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No intense scrubbing required.

By Sara Tane
March 03, 2021
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Sometimes life feels like an impossible mission to keep all of your things clean. The moment you get your bedroom in order, the interior of your car is suddenly in shambles. Right when you deep clean your stovetop, you realize it's also time to scrub the inside of your refrigerator. And no matter how hard you try, keeping your pots and pans clean is much easier said than done. From Dutch ovens to sheet pans to ceramic baking dishes, I think we can all agree that it's nearly impossible to avoid those cooked-on stains and grime. Just like all other aspects of your life that require a weekly or monthly deep clean, it's time to set aside some time to keep your prized kitchenware in tip-top shape.

I think the most intimidating part of cleaning cookware can be knowing which products to use. Ask me to make a vinegar solution or a DIY baking soda concoction and you've completely lost me. I did my time in a chemistry lab in college, and I'd never like to return to that again. That's why I look to Bar Keepers Friend for all of my kitchenware cleaning needs. It's affordable, easy to use, and universally effective on everything from porcelain to ceramic to glass dishes to serving ware.

So, what is this magic powder? The primary ingredient is oxalic acid, and this product has been sold since 1882. What's with the name? The story goes that this product was sold to tavern owners to help clean and polish their brass rails. The product was an immediate sensation, thus dubbing it "Bar Keepers Friend." 

Today, you'll notice that Bar Keepers Friend goes beyond the OG cleanser. They offer a powder specifically formulated to tackle your dirty cookware and dishware. They have products specifically for coffee makers, cooktops, granite and stone countertops, and even your toilet bowl. They really thought of everything. Go ahead and give these products a try if you're curious, but for now, we're going to be talking about their tried and true cleanser.

Bar Keepers Friend Powder
Credit: Target.com

Wondering why you can't just use baking soda? Don't get me wrong — baking soda can be an effective cleaning product, but BKF is something completely different. For starters, baking soda is alkaline and BKF is acidic. Without getting too Bill Nye on you, this is an important distinction to make because the stains that you're targeting on pots and pans are calcium, lime, rust, and hard water stains, all of which are basic. I am no firefighter, but I can tell you that you shouldn't fight fire with fire, you know? Therefore, if you've got an acidic product in there, like BKF, you'll be more successful in washing away those stains. There are also detergents in BKF which help to soften the grease and dirt so that they can be easily washed away. 

Before you get too excited about this miracle product, let's review some materials that you should keep this stuff far away from. Wooden cutting boards, nonstick pans, unseasoned cast irons, marble, granite, and plastic are not a friend of Bar Keepers Friend. You can't please everyone, okay? But don't worry, that still leaves you with stainless steel, sheet pans, porcelain, copper, enamel-coated Dutch ovens, and glass baking dishes, all of which fraternize nicely with BKF. You can even use it to spot clean your stovetop and the glass window on your oven. After all, sparkly clean kitchenware belongs in a clean kitchen.

Alright, so now that we know who plays nicely with BKF, let's go over how to use it. First things first, it's always a good idea to wear gloves when you're working with kitchen cleaning chemicals. Because it's in powder form, you'll need to sprinkle it on whatever you're cleaning, then add a few drops of water to turn it into a paste. I know, I know — I swore against any homemade pastes, but this one is as easy as they come. Even a chem lab delinquent like me can figure my way around it. Once you've got a paste, let it sit for about a minute or so on the cookware. I know it might seem tempting to let it sit for 10 minutes or an hour because intuition tells you that the longer you let the chemicals sit, the cleaner your products will be. That is false. If you let this stuff sit for longer than a minute, it can scratch the surface of whatever you're cleaning, which I assure you is much more of an eye sore than the grime and dark spots you were after in the first place. 

Pots and pans hanging on a kitchen wall

After you've let the paste sit for a minute or so, it's time to wipe it off. It is crucial to avoid anything scratchy here, like steel wool or harsh scour pads. Instead, use a clean sponge, gentler scour pads, or a microfiber cloth. A *little* scrub is ok, but anything that is super scratchy is going to damage the surface.

Now, let's get one thing straight. Dutch ovens and sheet pans are never going to look absolutely brand spanking new again. If you go to a friend's house and this is how their pots and pans look, it doesn't mean that they have mastered the art of deep cleaning… it means that they don't cook. This stuff can work serious wonders on your kitchenware, but let's manage expectations here and remind ourselves that it's not going to look like it did out of the box. 

Yes, life is just one endless cycle of dirtying things and then trying to clean them, but if we never dirtied our pots, then we wouldn't be cooking. And that would be very sad. So no pouting, let's just get to cleaning with this tried and true friend.