March 11, 2021 3 min read
Let’s say you’re about to make yourself a nice dinner, and you reach over to grab your favourite carbon steel knife only to discover that it has been stored improperly and is now rusty! No need to panic or wreck friendships over this; we have you covered.
What if I told you there was a cleaner from the late 1800s, in powder form, commonly used to clean steel sinks that would make this rusty mess go away like magic? You’d probably say “no way” or “that’s too good to be true”, but such a product does exist, and we are proud to add it to our lineup finally. Everyone, please give a warm welcome to Bar Keepers Friend!
In 1882 a chemist named George William Hoffman discovered by accident that the Oxalic Acid in rhubarb was amazing at removing tarnish from pots. He crafted a formula that Barkeepers could use to polish their brass rails, hence the famous name. Now it's a household name, perfect for all manner of home and professional applications.
Nathan's cast-iron dutch oven, half soiled with years of fried chicken and braised meat, half cleaned with Bar Keepers Friend.
We’ve been using Bar Keepers Friend in our stores for quite some time, and we may have even recommended you pick some up if you ever had a knife you couldn’t stop from rusting. Why it took us so long to sell it, we’ll never know. It truly is shocking what this stuff can do. Whether you’re cleaning a small spot of rust or restoring an heirloom knife that’s been dug out of an attic, Bar Keepers Friend can handle it.
You can find it in a few different forms, but the good old-fashioned powder is really what works best for cleaning rust off of knives. Dust the rusty parts of the knife in Bar Keepers Friend, add a tiny splash of water and let it sit for a few minutes. Maybe open that bottle of wine you got for dinner and pour yourself a glass. After 5 minutes or so, you should be able to scrub the knife gently, and the rust will disappear like magic!
We recommend starting with a sponge or cloth, something not too abrasive, to avoid scratching the knife. If the rust proves to be too strong for a sponge, then move up to a scouring pad or some fine mesh steel wool. If the rust is truly embedded from decades of neglect, then it’s time to call for reinforcements and break out the Rust Eraser. I’ve seen this dynamic duo turn ancient, rusted knives back into a beautifully polished blade, good as new. You won’t get a mirror polish this way, but rather a brushed steel look.
Surprisingly, there is a limit to what Bar Keepers Friend can do, and that line is drawn at pitting. Pitting is rust that goes deep below the surface of the metal, digging into it like acid. It appears as rough black spots embedded into the surface. Bar Keepers Friend will get all of the orange surface rust but will not be strong enough to take care of the small pits left behind. Removing pits in the steel is a different project that we’ll cover in another article.
One of these honing rods has been cleaned with Bar Keepers Friend. Can you tell which?
That said, Bar Keepers Friend is no one-trick pony. This cleaner will remove tea stains, burns on the bottom of pots, stains on plates and mugs, and just about everything nasty in your kitchen. It’s been reported to do these household tasks better than Mr. Clean and is better at removing rust, so step aside, you bald beefcake. We’ve even used it to clean up our honing rods, which you can read about here!
If you’re a home chef or a professional, this is the only deep cleaning product you need! The 12 oz. can costs $7 and will save you from more than a few headaches. Unless you get it in your eyes. Please don’t get it in your eyes.
Another ex-chef turned professional Knife Nerd, Alex hails from the metropolis of Trenton. His career in the kitchen started at The Niagara Food & Wine Institute and finished at Union Local: 613 with our very own Lordy. Just ask him about the time Chris drank a bottle of honey for $5…