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!
Discussion (130 Comments)
Can i mix this powder with some water & make a paste ? I need to apply it on the walls in the shower ( i have tile all the way up to the ceiling ) Thank you
I don’t see why not…
I save large bulk spice and Parmesan cheese containers to use as shaker containers. I do not care to use my canning jars for anything except food.
Thanks for recipe. Does this work on stainless steel? Thanks
Connie, I just used this on my stains steel sinks and it worked great. It even left them shinier than the Comet Cleanser that I use to use, plus with the added Orange EO it smells MUCH better than the Comet!!
Just made this ( just happened to have all the ingredients,whoa!) and it works wonderfully. I added about ten drops of Eden’s Garden Sweet Orange Essential Oil (amazon.com) to one jar (shaken,not stirred) and added some fresh lemon zest to another. I clean homes on the side and I have noticed in the last ten years or so, that my clients want me to use more biologically sound products. This is a nice addition to my hoard of products! Thanks for posting!
My homemade cleaner tip is that
I have found that a lid from a parmesan cheese container fits a regular size canning jar (pint or quart). It already has the holes in it. That way you don’t have to cut your own holes in a canning lid.
I made some of this yesterday and tried it today. I had to experiment with the amount of water used in step 1 but the product works great. Thanks for sharing. I will continue to use the scouring powder around the house, and I will share this article with friends and family and on my blog.
Know of anything that will kill and get rid of the mold stains in the tub calking? I have tried hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mixed into a paste sitting overnight, but that didn’t do much…
Have you gotten an answer to this? I’m interested too.
Dr. Oz had a lady on his show that had some great uses for epsom salt. It was on his website but I am not sure if it is still there. You could Google besu uses for epsom salt in the home and you will probably find it. It used epsom salt, dish washing liquid (I used Dawn) equal parts. I do not remember anything else then you mix it into a paste. You can make it ahead and keep it under your sink in a container for when you need it. You put the paste on and leave it for a while then come back and use a brush on it. She had a dirty, ugly, mildewy tile and grout and it cleaned it perfectly. I do not have tile on my wall only on the floor so I was not in need of the kind of cleaning she demonstrated. Good luck!
I did google that and found that borax kills mold and mildew. Use 1 cup borax to a gallon of warm water. You apply it and let sit a while. Maybe a 1/2 hour. Then you use a brush to remove the moldxand mildew. It kills it but doesn’t remove the stain you’ll need bleach to do that. Then you sprat the area with the sane borax mixture to leave a film the wards away the reoccurance if the mold and mildew. I live in FL and I choose this method and it has nor returned! Praise God! The same borax mixture that you spray on. After the water evaporates the borax leaves a barrier to ward off the reoccurrence if mild and mildew. Hasn’t come back here!
I used 1 cup of borax dissolved in 1 gallon of warm water. You apply this and let sit for about half hour. Borax kills it but doesn’t remove the dark color. After a half hour you take a brush and scrub it off. Then you rinse .apply bleach to get rid of the color. Then rinse. Make a new batch of borax water mixture put in a spray bottle and spray the surface. When the water evaporates the borax film is still there to protect against the re occurance of mold and mildew. I live in FL and I did this and it has never come back. Regulate sprays with borax water will keep it at bay and also make cleaning easier
The only thing that gets rid of the stains and black color is bleach.you only need to use the bleach one time though.
Borax mixed with water will kill it And will prevent mildew from coming back.
I live in FL so I fought that fight and won it! Won’t come back because of borax spray. The water dissipated and the borax leaves a protection barrier to prevent mildew from coming back
So use borax to clean and kill and bleach to get rid of color and stains. Then use borax spray to prevent
you need to use bleach. I use borax to kill mildew but it does not get rid of the black stain. only bleach does.
I mix up 1/4 cup of bleach in a spray bottle fill the rest of the way with water. Spray the bleach water onto the black spots and let sit till the black disappears. after the black is gone and you rinse the area well to get rid of the bleach. then you mix up 1 cup of borax in one gallon of very warm water. put this in a spray bottle. spray on all the areas you want to deter mold from coming back. the water evaporates and the borax leaves a protective barrier to prevent mildew from coming back this works for me and I live in FL where you always have to look out for mildew!
If the caulking is moldy, it is literally impossible to remove…unless you are talking about the surface scum that builds up next to it. Replacing the caulking is surprisingly easy and quick and makes the shower connection look new again. I learned by watching a couple of videos.
ok, I just made some up and used it clean the burner pans on my electric stove. It is amazing!! I have used oven cleaner (oh the chemicals and smell) and comet and Bar Keeper’s Friend and none of them worked. My burner pans practically look new and they were REALLY bad. Thank you for sharing this, going to clean my bath now.
Hi this is great! I was wondering what the salt does? And if you know if the salt is too abrasive for the newer plastic tubs? Also I found a cheese shaker and sugar shaker at the dollar store, these work great for shaking out the cleaner. Yeah!
Yes!!! I also use a plastic cheese shaker!
I tried this for the first time and my shower/tub has never been cleaner. It got off stuck on scum that even the “natural” clorox cleaner made from “plant extracts” could not budge. Thanks for the post!