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Dec 15, 2013 04:11 PM

Why BKF and not Bon Ami?

I use Bon Ami, probably because it is cheap, for pretty much all of the things for which others recommend BKF. I am sure someone here has done a side by side. Should I shell out the extra eighty-six cents for BKF?

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  1. I'm sure you will get opinions in favor of both. And neither of them will be wrong.

    1. Whatever works for you is fine. Bar Keepers Friend is a bit more effective in cleaning certain thing. For example, if you overheat a stainless steel pan and it acquires a whitish mineral coating than Bar Keepers Friend is pretty effective.

      1. They're different products with similar uses. Bon Ami is primarily a physical abrasive. Feldspar, its main ingredient, is really neat. Basically, it's more abrasive than most of the things you want to remove from a pan but less abrasive than the pan itself. Bar Keeper's Friend uses oxalic acid and works chemically, binding to oxides in particular.

        I use Bon Ami more often but consider both indispensable under my sink. For some things, particularly incipient rust and burn streaks on the bottom of pots, BKF is the clear favorite.

        1. MOst of what is in any cleanser (Ajax, Comet, Bon Ami, and yes, Bar Keep's Friend) an abrasive mineral powder, and the abrasive is what does the cleaning.Most of what differentiates the various cleansers is the hardness of the mineral used and the fineness with which the powder is ground. In addition, they will put in detergents, dyes, colors and other cleaning agents. I use Ajax for most of my cleanser needs, which has bleach. BKF is unique in that it uses oxalic acid, which makes good, I suppose, for many things, and REALLY BAD for other things (like marble).

          40 Replies
          1. re: MikeB3542

            The precise makeup of the powder of Bar Keeper's Friend is something they've successfully not shared, but in its history it's described as "talcum-smooth." Which is to say, not abrasive enough to do the cleaning. What does the cleaning is oxcylic acid. That's why it doesn't work if the surface isn't wet, and why for tougher stains they don't recommend rubbing harder but rather creating a paste from the product and water and applying the paste for some time (but less than a minute!).

            1. re: nokitchen

              BKF paste is very effective. I used to have plates with gray marks on them, nickel from the flatware. Read where a paste of BKF and a lot of elbow grease, and I mean a lot, will remove the gray marks, and it works. Just doesn't keep them from coming back. But a garage sale does!

              I use BKF paste and a toothbrush to clean around the rivets on the pans. Works very well. The oxcylic acid will also take rust stains out of clothes.

              1. re: nokitchen

                Hi, nokitchen: "[T]he powder of Bar Keeper's Friend is ... not abrasive enough to do the cleaning."

                That's completely incorrect--the particle size used in BKF is relatively coarse and abrasive. It's coarser than Ajax, Comet, and Bon Ami. Bon Ami's particle size is smallest. Dry and almost-dry BKF will scratch most surfaces. THAT'S why the manufacturer doesn't recommend scrubbing hard with it.

                You are correct, however, about the cleaning power of the acid in BKF. The two *together* make BKF what it is.


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Ive used BKF on my ceramic/glass cooktop for years and years and it has not scratched it at all.

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Hi, CM:

                    Ceramic glass is very hard, so you might get by with it. Still, I would use it only in a slurry and employ very little elbow grease.


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Been applying elbow grease for 10 years and not an iota of scratching.

                      I scrub my countertops once in awhile, too if they get a stain.

                      Again, no scratching.

                      I find it much less abrasive than Comet which is what I use to clean my sink.

                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        Whatever. I got my information on grit size directly from the maker, Servaas Labs, and it's consistent with my experience.

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          The material matters as well as the grit size.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            Hi, GH: "The material matters as well as the grit size."

                            Of course, within limits. Is there any reason to believe the grit in BKF is softer than that in BA and others?

                            On the other hand, to analogize to sandpaper, an 80 grit sheet of relatively soft silicon carbide paper is going to scratch deeper than a sheet of harder 120 grit aluminum oxide paper (unless the material being abraded is harder than silicon carbide). But you are correct that there is more than one factor at work.


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Hi Kaleo,

                              There are a number of factors that play into the abrasiveness of a product. These would include: % loading of the abrasive, hardness of the abrasive, shape of the abrasive, size of the abrasive particle, tendency of the abrasive to fracture, and other ingredients and/or lubrication. Some of this information would be propriatary, such as the loading of the abrasive (as well as the abrasive itself in most cases), and the size of the abrasive particles. However one can compare the hardness of the abrasive particles. This is typically measured with the MOHS scale, where talc is 1 and diamond is 10. One can also use the Knoop value (just another scale with more points) where talc is singel diget and diamond is 7000.

                              Some typical MOHS values of interest would be Tin 1.5-1.8, Aluminum 2.0-2.9, Copper 2.5-3.0, Steel 5.0-5.8, and Glass 4.5-6.5. From this one can easily see why you don't want to use abrasives on tin lined copper pans. Especially when you look at the hardness of some abrasive materials. Even something as soft as Calcite (calcium carbonate) is 3 on the MOHS scale, most abrasives (as used including your "relatively soft silicon carbide" 2480 on the Knoop scale) are between 9 and 10 on the MOHS scale (including your "harder 120 grit aluminum oxide paper" 2100 on the Knoop scale), not something you are likely to find in any abrasive cleaner as it's going to scratch everything. From what I can gather common abrasives in cleansers would include calcite 3, feldspar 6 and quartz 7 on the MOHS scale. Based on what I know about Talc, it's not abrasive enough to be an abrasive, it's platy structure actually works as a lubricant as the plates slide across each other.

                              For a reasonable comparison of cleaners you would need as a minimum the type of abrasive, the loading and the particle size.

                              1. re: mikie

                                Hi, mikie:

                                Wow that's informative, and I can't quibble with almost all you've written. Thanks. If you can flesh out the actual type(s) of abrasive, loading and particle size, all the better.

                                However, I think one *can* reasonably compare these scouring powders without the techical information. For me, at least when it comes to comparing BKF and Bon Ami, the specifics explain *why* my experience is what it is.


                            2. re: GH1618

                              Of course, it does, and on top of that the shape of the particles as well.

                  2. re: nokitchen

                    The Materiel Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) gives clues to the composition:
                    From BKF powder has 5-10% Oxalic acid and it mentions surfactant and abrasive.
                    From BA has Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate, and Feldspar.

                    From the label, BKF liquid has Citric Acid and not Oxalic acid.

                    1. re: Mountquercus

                      Hi, Mountquercus:

                      I can shed a little more light on Bon Ami's ingredients. In addition to calcium carbonate, sodium carbonate, and feldspar, it contains:

                      --sodium tallowate;
                      --sodium bicarbonate;
                      --coconut oil;
                      --alkyl polyglucosides;
                      --corn oil; and
                      --palm oil.

                      BA garnered an "A" grade from the Environmental Working Group. whereas EWG gave BKF an "F" for reasons having to do with non-disclosure of all the ingredients (the product itself got a "D").


                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        I just don't understand why manufacturers are so secretive about their ingredients. Any competitor can have it analyzed, so it is only the consumers that are left out.

                        "D" seems a little harsh given that the only toxic ingredient (according to MSDS) is Oxalic Acid. While Oxalic Acid has some toxicity if you consume it in concentration or quantity, it exists naturally in spinach, rhubarb, and many other foods, and you aren't eating BKF.

                        1. re: Mountquercus

                          It's not as easy to reverse engineer a product as you might think, at least not the products I work with, plastics. You might be able to identify most of the ingredients and even get close on the particle size, but percentages are going to be more difficult especially with ingredients that are similar in either size or composition, or remain when you ash the product to rid yourself of all the organic material. Acid digestion would eliminate some products such as calcite, but might easily eliminate others as well. In this kind of business your formulation is really what you are selling and if this is a dry mixture, then there is low investment to make your own.

                          1. re: mikie

                            <It's not as easy to reverse engineer a product as you might think>

                            This is true, which is why no one has able to confidently reverse engineer Coca Cola. That being said, it is more just the fact of being or not being reverse engineering. It is a matter of developing a culture of practice.

                          2. re: Mountquercus

                            Hi, Mountquercus: ""D" seems a little harsh given that the only toxic ingredient (according to MSDS) is Oxalic Acid."

                            I agree. OTOH, what you don't know (is in it) could harm you or the environment. I have gotten temporary but painful soreness from BKF around my fingernails on occasion when I've used it without gloves. My bad.


                          3. re: kaleokahu

                            I don't let EWG tell me what I should or shouldn't use in my kitchen. This is a private self-appointed watchdog group that puts out a lot of cockamamie stuff.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              All...righty, then...

                              I just happened to find their site, and they claim to have the full ingredient list for BA...

                     use whatever you want.

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                How is 'use whatever' you want a satisfactory reply? This is among the most lengthy, but inconclusive (about something that should be factual) threads.

                                Which cleaners are best for what applications? When does more/less abrasion (and by which cleaner - to some inc me, still unclear) help or hurt? I can't synthesize this thread as there are to many elements going on, and many are contradictory. I can't figure out BA vs BKF, and for which apps. Or why.

                                1. re: danlind3

                                  You can't go wrong starting with Bon Ami for pretty much any pot or pan, but don't use it on glass. Cleaning tempered glass with any abrasive could lead to fracture. You are mainly using an abrasive and elbow grease, so some things clean up more easily with chemical action. This is where BKF shines.

                                  1. re: danlind3

                                    Ah, if it were only that easy. It's kind of like asking which is better Coke or Pepsi, we don't have the formula for either, so other than a subjective opinion there isn't much here in the way of facts. You could use product A or product B and still get your pots and pans clean. Which cleaner to use for which application is certianly unclear. You can't make an intellegent informed decision without information, and that information just isn't available.

                                    Personally I'm a BKF person, my pots and pans are brushed stainless, so there is no concern about abrasiveness, within reason naturally. I might use BA, but I haven't seen it in the store for years.

                                    1. re: mikie

                                      It isn't rocket science. It's not as if your satellite launch will fail if you choose the wrong one. So you use the inexpensive one which everyone agrees is easy on the pans and on the hands. When you run into something for which it falls short, you try something else. However it turns out, it's only a pot. Simple.

                                      Since you are using BKF and it's working for you, you stick with it. Also simple.

                                      1. re: mikie

                                        The selection is pretty simple from my angle. If you want pure abrasive action, then you go for Bon Ami. If you want an acid to dissolve your stains, and then clean them off with mild abrasive, then you use Bar Keeper Friend. If you surface cannot handle acids, like marble or limestone, then don't use Bar Keeper Friend.

                                        It is certainly an easier choice than Colgate vs Crest.

                                        1. re: mikie

                                          Certain stores do carry Bon Ami, and it's worth seeking them out—I get mine at Smart and Final or Target, and I love how it polishes the bright portions of my All Clad stainless without any scratching.

                                        2. re: danlind3

                                          Hi, Dan:

                                          It was a satisfactory reply because our friend GH1618 won't let the Environmental Work Group tell him/her what to use.

                                          Personally, for anything that could possibly scratch, I prefer BA. But I use BKF quite a bit on SS, and I've even used it on copper if a newly-acquired piece is heavily tarnished. I would not use BKF on aluminum, especially not anodized aluminum. Likewise Comet and Ajax, which contain chlorine.

                                          One thing you should take from this thread is that many BKF devotees do not cotton to criticism of this product. It *is* a good product. It's just not my cup of tea for most applications.


                                          1. re: danlind3

                                            Well, for stainless here's where I've settled. Just for stainless.

                                            First, of course, is dish soap and whatever rubbing instrument is recommended by the manufacturer -- scouring pad, yellow sponge with scrubby, the softened hair of vestal virgins, whatever.

                                            Now. If whatever hasn't come off looks like it needs to be scrubbed off, use Bon Ami. Here we're talking about dried-on sauces on the sides of the pot, bits of fond on the bottom, cheese, whatever.

                                            On the other hand, if it looks like it needs to be chemically removed, use the BKF. Here we're talking about rust, lime, brown scorch marks on the bottom of the outside of the pan, black scorch marks on the inside of the pan, stuff like that.

                                            Think of Bon Ami as a sandpaper, but one so fine it won't scratch the wood, just whatever you've spilled on it. Continuing the analogy, Bar Keeper's Friend is a chemical stain remover which also won't damage the wood or some varnishes, but read carefully because it will damage others.

                                            And not wishing to cause a whole nother sidetrack, but sometimes OxyClean is as good or better for some BKF applications and sometimes as good or better for some BA applications.

                                2. re: MikeB3542

                                  Boy, do I feel stupid. Been using BKF on all my marble counters and wondering why they all look dull and scratched. Any advice to try to polish them up? Should I try Bon Ami? Until now, BKF has been my go-to cleanser.

                                  1. re: MrsPatmore

                                    Hi, MP:

                                    BKF is the coarsest of the 4 major scouring powders, so yes, I recommend you try Bon Ami.


                                    1. re: MrsPatmore

                                      BKF is not recommended for marble. The main reason is that oxalic acid in BKF reacts with marble. Marble reacts with any acids really, and not just Bar Keeper Friend. This type of damage is known as acid etch, not due to being coarse.

                                      You can try some of the marble polishers out there, before trying professional restoration.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        I found a few YouTube videos regarding marble restoration. Looks like job that I should leave to professionals. this also explains all the tiny scratch marks on my chrome faucets + the worn surfaces on my fireclay kitchen sinks. And here I thought BKF was less abrasive than Ajax, Comet, etc.

                                        1. re: MrsPatmore

                                          <Looks like job that I should leave to professionals. >

                                          It depends how bad the scratches are. If it is not too bad, I would just ignore the tiny scratches.

                                          < And here I thought BKF was less abrasive than Ajax, Comet, etc.>

                                          They all just different. The damage is largely coming from the acidic nature of the Bar Keeper Friend, not its abrasive.

                                          1. re: MrsPatmore

                                            Hi, MP:

                                            Before you spend $$$, try polishing with 3T baking soda mixed well in 1Q water. Apply it, let it dry for 5 hours, then buff off. Seal afterward if you want.


                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              that certainly sounds like a cheap option. I will give it a try tonight! Thank you for the suggestion.

                                        2. re: MrsPatmore

                                          Patmore -

                                          The marble is etched and scratched by BKF. Hell, lemon will do damage.

                                          I must ask, but why are you using BKF on marble at all ?

                                          There are dedicated stone cleaners from Stonetech, etc - and they do a amazing job as a daily cleaner !

                                          1. re: chefwong

                                            Evidently, I'm an idiot! I will see what I can find for a better product to clean my counter surfaces and other items in my home. It's just that I grew up using bar keepers friend, & I tend to use it everywhere. Including, apparently, places where I should not be using it.

                                            1. re: MrsPatmore

                                              <I tend to use it everywhere.>

                                              I do that often as well. It is a common mistaken. No worry. There are a lot of online marble restoration methods. Look for them.


                                              "Polish your marble surface. Use a mixture of baking soda and water as a polish.

                                              Combine 3 tbs. (45 g) of baking soda to 1 qt (0.9 L) of water and mix well.
                                              Using a clean cloth, apply the mixture to your surface in a thin layer. Allow to dry for about 5 hours.
                                              Use a clean cloth and warm water to rinse the marble surface.

                                              Just play around.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Patmore -

                                                Depends on what surfaces you define at home (I'm a OCD cleaning junkie), but I use those for all types of *stone* countertops


                                                The best way I can describe it, is that it's a light cleaner that add a smigen of gloss/sheen on the final wipe.

                                                I use it on the backsplashes, the kitchen countertops, the ceasarstone in the laundry room, etc

                                                1. re: chefwong

                                                  Hi chefwong

                                                  《I'm a OCD cleaning junkie》

                                                  I'm guilty of this, as well. In my overzealous cleaning madness, I've ruined many things. My spouse does his own laundry - won't let me near his stuff

                                                  Which actually works out okay for me (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)

                                                  Thank you for the link. I will purchase this cleaner and give it a go. Thanks again

                                      2. Thanks, all. I shall stay with Bon Ami and elbow grease and hope to avoid incipient rust or burn streaks. Also good to know about marble. I currently have sort of Corian or clone counters, but in my dream kitchen there are marble counters with the patina of age.