerVaas Laboratories and has been around since 1882. Bar Keepers Friend can help remove rust, mineral deposits, stains, tarnish, and other dirt and grime from many household items.

A Brief History of Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser

Bar Keepers Friend cleanser has a long history dating back to the 19th century. It was first invented in 1882 by two German immigrants, Gottlieb and Ernst SerVaas, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The SerVaas brothers were glassblowers who made beer bottles and noticed how mineral deposits from the beer would build up inside the glass over time.

They experimented with different chemical mixtures to try and remove these deposits and eventually created an effective powdered cleanser. It worked so well at cleaning the glass beer bottles and bar taps that they decided to market it under the name “Bar Keepers Friend.” The product was an immediate success with bartenders and pubs as an effective way to clean glassware and remove stains.

Over the decades, Bar Keepers Friend continued success by expanding its uses beyond bars and restaurants. In the 1950s, it was marketed as a cookware cleaner safe for removing burned-on food and stains from pots and pans. In the 1980s, its uses expanded again for cleaning porcelain, ceramic, stainless steel, fiberglass sinks and even jewelry.

Today, Bar Keepers Friend continues to be popular due to its versatility and effectiveness on many household surfaces, cookware, appliances and more. Multiple formulations have been introduced over time, including liquid sprays and gels, but the original powdered oxalic acid-based formula remains their flagship product.

What Are the Key Ingredients in Bar Keepers Friend?

The active ingredients in Bar Keepers Friend are oxalic acid and feldspar. Let’s take a closer look at what these substances are and how they work to clean surfaces:

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is an organic compound found in many vegetables and plants, such as spinach, rhubarb and buckwheat. It acts as a mild acid and is the key active ingredient in Bar Keepers Friend.

When oxalic acid comes in contact with rust, mineral deposits and other grime, a chemical reaction occurs. The acid breaks down the compounds, loosening up the encrusted stain so it can be easily wiped away.

Oxalic acid is safe for household use but can be irritating to skin and eyes in concentrated forms. The amounts found in Bar Keepers Friend are diluted so it is safe to handle with proper precautions.


Feldspar is the second main ingredient. It is a mineral compound made up of silicates of aluminum. In Bar Keepers Friend, ground feldspar acts as a gentle abrasive that provides scrubbing action to remove stubborn stains.

Feldspar is found in stones and rocks. When ground into a powder, it provides a texture almost like fine sandpaper to lift away built-up gunk on surfaces. This mineral abrasive can tackle stains oxalic acid alone cannot remove.

The combination of a cleaning acid and a polishing mineral makes Bar Keepers Friend an effective cleaner for a broad range of difficult household cleaning challenges.

Is Bar Keepers Friend Abrasive?

Bar Keepers Friend contains feldspar as an abrasive mineral, so it is considered a mildly abrasive cleaner. It should not scratch most surfaces when used properly, but it can wear down finishes with heavy scrubbing over time.

The oxalic acid dissolves rust, hard water deposits, tarnish and other grime. The feldspar provides gentle scrubbing action that, together with the acid, lifts stains without vigorously scouring or scratching.

Compared to highly abrasive cleansers like Comet or Ajax, Bar Keepers Friend is much gentler. But it is stronger than non-abrasive cleaners like baking soda or vinegar.

The level of abrasiveness will also depend on the formulation. Bar Keepers Friend Original Powder is the most abrasive due to its higher feldspar content. The Soft Cleanser Cream and Liquid Spray formulas are less abrasive options.

To prevent scratches, it’s best to start with the gentlest application first and scrub lightly. Test a small area if concerned about damage. You can always increase scrubbing action if needed.

Is Bar Keepers Friend Safe?

When used according to package directions, Bar Keepers Friend is generally considered a safe household cleaning product. However, there are some precautions to be aware of:

  • Skin irritation: Oxalic acid and feldspar can cause skin irritation in those with sensitivities. Wear gloves and avoid extended skin contact. Rinse hands after use.
  • Eye irritation: Like any cleaning product, Bar Keepers Friend can irritate eyes. Avoid contact with eyes and wash immediately if product gets in eyes.
  • Respiratory irritation: The powder formulas can irritate lungs if inhaled. Use in a well-ventilated area and wear a mask when cleaning with Bar Keepers Friend powder.
  • Corrosive on certain materials: While safe for most surfaces, oxalic acid can damage or discolor some materials like marble, granite and tile grout. Spot test before use.
  • Harmful if swallowed: Like most household cleaners, ingesting Bar Keepers Friend powder or liquid can be harmful or fatal. Keep products out of reach of children.

As with any cleaning chemical, properly handling Bar Keepers Friend by wearing gloves and not mixing with other products will ensure safe use in your home. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before use.

What Can You Clean with Bar Keepers Friend?

Bar Keepers Friend can be used to clean many different household items and surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom and other rooms. Here are some of the most popular uses for Bar Keepers Friend:


Bar Keepers Friend excels at cleaning stainless steel and non-stick cookware. It can remove burned-on food, grease stains, discoloration and baked-on gunk on pots, pans and baking dishes. It also cleans cast iron without removing the seasoning.


Use Bar Keepers Friend on drinking glasses, mugs, jugs, mirrors and windows. It removes coffee and tea stains, hard water residue, soap scum, limescale and grime from glass.


The oxalic acid in Bar Keeper’s Friend dissolves rust, mineral deposits, water spots and gunk in stainless steel, porcelain, ceramic, enamel and acrylic sinks. It also cleans faucets and showerheads.

Outdoor Surfaces

Clean and brighten outdoor furniture, grills, tile and concrete surfaces with Bar Keepers Friend. It removes rust stains, grime and discoloration from weather exposure.

Tile and Grout

Mix Bar Keepers Friend with water to make a paste for cleaning tile, grout, tubs, showers and bathroom surfaces. It removes soap scum, hard water stains, mildew and rust.

Stainless Steel

In addition to stainless cookware, Bar Keepers Friend cleans stainless steel sinks, appliances, counters, rails, tools, grill grates and more. It removes grease, food residue, water spots and tarnish.

Brass, Copper, Chrome

Shine up brass, copper, chrome and other metals around the home. Bar Keepers Friend removes tarnish, rust and restores their luster.

Plastic and Fiberglass

Use Bar Keepers Friend to clean and remove stains from outdoor plastic furniture and indoor fiberglass shower stalls and tubs.

How Do You Use Bar Keepers Friend?

Bar Keepers Friend is easy to use on many household surfaces:

  1. Check the surface – Spot test an inconspicuous area first to make sure Bar Keepers Friend will not damage the finish.
  2. Make a paste – For heavy cleaning, make a paste by sprinkling powder over the wet surface or by mixing powder with a little water.
  3. Apply – Use a sponge, cloth, brush or scrubbing pad to apply the paste to the dirty surface. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Scrub and rinse – Scrub gently, then rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove all residue.
  5. Dry – Wipe dry with a soft cloth or air dry to prevent water spots.
  6. Repeat if needed – For stubborn stains, repeat process and allow paste to sit longer before scrubbing again.

Start with a small amount of powder at first and add more as needed. Let the product do the work for you and avoid heavy scrubbing.

Tips for Using Bar Keepers Friend

Follow these tips when using Bar Keepers Friend for the best cleaning results:

  • Spot test on an inconspicuous area before use
  • Wear gloves to prevent skin irritation
  • Apply to a wet surface and make a paste for more cleaning power
  • Allow the product to sit before scrubbing for best effect
  • Use a non-abrasive sponge or soft cloth to gently scrub
  • Rinse thoroughly to remove all residue
  • Use the powdered formula for toughest stains and buildup
  • Try the liquid spray or soft cleanser for more delicate surfaces
  • Use small amounts – a little goes a long way!

Can You Use Bar Keepers Friend on Stainless Steel?

Yes, Bar Keepers Friend is safe to use on stainless steel and is an effective stainless steel cleaner. It removes grease splatter, cooking residues, water spots, food stains, discoloration and light surface rust from stainless steel sinks, appliances, cookware and more.

For best results on stainless steel:

  • Mix Bar Keepers Friend powder with water to form a paste.
  • Apply the paste and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes. This gives the oxalic acid time to start breaking down stains.
  • Gently scrub with a sponge, cloth or non-abrasive scrubbing pad.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a soft cloth to prevent water spots.
  • Repeat process for stubborn stains and surface rust. Use a soft bristle brush for textured surfaces like grill grates.
  • Avoid steel wool pads or abrasive sponges that could scratch the stainless finish.

Always rub gently in the direction of the stainless steel grain. Spot test first, especially on brushed or matte stainless finishes that are more prone to showing scratches if scoured too vigorously.

Is Bar Keepers Friend Safe for Glass?

Yes, Bar Keepers Friend can be safely used to clean most glass surfaces like windows, mirrors, glassware, and drinking glasses. The oxalic acid in Bar Keepers Friend dissolves hard water stains, film buildup, soap scum and other grime on glass. The feldspar gives it mild abrasion to shine the glass without scratching.

To clean glass with Bar Keepers Friend:

  • Mix powder with water to make a paste.
  • Apply paste and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Gently scrub with a soft sponge or cloth in circular motions.
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry with a lint-free cloth.
  • Avoid abrasive scrubbers that could scratch the glass.
  • Check the product on an inconspicuous area first.
  • Do not use on frosted or etched glass as it can damage the finish.

The oxalic acid in Bar Keeper’s Friend will not harm most glass surfaces with proper use. Always spot test delicate glassware or antique glass before use.

Can Bar Keepers Friend Be Used On Pots and Pans?

Yes, Bar Keepers Friend is an excellent cleaner for pots and pans, especially those made from stainless steel, ceramic or aluminum. It removes burned and baked-on food residue, grease, discoloration and stains from cookware.

Follow these tips for using Bar Keepers Friend on pots and pans:

  • Create a paste with equal parts powder and water for heavy buildup.
  • Apply paste and let sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing. This allows the oxalic acid time to penetrate.
  • Use a non-abrasive sponge or soft cloth to gently scrub stains away. Avoid abrasive pads that could scratch.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Reapply if needed for stubborn stains.
  • Works great on stainless steel, ceramic, carbon steel, cast iron, aluminum and enamel cookware.
  • Can also be used on bakeware like baking sheets, cake pans and casserole dishes.
  • Do not use on non-stick coatings as it can damage the finish over time with repeated use.

Bar Keepers Friend gives cookware that like-new shine while removing burnt-on gunk. Just remember to always scrub gently and rinse thoroughly after use.

Is Bar Keepers Friend Safe for Ceramic Tile?

Bar Keepers Friend can be safely used to clean ceramic tile floors, walls, countertops, backsplashes and even tile grout. The oxalic acid in Bar Keepers Friend removes soap scum, hard water deposits, rust stains and mildew from tile surfaces.

To use Bar Keepers Friend on ceramic tile:

  • Sweep or wipe down surface first to remove loose dirt.
  • Make a paste with equal parts powder and water.
  • Apply paste and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Gently scrub with a soft bristle brush or non-abrasive sponge.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Repeat process as needed for heavily stained grout.

Take care not to scrub tiles too aggressively as this could scratch some polished glazed tile. Always spot test first, especially on porous or unglazed tile.

Bar Keepers Friend can make ceramic tile shine while removing stubborn stains safe and effectively.

Does Bar Keepers Friend Work on Toilet Bowls?

Yes, Bar Keepers Friend powder is an effective toilet bowl cleaner. The oxalic acid in Bar Keepers Friend helps dissolve mineral deposits, rust stains and limescale that build up in toilet bowls from hard water.

To use Bar Keepers Friend to clean a toilet:

  • Swirl some powder into the toilet bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes. This gives the powder time to start working on stains.
  • Scrub the interior of the bowl thoroughly with a toilet brush to remove stains.
  • Flush the toilet a couple times to rinse.
  • Repeat as needed for stubborn stains or mineral buildup.

Compared to chlorine bleach and other harsh chemical toilet cleaners, Bar Keepers Friend provides an effective eco-friendly alternative.

Always remember to ventilate the area when cleaning with any chemical product and follow all safety precautions.

How Does Bar Keepers Friend Compare to Baking Soda?

Here is how Bar Keepers Friend and baking soda stack up for cleaning:

  • Abrasiveness – Bar Keepers Friend has more scrubbing power from the feldspar mineral it contains. Baking soda is mildly abrasive but not as much.
  • Acidity – Bar Keepers Friend contains oxalic acid to dissolve stains. Baking soda is alkaline rather than acidic.
  • Shininess – Bar Keepers Friend can make some surfaces shiner due to its mild abrasion. Baking soda is better for gentle cleaning.
  • Tough stains – Bar Keepers Friend works better at removing rust, mineral deposits, soap scum and heavily burned/baked-on gunk.
  • Delicate surfaces – Baking soda is gentler and safer on more delicate materials like wood, aluminum and non-stick coatings that can be damaged by Bar Keepers Friend.
  • Eco-friendly – Both are considered environmentally friendly cleaners, though Bar Keepers Friend is a chemical cleaner contrary to baking soda’s natural formula.
  • Cost – Baking soda is much cheaper to use for cleaning. Bar Keepers Friend costs more but can provide stronger cleaning results.

So consider Bar Keepers Friend for tough cleaning challenges where baking soda alone doesn’t work well, while using baking soda on delicate surfaces that require a gentle touch.

Does Bar Keepers Friend Contain Bleach?

No, Bar Keepers Friend does not contain bleach or chlorine compounds. The active ingredients in Bar Keepers Friend are oxalic acid and feldspar.

Many household cleaners, including bleach, contain harsh chemicals and emit fumes that can be irritating and hazardous if used improperly. Bar Keepers Friend provides a more natural, eco-friendly cleaning option.

While it does contain oxalic acid, this organic acid found in plants is much milder than industrial bleach. BKF does not emit strong irritating fumes like bleach cleaners.

The lack of harsh chemicals like bleach makes Bar Keepers Friend safe for many surfaces where bleach could damage or discolor the finish. Always spot test first, but BKF is generally safe for stainless steel, ceramic, glass, chrome and fiberglass where bleach is too corrosive.

Never mix Bar Keepers Friend with bleach or other cleaning products. Like all cleaners, properly follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safe and effective use of Bar Keepers Friend in your home.

Is Bar Keepers Friend Toxic?

When used correctly according to the manufacturer’s directions, Bar Keepers Friend is not considered a toxic or hazardous household cleaner. However, misuse or improper handling can make any cleaning product unsafe.

Here are some precautions for using Bar Keepers Friend safely:

  • Avoid inhaling the powdered formulas and wear a mask when cleaning.
  • Use gloves and wash hands after cleaning to prevent skin irritation.
  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly after use to remove all residue.
  • Keep products out of the reach of children.
  • Never mix BKF with other cleaners like bleach that produce toxic fumes.

The oxalic acid in Bar Keepers Friend can cause irritation if it makes prolonged contact with skin, eyes or if ingested. Always thoroughly rinse surfaces after cleaning and immediately wash skin or eyes if they come in contact with the product.

While Bar Keepers Friend is formulated to be safe for consumer use, ingesting or misusing any cleaning product can be hazardous. Take the same precautions you would