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Bon Ami vs. Bar Keepers Friend: What’s the Difference?

Whether it’s a bathtub, stainless steel cookware, or tile floors, Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend help you keep your home’s hard surfaces spotless.

But you might be wondering: which of these two popular cleaners is the better choice? What’s the difference?

In this comparison of Bon Ami vs. Bar Keepers Friend, you’ll learn the differences between these brands’ product offerings, ingredients, instructions, price, and more.

Plus, I reveal which performed the best in my head-to-head cleaning tests.

By the end, you’ll have all the key facts to decide which cleaner is best for you.


Use the links below to navigate the comparison:


Product Offerings

Bon Ami offers just two products, and both are powdered cleaners (not liquid).

Its original formula has been in use since 1886 and boasts a longstanding reputation for being effective, non-toxic, and reliable for cleaning most messes.

Bon Ami’s newer powder cleanser has a more complex formula, but it’s still non-toxic.

Bon Ami Powder Cleanser

Both products are great for removing hard water scale, rust, tarnish, and scuffs, but the newer formula is more potent and can tackle more difficult messes.

Bar Keepers Friend has a much more extensive collection of cleaners.

Like Bon Ami, Bar Keepers Friend’s basic all-purpose powder cleanser has a long history and has been sold since the 1800s. 

Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser

The simple formula is effective for most day-to-day cleaning tasks and can remove rust, tarnishes, water spots, hard water scales, and other everyday messes.

Besides the powder cleanser, Bar Keepers Friend offers creams, sprays, liquids, and accessories for cleaning hard surfaces.

Unlike Bon Ami, which only makes two general-purpose powders, Bar Keepers Friend offers specialized products for specific cleaning jobs, including creams, sprays, liquids, and accessories.

For example, Bar Keepers Friend’s Cookware Cleanser and Polish is specifically formulated to remove burnt-on food and deep stains from appliances, utensils, and other kitchen wares, such as stainless steel pots and pans.

Its Cooktop Cleaner is designed specifically for glass cooktops, and its Granite & Stone Cleaner is formulated for natural stone surfaces like countertops and tiles.

You can find detailed information about the brand’s entire product lineup on BarKeepersFriend.com or Amazon.

Ingredients

One of the most significant differences between Bar Keepers Friend and Bon Ami is the ingredients.

While some cleaning brands hide their formulas in the fine print, both brands are fully transparent about what’s inside their products.

Both list their formulas within the product pages on their websites.

Here’s where you can find the ingredients on BarKeepersFriend.com:

Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser Ingredients

And here’s where you can find them on BonAmi.com:

Bon Ami Powder Cleanser Ingredients

Below is a concise overview of each brand’s powdered formulas:

Bon Ami 1886 Formula:

  • Soap made from tallow (animal or plant fat) and sodium cocoate (acid salts of coconut oil)
  • Feldspar (powdered)

Bon Ami Powder Cleanser

  • Calcium Carbonate (limestone powder)
  • Feldspar (powdered)
  • Sodium Carbonate (soda ash)
  • Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • C10-C16 Alkylbenzene Sulfonic Acid (a common chemical surfactant)

Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser

  • Mineral Abrasive (mineral powder)
  • Oxalic Acid (active cleaning agent)
  • Linear Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonate (Surfactant)
  • Water-Softening Agent (removes particles that cause hard water stains/scale)

The key difference between the brands is that Bar Keepers Friend products are more abrasive and potent than Bon Ami.

Also, Bon Ami’s powders feature a finer grit than Bar Keepers Friend, making them safer for use on sensitive surfaces such as non-stick pans or induction cooktops.

Bar Keepers Friend’s main active ingredient is oxalic acid. Although it’s an organic compound found in leafy greens like rhubarb, oxalic acid is highly acidic.

Its acidity makes it an extremely effective cleaner but also makes it harsh on skin and lungs (if you inhale the powder) and toxic if ingested in large quantities.

Bon Ami is non-toxic and contains more natural ingredients. Overall, it’s a gentler formula but still gets the job done.

The difference in Bar Keepers Friend and Bon Ami’s formulas is also reflected in each brand’s Environmental Working Group (EWG) rating.

EWG is an objective organization that evaluates products for health and ecological safety. It gave Bon Ami’s cleansers an A rating, but Bar Keepers Friend’s cleansers earned an F.

EWG Safety Ratings
EWG Safety Ratings

How to Use

Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend both provide detailed usage information on their websites and packaging. I’ll review the basics here.

To use either of Bon Ami’s powder cleansers, simply spray the target surface with water and sprinkle a moderate amount of powder over it. 

Use a wet cloth or paper towel to rub the powder into the surface to form a paste. 

Once you’ve cleaned the area, wipe it with a clean towel to remove the paste.

Although some customers state that Bon Ami is effective on non-stick pans and other coated surfaces, the company cautions against it.

Bon Ami powder cleansers are effective on stainless steel, porcelain, enamel, fiberglass, and acrylic surfaces. It’s most commonly used to clean countertops, uncoated glass, toilet bowls, bathroom tile, and grills.

Test your cleanser on a small and inconspicuous area to prevent potential damage to more visible surfaces later.

You’ll follow similar steps when using Bar Keepers Friend powder cleanser.

Wet the surface, sprinkle a liberal amount of powder onto it, and use a damp cloth to rub in the paste. Bar Keepers Friend directs you to wipe away the paste within one minute of application, a caveat that Bon Ami does not include in its instructions.

Since Bar Keepers Friend powders are highly acidic, wear gloves when using them. Since Bon Ami’s formula is gentler, gloves aren’t necessary.

Again, it’s wise to test the cleanser on an inconspicuous area. You can use Bar Keepers Friend on most hard surfaces, but you should NOT use it on gold or silver, polished stone such as marble or granite, colored grout, or lacquered, painted, or mirrored surfaces.

Test Results

Now that you know about each brand’s offerings, ingredients, and uses, let’s address the top question on your mind: which cleanser works better?

To find out, I conducted a head-to-head test of Bon Ami Powder Cleanser vs. Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser on three different surfaces. I chose a variety of surface types to get a comprehensive understanding of performance. 

First, I tested Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend on the bottom of a heavily stained stainless steel pan. The stains and discoloration were so baked into the steel that scrubbing with regular dish soap and water didn’t make any impact (I tried several times).

Bon Ami versus Bar Keepers Friend_Stainless Steel Cookware Test

After sprinkling Bar Keepers Friend on the right side of the pan and scrubbing with water and a sponge, here are the results:

Stainless steel pan after cleaning one side with Bar Keepers Friend
Bar Keepers Friend Results

As you can see, Bar Keepers Friend removed the stains completely. I had to use quite a bit of pressure when scrubbing, but it only took a minute to make the pan look new.

I repeated the same process on the left side with Bon Ami and got similar results. Like Bar Keepers Friend, Bon Ami completely removed the stains and restored the pan.

Stainless steel pan after cleaning the left side with Bon Ami and the right side with Bar Keepers Friend
Bon Ami results (left), Bar Keepers Friend results (right)

The only difference between the two was that I had to scrub for about twice as long with Bon Ami to get the same result.

I conducted another test on the floor of a porcelain-coated cast iron bathtub. The tub’s surface has a slight texture, which prevents slips but also traps dirt.

Bon Ami versus Bar Keepers Friend_Bath Tub Test

Bar Keepers Friend striped the dirt from the tub within seconds, leaving behind a brand new-looking white surface.

Bath tub after cleaning one side with Bar Keepers Friend
Bath tub after cleaning one side with Bar Keepers Friend

In the process, I noticed Bar Keepers Friend not only removed the dirt from the tub but also the green dye from the sponge’s fibers. That shows the potency of the formula.

Bar Keepers Friend removing the dye from a green sponge
Bar Keepers Friend removing the dye from a green sponge

Bon Ami removed most of the dirt but left behind a slight tint of discoloration. I kept scrubbing for another two minutes and was able to remove it, but the extra effort needed proves that the formula is not as potent as Bar Keepers Friend.

Bath tub after cleaning the top with Bon Ami and the bottom with Bar Keepers Friend
Bon Ami results (top), Bar Keepers Friend results (bottom)

Lastly, I scrubbed dirty tile grout with both products, and I didn’t notice any significant differences in performance. Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend did an excellent job removing the dirt and grime that built up between the tiles.

Bon Ami versus Bar Keepers Friend_Tile Grout Test

Overall, I was impressed with the performance of both products. Bar Keepers Friend cleaned the stainless steel pan and porcelain tub more quickly, but both got the job done in the end.

It’s worth noting that the Bar Keepers Friend powder is slightly more clumpy than Bon Ami. I had to shake the bottle to loosen the powder before sprinkling it.

Also, both products have a mild odor, but Bar Keepers Friend’s is more noticeable, especially after you add water and start scrubbing. 

Price

Both Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend cleansers are affordable, so price should not be a deciding factor. That said, Bar Keepers Friend tends to be slightly more expensive.

To get an accurate cost comparison, always compare price per ounce rather than overall.

Check out the comparison chart below to see the current prices of Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend on Amazon.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

What Others Are Saying

Experts have weighed in on both Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend cleansers, and their reviews can help you get an idea of what to expect from either brand.

Let’s review the overall sentiment in the market around these two brands.

The Spruce named Bar Keepers Friend’s Cookware Cleanser & Polish one of the “best stainless steel cleaners.” The experts praised its ability to remove hard water spots and streaks and brighten the steel’s shine better than a dishwasher.

In a separate article about proper laminate floor care, the same blog warned against using cleaners like Bon Ami (or, by extension, Bar Keepers Friend) on laminate floors. The issue is that the abrasive particles in these formulas will dull the laminate.

In its home blog section, Today named Bar Keepers Friend one of the “13 Best Cleaning Products for Your Home.” The reviewers praised Bar Keepers Friend’s powder cleanser for its versatility and ease of use.

Self Magazine chose Bon Ami’s powder cleanser as the best bathroom cleaner in its article “Best Cleaning Products for Tidying Your Space.” The article quoted the founder of a professional cleaning service, who said Bon Ami was amazing at cleaning toilets and tubs.

New York Magazine’s home blog, The Strategist, had even higher praise for Bon Ami’s powder cleanser. It named it number one on its list of the “best all-purpose natural cleaning products for the whole house.” Experts liked its versatility and safe, simple formula.

The New York Times named both Bar Keepers Friend and Bon Ami powders good options for cleaning stuck-on food from stainless steel pots and pans. However, the reviewers added that plain baking soda is their preference, as even gentle cleansers can sometimes damage sensitive surfaces.

Bar Keepers Friend is endorsed by some well-known brands, including All-Clad, Calphalon, Kohler, and Electrolux. These brands recommend Bar Keepers Friend to their customers to remove stubborn stains, rust, and discoloration from their products.

Finally, experts at The Kitchn had high praise for Bon Ami powders. They cited the brand’s longstanding and well-earned reputation for being effective, no-fuss, and reliable for any kitchen cleaning job.

Bottom Line: Should You Use Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend?

Now that you know the differences between Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend, it’s time to pick.

But, before I give my recommendation, let’s quickly recap:

  • Bon Ami offers just two powdered cleansers, whereas Bar Keepers Friend sells two powders and an extensive lineup of cream, liquid, and spray-type cleaners.
  • Bon Ami’s original 1886 formula has just two natural ingredients (soap and feldspar), and both of its products are non-toxic and highly rated by the EWG. Bar Keepers Friend’s powder formulas use oxalic acid, a toxic compound.
  • Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend powder cleansers are used the same way. Just wet the target surface and sprinkle the powder –– forming a paste –– before wiping it away.
  • Bar Keepers Friend is more potent and cleans tough stains with less effort. But with enough elbow grease, you can get the same results with Bon Ami.
  • Bar Keepers Friend is slightly more expensive, but both cleansers are affordable.
  • Both brands are highly-rated, earning praise from several media outlets and cleaning experts.

Ultimately, Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend are both longstanding brands with excellent reputations. Both brands are highly effective and safe when used according to the instructions.

If you’re dealing with stubborn stains and need the best-performing cleanser, go with Bar Keepers Friend.

If you’re looking for an all-purpose cleaner without harsh chemicals, Bon Ami is a solid choice. Keep in mind; you might need to work a little harder to remove stubborn messes.

If you’re ready to buy or want to learn more, check out Bar Keepers Friend on Amazon and BarKeepersFriend.com and Bon Ami on Amazon and BonAmi.com.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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