Bar Keepers Friend, Acrylic, and a Clarification

Heather says:

So I’ve been caught. I gave conflicting advice. I’m sorry.

*gasp* goes the readership

In one post I suggest using Bar Keepers Friend on acrylic surfaces and in a more recent post I suggest only following your manufacturer’s advice at the risk of etching / scratching an acrylic surface.

So which is it, Heather, which is it?

Well, both. It depends on your manufacturer. That’s a big CMA*, I know.

*I didn’t say the word, am I still in trouble? Are you pursing your lips and shaking your head in a disappointed fashion at me?

Let’s talk about acrylic:

When we’re in the bathroom -metaphorically, I’m not going to be standing outside the water closet and harassing you while you do your business- and we say “acrylic” we actually mean “acrylic resin.”

So what’s acrylic resin?

a glassy thermoplastic made by polymerizing acrylic acid or methacrylic acid or a derivative of either and used for cast and molded parts or as coatings and adhesives

Ooh, look at that, it’s not that specific, is it? Polymerizing is the process by which you turn monomers (the basic molecule) into a polymer (a chain of the basic molecule).

If all acrylic resins were made of the same polymer you’d get a specific chemical formula for that answer. Since we don’t have one chemical formula and if I’m not mistaken, each manufacturer is going to have a proprietary formula. Some will be more impervious than others. The good news is many manufacturers have a list of approved cleaning products on their websites or are happy to help when you call their consumer hotlines.

So my answer is as follows:

When used properly, Bar Keepers Friend SHOULD be safe for your acrylic surfaces. However, you must follow the directions for use completely, up to and including rinsing thoroughly when finished. Additionally, before using Barkeepers Friend on your acrylic fixtures, check with your manufacturer’s recommendations to prevent damaging the surface.

And here is another point to consider:

Do not scrub the dry BKF into your acrylic surface.

Wait, wait, what?! I thought that’s what it was for?

No!

When using BKF on surfaces, such as acrylic, you want to make sure the surface is already wet. Apply the BKF. Now give the BKF a little time to dissolve into solution -oh my word, will she stop with the chemistry already?- Once the oxalic acid is in solution it can get to work.  When you are removing things like soap scum from the surface of your tub, you really want the chemical energy to do the work for you. Remember when we’re cleaning we use several kinds of energy to accomplish our goal:

  • chemical energy,
  • thermal (heat) energy
  • and physical energy

Remember, with great power, comes great responsibility.

Each of these energies brings with it the potential to damage your surface, so proceed with caution. If you sprinkled dry Bar Keepers Friend onto your surface and attacked it with a sponge or rag, you have the potential to scratch the ever loving snot out of your tub (yes, that is the technical term). If you applied the Bar Keepers Friend to a damp acrylic surface and forgot about it completely, there is a chance, albeit small, that the acid reaction could do more than remove soap scum. Heat really isn’t an issue in our bathtub scenario, unless you break out a propane torch, but that seems a little excessive, no?

Good luck and I hope this helped!

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Related Posts:


Comments

  1. says

    This advice is true for all plastics and composites. What works on one may not work on another, and also sometimes what you’re NOT supposed to do may be exactly the right thing… Test patches are your friend. :)

  2. Betty says

    I was just reading yesterday that BKF is one of the cleaning products that should never be used! The chemical make up is bad for you, I for one don’t plan to eat it or take long lingering whiffs of it. I am with you that it is wonderful stuff, just use it intelligently.

  3. says

    Betty, do you remember where you read that?
    Oxalic acid, the active ingredient in BKF, is naturally occurring in many foods (tea, rhubarb for example) That said, it is still an acid, heck even vinegar will pickle your fingers if you are stupid about how you use it. (I use the term pickle loosely, do not contact me with horror stories about some dude who got high and cleaned his counters and then ATE HIS OWN FINGERS) ;)

  4. Sasha says

    Is there much difference, performance-wise, between the powdered version and the liquid version of Bar Keepers Friend? Not just on acrylic but for general use, as well…?

  5. says

    Sasha, I have never used the liquid the version. I have no specific reason for not getting it, I just got into the habit of buying one kind and never felt the need to give the other a try.

  6. Jane says

    I didn’t know that there was a powdered version of BKF, but I do know that the liquid has such a strong odor that even though the top is closed, it totally permeates the area below my sink. I agree with Betty that the chemicals are bad for you — based on the smell alone! Why not just use Bon Ami. My grandmother (and I am 64!) used it, and I feel it’s still the best — Never scratched, never will. Give it a shot. I love it!

  7. casey says

    Is BKF safe for use on granite? I checked the website and granite is not listed as a ‘do not us on’. However it also says it is only safe on non-porous countertops like Corian, and i can’t remember if granite is porous or not.

    This is to remove some cardboard that got glued to the granite with chicken grease.