Bar Keepers Friend vs Baking Soda – Which Is Better to Clean With?

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Bar Keepers Friend is a popular cleaning product that has a ton of uses around the home. And more specifically, in the kitchen. It can be used to clean stainless steel, pots and pans, flatware, glass stovetops, kitchen backsplashes, and a lot more. Another popular cleaning agent, baking soda, is a common item to have handy in the kitchen because of its cleaning and deodorizing abilities. So if you’re wondering about the difference between Bar Keepers Friend vs baking soda, we’ve got it covered. In this post, we’ll go over which items you should and shouldn’t clean with each.

Ingredients

First, let’s talk about the difference in ingredients with Bar Keepers Friend vs baking soda. While both these things make excellent cleaners, they’re quite different in terms of ingredients/chemical makeup.

What’s in Bar Keepers Friend?

The ingredients for Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser are listed in the table below. Their composition percentages are according to the latest material safety data sheet (MSDS).

IngredientPercentage
Glass oxide85-94%
Oxalic acid5-10%
Benzenesulfonic acid1-5%

Glass oxide is used as a very fine abrasive in Bar Keepers Friend. It helps break up hard-to-clean grime or other substances, making the surface easier to clean.

Oxalic acid is used to remove rust and stains. It’s commonly used in stain-removing products such as certain laundry detergents and bleaches.

Benzenesulfonic acid is a surfactant. Surfactants, sometimes referred to as surface-active agents, are a common ingredient in laundry detergent. Essentially, they help trap dirt which makes it easier to wipe or wash away.

What exactly is baking soda?

Baking soda has only one ingredient: sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is simply a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO₃. If you’ve ever baked cookies, muffins, or a cake, you’ve probably used it. It’s a leavener that helps baked goods to rise so that they have a lighter, fluffier texture.

So what purpose does it have as a cleaning product? When combined with water, it’s a powerful cleaning agent that’s great at dissolving dirt and grime. Baking soda is also a fine abrasive which makes most surfaces easier to clean.

Safety and toxicity

Next, let’s discuss the toxicity of Bar Keepers Friend vs baking soda. If you have small children or pets, you might be concerned with the safety of these products. Plus it’s always important to be aware of the dangers and precautions when using any cleaning product.

Bar Keepers Friend

According to the most recent material safety data sheet (MSDS), Bar Keepers Friend Powder Cleanser is classified as “not hazardous”. However, the ingredients in it are considered toxic, especially if ingested. There are precautions that should be taken for safe handling of the product.

Avoid contact with eyes and skin. After using Bar Keepers Friend, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you get any on your clothes, wash the clothes before wearing them again. And with the powdered cleansers, avoid creating or breathing in any dust.

Baking soda

Baking soda is considered non-toxic when used in small amounts for cooking and baking. However, it can be poisonous if large amounts of it are ingested. Because baking soda has a high sodium content, if too much is ingested, the body will attempt to correct the imbalance by drawing water into the digestive system. This can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea.

In terms of cleaning, it is safe to use in larger amounts if needed. Just make sure to keep it away from pets and children. Some people, especially those with sensitive skin, may experience irritation if baking soda comes into contact with their skin. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning with it.

Bar Keepers Friend uses

Bar Keepers Friend products
Photo: Bar Keepers Friend via Facebook

Below are several uses for Bar Keepers Friend in the kitchen plus directions for how to use it properly. We have a post with more uses for Bar Keepers Friend here.

Dishes

Bar Keepers Friend is very effective at removing light scratches made by knives and other utensils on ceramic and porcelain dishes. These marks and scratches build up over time and may appear gray or black. Thankfully, they are easily removed.

Grab some Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser or Soft Cleanser and apply it onto a damp non-abrasive sponge or rag. Spread it over the surface of your dish and wait 10-15 seconds. Scrub the dish until the marks lighten or disappear. Repeat this process as needed to eliminate the scratches. Then rinse thoroughly and dry.

Pots and pans

It’s a common mistake – you were making dinner in your favorite pan and turned the heat up too high for too long. Now your once pristine pan has charred bits of food stuck to the inside that won’t seem to come off. Before you give up and throw it out, try this.

Take Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser and sprinkle it along with some warm water on the pan so that it makes a paste. Spread the paste over the surface of the pan with a soft sponge or rag and let it sit for one minute (no longer!). Using your sponge or rag, rub the paste in a circular motion. Then wash in hot soapy water and rinse. Repeat this process as needed until the pan is clean.

Warning: While BKF is great for enameled cast iron and stainless steel pans, don’t use it on nonstick pans. The nonstick coating can be worn off by the cleaner.

Stainless steel appliances

Stainless steel appliances are ever popular because of their durability and stylishness. They also prove to be great at showing every smudge, fingerprint, and oily residue from cooking. Bar Keepers Friend makes a stainless steel cleaner that makes cleaning stainless steel appliances a breeze.

It can also be used on fixtures, hubcaps, tools, sinks, and more. Just spray the cleaner on the surface and wipe with a soft rag. Then flip the rag to the dry side and buff away any remaining cleaner.

Bar Keepers Friend can remove or reduce the appearance of scratches on stainless steel as well. We have a post with instructions here.

Glass stovetops and oven doors

If you do a lot of cooking at home, you know oil and greasy residues build up quick on the stovetop and the inside of the oven door. Prior to finding Bar Keepers Friend, I was using a regular all-purpose cleaner to clean my glass stovetop. It usually got the job done but with a lot more effort.

Thankfully BKF makes a cooktop cleaner that is similar to their regular powdered cleanser but with more grease-fighting power. Spread the cleaner evenly over the stovetop or oven door with a damp rag or non-abrasive sponge. Let it sit for one minute then wipe with a damp rag or sponge and dry the surface.

What not to clean with Bar Keepers Friend

Below is a list of surfaces that you shouldn’t use Bar Keepers Friend on. Using Bar Keepers Friend on these surfaces may cause discoloration or damage.

  • Porous surfaces like untreated wood and concrete
  • Nonstick pots and pans
  • Granite or marble
  • Mirrored surfaces
  • Lacquered or painted surfaces

Baking soda uses

Below are just a few of the ways you can use baking soda to clean items in your kitchen.

Pots and pans

If you have burnt or baked-on residue on your pots and pans that’s making them hard to clean, baking soda does wonders. Place the pot into the sink and sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda in the pot. Then fill with hot water and a few drops of dish soap and let it sit for around 20-30 minutes. The baking soda will help break up the burnt bits and make the pot or pan much easier to clean.

Warning: If your pot or pan is aluminum, we’d recommend skipping the baking soda. Baking soda may cause discoloration on aluminum surfaces.

Microwaves

Most of us have done it – microwaved something messy and sauce-y like pasta and neglected to stop the microwave before it makes a big mess. Thankfully baking soda makes microwaves super easy to clean! In a small microwave-safe bowl, add two tablespoons of baking soda plus a cup of water. Mix thoroughly.

Then place the bowl into the microwave and let it run for 5 minutes. With an oven mitt or kitchen towel, carefully remove the bowl and wipe the microwave clean. That’s it!

Stovetops

Have a cooked-on mess on your stovetop? In a small bowl, add a generous amount of baking soda and mix with water (add a few drops at a time) until it makes a paste. Apply the paste to the affected area and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Then wipe away with a clean paper towel or kitchen towel. For really hard to clean spots, repeat the process but add a few drops of white vinegar to the paste as well.

What not to clean with baking soda

Below is a list of surfaces that you shouldn’t use baking soda on. Using baking soda on these surfaces may cause discoloration or damage.

  • Antique silver
  • Gold-plated items
  • Aluminum

Bar Keepers Friend vs baking soda

Both Bar Keepers Friend and baking soda are great cleaners for the kitchen and elsewhere in the home. They’re both effective on a wide range of surfaces and they’re easy to use. Depending on the surface you’re cleaning, one may be more effective than the other.

If you can get the job done with baking soda, that’s preferable in our opinion. It’s much cheaper than Bar Keepers Friend and you likely already have some on hand. If baking soda doesn’t cut it, Bar Keepers Friend should.