Bar Keepers Friend

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A can of Bar Keepers Friend

Bar Keepers Friend is a cleaning agent powder sold since 1882. It was invented by a chemist in Indianapolis, Indiana, where it continues to be manufactured.[1]


A trademark for the product (No. 17,313) was filed on October 2, 1889 by George William Hoffman, who asserted the name had been used since January, 1887.[2] The formula contains oxalic acid, which is found in rhubarb.

In the 1950s, the product became the base of a line of cleaning products made by Indianapolis-based SerVaas Laboratories,[3] which started producing and carrying products under the Bar Keepers Friend name.

Active ingredients[edit]

According to the 2015 material safety data sheet, the ingredients are feldspar, linear sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate (DDBSA), and oxalic acid.[4] Unlike more abrasive cleaning powders such as Comet and Ajax, Bar Keepers Friend uses oxalic acid as its primary active ingredient.[5] A similar abrasive cleaning product, Zud Heavy Duty Cleanser, also contains oxalic acid.[6] Prolonged use and extended skin contact may cause skin peeling and contact dermatitis, which is avoided by wearing gloves.

Use and effectiveness[edit]

In 1994, Consumer Reports found Bar Keepers Friend to perform on a par with Mr. Clean for removing baked-on soil, tea stains, and other pot stains, and that it was better at removing rust.[5] While recommending Bar Keepers Friend for a variety of household cleaning uses, author Heather Solos warned that it should not be used to clean silverware, pewter, or real marble.[7]

The Bar Keepers Friend logo represents the swinging doors of a saloon. According to the president of SerVaas Laboratories, Paul SerVaas, although some people complained during Prohibition, "the name was never changed. It's been Bar Keepers Friend since 1882."

Uses of Bar Keepers Friend that are not noted on its label include removing the brown or yellow stains caused by sunscreen containing avobenzone [8] and hard water stains on windows.


  1. ^ "The Bar Keepers Friend Story". Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office". 49 (13). 1889: 1849. Retrieved 2015-03-30. 
  3. ^ Schouten, Cory (May 12, 2011). "Bar Keepers Friend parent lands new headquarters". Indianapolis Business Journal. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Safety Data Sheet" (PDF). Servaas Laboratories. December 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Indiana Business Magazine, Friday, April 1, 1994
  6. ^ "Oxalic Acid from OTC Products". Retrieved 2015-03-31. 
  7. ^ Home-Ec 101: Using Bar Keepers Friend, February 18, 2009
  8. ^ "Sunscreen and Laundry Advice". Retrieved Sep 16, 2013. 

External links[edit]