I’ll never clean my dirty, scorched cookware without this time-saving $2 find again

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Rachel Dennis/CNN Underscored
Rachel Dennis/CNN Underscored

A lot of cooking happens in my household, which means the pots and pans in my kitchen are in constant use. What does this also mean? That I’m spending wasting way too much time cleaning dirty dishes. Tackling unsightly scorch marks and burned-on oil is nothing short of a challenge and the last thing anyone wants to do after cooking.

I’ve tried just about every cleaning product out there to get my pans looking new again but could never find one that did the job thoroughly. When I heard the hype around Bar Keepers Friend, I couldn’t wait to swap my old cleaning method for the multipurpose scouring powder that cleaning experts love and social media users claim can transform even the most hopeless-looking pans. (For those who don’t know, a scouring powder is an abrasive cleaning powder used to scrub hard surfaces. To use it, mix the powder with water to transform it into a paste.) This product has been around since the 1800s, and after watching video upon video of it being used to restore neglected pans to their former glory, I could see why it’s still around today.

Bar Keepers Friend Multipurpose Household Cleanser and Polish


Bar Keepers Friend is an acidic powdered cleanser that can be used to clean surfaces like glass, stainless steel, ceramic, bronze, aluminum and more. To use, simply wet the surface you plan to clean with water, sprinkle some of the powder onto the surface, scrub with a wet sponge for a minute and then rinse off.

Bar Keepers Friend also promises to tackle everything from water spots to stubborn rust stains (more on that later) and can be used on surfaces ranging from stainless steel to porcelain. According to Jolie Kerr, a cleaning expert and contributor to CNN Underscored and Better Homes & Gardens, part of its effectiveness when it comes to cleaning stainless steel can be attributed to oxalic acid, “which can help to cut through calcium deposits and other mineral buildup that can cause discoloration on stainless steel.” The cleaner also contains micro-abrasives, which she explains are “fine particulates used in certain cleaning agents to lend scouring power.”

To see how well Bar Keepers Friend tackles tasks in and out of the kitchen, I tested the cleaner on discolored pans, grout and rust stains in the shower and sink. See my findings below — and whether it’s become a staple in my cleaning arsenal.

What I liked about it

Lives up to its promise of removing rust stains

I was shocked at how well and how quickly this cleaning powder tackled the rust stains on my tiled shower floor. Within a minute of applying the powder and scrubbing the area, the stains were completely gone — and that’s with minimal scrubbing on my part.

Though Bar Keepers Friend isn’t the only way to remove rust stains — I’ve also had success using Comet — the latter required a considerable amount of elbow grease before the stains finally lifted, and that was after letting it sit for a minute.

Bar Keepers Friend also did an impressive job removing the rust stains around my sink plug, which I’d previously been unable to remove with Comet. While it did take longer for the stains in the sink to vanish, after three minutes of scrubbing, the job was done.

Cleans stainless steel pans well

Like many of the videos I’ve seen of it in action, the scouring powder left my stainless steel pan sparkling, though the results weren’t as strong on my more heavily scorched pan (I’ll get into that soon). To test the product, I took two different approaches — leaving it on for 10 minutes on one half of the pan (as I’ve seen other people do) and using it as the packaging instructs on the other half — which is to scrub within a minute of application and then rinse the residue off.

Within minutes of scrubbing the side that had the cleaner left on it, the powder had restored the discolored pan and lifted the blackened spots. With the other half, after rinsing the paste away, I could see the area was still discolored in places and the cleaner had failed to remove all the black spots. Because my sponge still had some cleaner on it, I scrubbed that side again and was able to remove any remaining spots in around 30 seconds.

Leaves your fixtures sparkling

I typically use Dawn dish soap, but Bar Keepers Friend made my shower fixtures sparkle with minimum effort. To clean the fixtures, I applied the powder to the softer side of the sponge and immediately started scrubbing for a couple of minutes before rinsing the residue off with water. The results? Shiny shower fixtures free of water spots.

What I didn’t like about it

Very burned pans will still take a while to clean

Bar Keepers Friend works well but it isn’t a magical fix, and cleaning very stained pans will still require some elbow grease. It took around 10 minutes of continuous scrubbing for me to clean one section of a discolored pan. I also tried to clean the blackened bottom of that same pan but gave up after being unable to make a dent in the area after two attempts.

For this reason, you might need a stronger cleaner if you have pans with heavy staining and don’t have the arm strength or patience to stick it out with Bar Keepers Friend. One tougher alternative, according to Kerr, is The Pink Stuff, a highly abrasive cleaning paste. Since it is so abrasive, she also advises exercising caution when using it, as it can cause significant damage. Bar Keepers Friend also has its Superior Cookware Cleanser and Polish, which has a stronger formulation than the powder I was reviewing.

Mixed results in the bathroom

While Bar Keepers Friend worked beautifully to clean fixtures and remove hard-to-clean rust stains, the scouring powder fell flat when it came to cleaning tile grout. After scrubbing with the cleaner, there was no noticeable difference in the area that was cleaned, even after letting the product sit for a while and using a considerable amount of scrubbing pressure and speed.

Bottom line

Thanks to its versatility, Bar Keepers Friend is a trusty product to have on hand. At $2 for a 21-ounce canister of powder, a little bit goes a long way, and if stored properly, it won’t expire. While you shouldn’t expect Bar Keepers Friend to do all the work for you (tougher cleaning jobs will still require you to put your back into it), Bar Keepers Friend has become my new go-to product to clean my cookware, and I can’t imagine using anything else on rust stains.

Rachel Dennis/CNN Underscored
Rachel Dennis/CNN Underscored

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.

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