Environmental In-Box: Bon Ami Cleanser

“Bon ami” in French means “good friend,” and when it comes to cleaning your kitchen and bathroom, Bon Ami Cleanser is just that.  This non-scratching, earth-friendly product has been available in just about every supermarket and hardware store for decades.  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s time you did.


Bonami What is it?
Bon Ami’s Cleanser is made from sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate (limestone), and feldspar.  The mildly abrasive limestone and feldspar cleanse without scratching, while the sodium carbonate conditions hard water. To use, just wet the surface you want to clean, sprinkle on the Bon Ami powder, and wipe with a wet sponge. I use Bon Ami on everything from kitchen countertops to living room walls to the bathtub (though not on windows or mirrors). You can also use it to shine appliances and clean outdoor furniture.

What I like:  Bon Ami contains no chlorine, dye, perfume, bleach, or phosphorus.  Because the product is free of unhealthy additives it is especially appealing to people who suffer from chemical sensitivities.  Not only is the cleanser itself biodegradable, but the packaging consists of more than 75% recycled material, including 60% post-consumer waste.

What could be improved? Hmmm. I’m thinking…

Product comparison:

Baking Soda – Fragrance-free baking soda is a terrific environmental alternative to Bon Ami. Since it doesn’t have quite as much scouring power, I often use baking soda on my kitchen counter, but Bon Ami to clean the toilet or work out a stubborn ring around the tub. Baking soda and Bon Ami together can clean almost any surface in your house except for glass and polished wood.

Colgate-Palmolive’s Ajax Powder Cleanser uses sodium carbonate but also trichloroisocyanuric acid, a bleaching agent, and synthetic fragrances.  On Colgate’s Material Safety Data Sheet  for the product, the “Safety Phrase” category reads, “Avoid release to the environment.”  This concern is likely due to the water-polluting effects of the trichloroisocyanuric acid.

Procter & Gamble’s Comet, made with sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione dehydrate, has been shown to be highly toxic for aquatic animals.  Comet does use recycled material in its packaging, which contains at least 75% recycled material, minimum 50% post-consumer.  The product is also free of phosphorus, like Bon Ami.

Soft Scrub with Bleach Cleanser is a liquid alternative to these all-purpose, non-scratching powders.  Its micro-abrasive formula is comprised of chemical components like bleach, lauramine oxide, sodium hydroxide, myristamine oxide, and potassium iodide.  The product also contains synthetic fragrances which may cause an allergic reaction in some people.  The plastic container Soft Scrub comes in is made of #2 recyclable HDPE.

Price comparison:

A 32 ounce box of generic brand Baking Soda cost me $1.19 at my local grocery store.
A 14 ounce can of Bon Ami costs only $1.39.
A 21 ounce can of Ajax Oxygen Bleach Cleanser costs $1.49.
A 21 ounce can of Comet Powder Cleanser costs $2.09.
A 24 ounce bottle of Soft Scrub with Bleach costs $4.19.

How many purses?  Three. Bon Ami is cheap, effective, non-toxic, and cleans everything except wood and glass.


Research by Katie Kelleher.

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10 Responses to Environmental In-Box: Bon Ami Cleanser

  1. bon March 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    how much does it cost compared to similar products?

  2. Diane MacEachern March 7, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    It’s pretty cheap, but the price will vary fro store to store.

  3. ROY F June 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    What is the best way to really sanitize counters and bathroom in an eco-friendly manner??

  4. Diane MacEachern June 21, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    I use hot soapy water on counters and Bon Ami cleanser in the toilet and tub. Generally, you can keep things pretty sanitary if you simply wash them – it’s the movement of water over the surface that actually moves germs away.

  5. Frugal Mama July 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    I didn’t know this about Bon Ami — at all! Thanks so much for all the research and info. I’ve cleaned with baking soda and vinegar, but it sounds like Bon Ami would be even more effective.

  6. Compare Prices April 15, 2011 at 2:17 am #

    I’ve been looking for some options on cleaning kitchen countertops. I will try to use Bon Ami and see how it will go.

  7. rhoda seidler April 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    In the forties, my mother used Bon Ami to clean windows. It didn’t scratch then, so why now?

  8. Deirdre August 2, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Great product. Strangely, Bon Ami seems to have decided to revert to the dated older package design for its cleansing powder. I thought the 2010 redesign was terrific and was really taken aback when I saw they’d canned it. What do you think of their decision?

  9. Products September 7, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    Good option for working women.

  10. Products September 7, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Good option for working women.

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