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.
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. 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...
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.
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.