There is something nostalgic about using a product that your parents and grandparents used, and I believe that we can often find a lot of modern wisdom from the way things used to be done. One of the products I remember seeing in both of my grandparents houses growing up (and my mom using when I was little) was a scouring powder like Bon Ami.
A Natural Cleaner?
When I first had multiple toddlers crawling around, I started to become aware of potentially harmful substances in cleaning and household products. I began researching (and often getting rid of) favorite products if they weren’t safe to use around my kids. Bon Ami is one cleaner that stumped me for a while and that I still don’t think is a terrible option. Here’s why…
It works with a physical action to scour away dirt and other stuck on substances. Rather than relying on a chemical reaction, this scouring powder actually scrubs the dirt and grime away with just a sponge or brush. Unlike most cleaners, it doesn’t contain chlorine, dyes or artificial fragrances and it earns an “A” rating from the Environmental Working Group. It also works really, really well. Our grandparents were on to something. I used Bon Ami for years and would still consider it at the natural end of the spectrum for store-bought cleaners.
At the same time, there are a few sources that claim that Bon Ami may cause respiratory irritation and at one point, I ran out of the bottle I had and was looking for another option. Since I already keep bulk ingredients on hand for making beauty and cleaning products, I experimented with ingredients I already had to see if any of them would work in a similar way. I eventually settled on a three-ingredient version that I absolutely love and now use this when scouring powder is needed.
Homemade Bon Ami Alternative Scouring Powder
Note: This recipe has been updated to remove borax. As I explained in this post, borax is a controversial ingredient and it gets very mixed reviews on safety with most recent reports claiming it may be harmful. While all of the actual research I’ve seen shows that its cousin, boric acid, and not actually borax powder (sodium borate) is the problem, I’m erring on the side of caution until more research emerges. Additionally, Bon Ami powder is still a really budget-friendly green option that does not contain borax (and which has a higher safety rating than Borax on EWG) so if it doubt, I’d stick to that over borax for now.
I use this easy recipe for homemade scouring powder because it cleans everything from stuck on floor messes to tile goo. I feel safe letting my kids use it to help clean and it takes about a minute to make.
It is inexpensive to make and cleans better than store brands without the vague smell of chemical warfare. I use this all the time to clean our bathroom, and especially our kids bathroom which tends to be covered in dirt and stuck on soap/grime after just a few baths. In fact, this was my testing ground when I was experimenting with homemade versions.
I knew that this stuff worked well, but to put it to the test, I restrained myself from cleaning the bathroom for two whole weeks (meaning I was incredibly busy and didn’t get time to clean it for two weeks). It was bad… really bad. I also knew that my kids would be soaking in said freshly cleaned tub that night and didn’t want them to lose any skin pigment from the cleaners I used so I turned to this natural homemade powder.
Did it work?
Oh yeah… I cleaned the tub one half at a time so I could see the difference. Even with my less than exceptional camera, you can probably tell which side got cleaned first. (Top side, if you can’t tell with my camera)
So, how do you make it? The recipe is very easy and very inexpensive:
Scouring Powder Ingredients
- 1 cup baking soda
- ½ cup salt (not iodized)
- ½ cup washing soda
- 5 drops lemon essential oil- for scent. optional.
Scouring Powder Instructions
- Pour ingredients into jar or bowl.
- Mix or stir until well mixed.
- If you want to make a shaker, put in a pint or quart mason jar and poke some holes in the top (carefully) with a sharp serrated knife or use the top of a parmesan cheese container!
- Lightly wet surface with water or undiluted white vinegar (for really bad messes)
- Sprinkle powder on and let sit 5 minutes
- Scrub with sturdy brush until clean
- Rinse with water or vinegar (for really bad messes)
Is your tub clean? Have a way to get it cleaner naturally? Please tell me about it below!