Does Bar Keeper's Friend really work?

bar keepers friend cleanerWe often talk about how imperative it is that your brewing equipment is kept clean and sanitized, we've recently discovered the wonders of Bar Keepers Friend, a wonderful cleaning product that will clean your brewing kettles and keep them bright and shiny!

The beauty of Bar Keepers Friend is that while its name may refer to its use in keeping a bar clean (it began as a polish for brass rails in turn of the century taverns), it's an all-purpose product that is used to clean all kinds of stainless steel products such as pots and pans, acrylics like bathtubs and counters and cooktops.

It will literally clean the shit stains out of toilets and it can fix those bathroom tiles so they look good as new.

Barkeeper's friend users the original 1882 formula to deliver cleaning power for any stain on any non-porous surface. It's a bleach-free product that easily removes rust, tarnish, mineral deposits, and tough stains.

It's used by homeowners, hobbyists, musicians (such as drum cymbals), and professional cleaners worldwide and of course, bar keepers whose bars need their brass shined!

For beer brewing, you can use it to clean all your stainless steel gear like taps but its major use comes from cleaning your brewing kettles. 

Check out this before and after picture when used in a kettle:

Looks like this cleaner is the real deal eh?
Here's some Amazon reviews from actual users of this wonder cleaner:

"This stuff is amazing! It removes shower/faucet/commode scale and deposits like nothing else I have ever used. If used for the right cleaning jobs, this is a product that will surpass your expectations and have you thinking of new applications, such as cleaning tools and equipment that have gained a little rust. It restored luster to old faucets that I had given up on ever looking decent again.

As a retired PhD chemist, I am always interested in great home cleaning products and how they work. One active ingredient in Bar Keepers Friend is oxalic acid, an extremely strong chelating agent that I am familiar with from the laboratory. Without getting too technical, a chelating agent binds super strongly to metals (magnesium, calcium, iron, etc.). Since bathroom scale is mainly magnesium carbonate with some calcium carbonate, oxalic acid reacts with the scale, sucking out the metal and turning the carbonate to carbon dioxide (a gas), making the scale magically disappear. If you are interested, the chemical reaction for oxalic acid reacting with magnesium carbonate is HOOCCOOH + MgCO3 --> MgOOCCOO + CO2 + H2O. Similarly, rust is iron oxide, and the oxalic acid binds to the iron, breaking up the rust and making it disappear when rinsed away."

"I had got some gunk on the outside of a Cuisinart stainless steel pan which I was very fond of, and could NOT get the crap off. Not soaking, not detergent, not soaking in detergent, not scrubbers nor steel wool, not even painting it with ketchup and leaving it for several hours. Then the housekeeper put it in the dishwasher and the gunk turned into something like thick, permanent enamel.

So I went on Google and looked up gunk on stainless steel pans, got recommendations from real people, and ordered three things from Amazon. The first to arrive was Bar Keepers Friend, and I used it, and it worked. I’m sure I will enjoy Goof-Off and Goo Gone when they get here, but I don’t need them for this pan. I made a paste, painted it on half the pan, left it for an hour, came back, scrubbed with a no-scratch scrubber, and it came off. It did take some strength and real scrubbing, but that’s good for me. And it’s gone."

"This stuff is like magic! Straight up wizardry. I love it! I initially bought it to clean my sink, which is porcelain and even though it's not even a year old, is just holding on to all the coffee and tea staining. I'd say it took less than a minute after making a paste with Bar Keepers Friend to clean the sink up to a nearly new shine.

Taking a look at the can its easy to find bunches of ways to use this stuff and each application is better than the last. Stainless steel, porcelain, ceramic, copper, brass, fiberglass, corian, chrome and aluminum. See? Magic!

Anyhow, I've used it in the sink, in the bathroom, to clean stainless steel pots and pans on a 17 year old Revereware tea kettle (which I thought would never be restored to its former loveliness, btw). This is a product that I will buy again and again and will happily recommend to anyone."

How does Bar Keepers Friend Work?

Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish has become the premium house-hold cleanser used by many a home brewer. Using a non-bleach, plant based cleanser plus mineral scrubbing micro particles, BKF attacks tough stains from two directions. 

The oxalic acid, found in plants such as rhubarb, attacks hard rust and lime stains at the molecular level, breaking up the bonds that hold them together. Once those bonds are broken down, the mineral micro scrubbing particles move in to finish the job, polishing as they remove dirty brewing deposits. 

How to use Bar Keeper's friend on a brewing kettle

  • Wet surface to be cleaned, perhaps give the brewing kettle a rinse out with a hose so any debris is soaked.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of the cleanser on the dampened surface.
  • Rub with a wet cloth or sponge. You can add more BKF as you need and don't be afraid to use some elbow grease.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water within one minute of application.
  • Then wipe the surface dry.

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