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Our Story

The kitchen discovery that launched our brand.

100 Years of Cleaning Power

It all began with rhubarb.

In 1882, a chemist by the name of George William Hoffman took a break from his scholarly endeavors to cook up a pan of that sour-but-hardy vegetable, which was common in the gardens of yore. After plating his recipe, the man found that his formerly tarnished pot fairly sparkled. Being a chemist, he quickly ruled out magic and set out to discover the property that made rhubarb such a superior cleaning agent.

The secret? Oxalic acid.

Found naturally in rhubarb and other vegetables like spinach, oxalic acid attacks stubborn rust, tarnish, and lime stains at the molecular level, breaking the bonds that hold them together.

Using that active ingredient, our chemist formulated an oxalic acid-based cleaning powder that he sold to taverns for use as a brass rail polish. Thrilled at the results, tavern owners dubbed the product, “Bar Keepers Friend.”

Family-owned, Customer-driven

After World War II, U.S. Navy veteran Dr. Beurt SerVaas found that the customers at his small plating shop kept asking him how to clean metal items. “My grandmother used Bar Keepers Friend,” he told them. Inspired to serve his customers, Dr. SerVaas purchased Bar Keepers Friend from the Gisler Polish Corporation in 1956.

Over the years, more and more people got in on the secret of Bar Keepers Friend, and found ever more varied and unique uses for our oxalic acid-based cleaning powder. We’re still a family-owned company manufacturing in Indianapolis, and we’re still motivated by solving problems for our customers. Bar Keepers Friend now goes to market with minor variations in ingredients and packaging, but our products remain essentially the same as the ones that polished bar rails over a century ago.