How To Renew Rusted Stainless Steel With Bar Keepers Friend

Whether it's the pan passed down for generations or your favorite tried and true countertop appliance, noticing rust development on stainless steel can be frustrating. It's not always simple to remove rust, and while you may think you need to toss out that item, consider cleaning it instead. Bar Keepers Friend, a type of powdered cleansing product, works well on a variety of non-porous surfaces, including stainless steel. With just a bit of scrubbing, you may notice that old silverware or even the edge of the refrigerator is coming back to life.

Bar Keepers Friend is a versatile cleaning agent you can use in the kitchen, bathroom, outdoors, and garage to revitalize various surfaces. The company produces a range of products, but Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser, a formula originally developed in 1882, is the best to handle dirt and grime, including rust buildup. It can power through grease, stuck on paint, and water stains. When it comes to rust, this product is one of the best options for removing corrosion without creating additional scratches or damage to the surface. It's gentle enough to protect the polish on your stainless steel even as it works through rust buildup. 

While this product is great on stainless steel, it shouldn't be used on marble, stone, uncoated cast iron, and nonstick pans, as it may remove those exterior surface applications or damage the surface. It's also not advisable for plastic or wood.

Why Bar Keepers Friend works so well

Bar Keepers Friend is non-abrasive, though it has a chemical composition that will interact with the rust and corrosion on stainless steel to loosen it and allow it to be removed. Because it doesn't contain abrasive components, it won't scratch the softer exterior of the metal. It also doesn't include chlorine or any caustic ingredients that could damage the surface of some metals. The company doesn't divulge the exact formula for the product but does share the main ingredient that causes it to work so well: oxalic acid.

Oxalic acid is capable of removing mineral deposits, including rust, from the surface of metals. These minerals bond with the surface of the metal, making it nearly impossible to simply wash off. Oxalic acid is a natural substance found in chives, parsley, and rhubarb, but it's also powerful enough to eat away at the buildup of surface rust on your metal items. Its acidic nature allows this natural component to work as a brightening agent.

Overall, Bar Keepers Friend is considered safe to use on food-related surfaces, but as with any cleaning agent, you should wash it off thoroughly. The company does warn that ingesting large amounts of it could cause illness in some people.

How to use Bar Keepers Friend to get rid of rust

You can use Bar Keepers Friend on most types of items made of stainless steel, such as rusted kitchen sinks. Any type of cleaner with oxalic acid would be well-suited to the task, but make sure you follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use.

The first step is typically to wet down the surface of the item you wish to clean and then sprinkle some of the powder on top of the rusted area. You don't need to — and shouldn't — let it sit on the surface for too long. Start rubbing the area with a non-scratch pad or sponge. Use a circular motion in the direction of the grain of the metal to penetrate deeply into the small grooves.

After a few moments, you'll likely notice the soap becoming brown-tinged as the rust pulls off. You can then rinse the area thoroughly. If some rust remains, repeat the process. You may need to apply a bit of pressure for heavily rusted areas. Be sure to rinse thoroughly so all of the cleaning material is removed before you use the stainless steel item for any type of food application. Once you've tackled these rusted areas, you can continue with a deep clean of your kitchen so everything is refreshed and revitalized.