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Most people are well familiar with the term “generic” when it comes to medications, a term referring to any drug marketed under its chemical name without all the fancy packaging and advertising. We know that by law, for a medication to be labeled as “generic” for a name branded prescription, it must be chemically identical to its branded cousin.
Today I want to offer you cheap generic alternatives for these three popular cleaning products—Bar Keepers Friend, Super Washing Soda, and OxiClean.
Bar Keepers Friend
It’s been years since I learned about oxalic acid. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Like something in the chemistry lab that could blow any second. Relax. It’s not what you might think. In fact, if you look on the back of a can of one of my favorite cleaners, Bar Keepers Friend, you’ll read: Contains oxalic acid.
That miraculous product, Bar Keepers Friend, which costs about $5.50 for a 12-ounce can is nothing more than generic oxalic acid. Are you familiar with Zud, another household and garage cleaner? It too contains oxalic acid.
The minute I learned this generic fact, I went online and ordered a 2-pound bag of oxalic acid for about $15 (price varies) and marked Bar Keepers Friend off my shopping list forever. I keep my oxalic acid in a well-marked little bucket that has a tight-fitting lid. I use a standard pint-size mason jar with a shaker lid as a dispenser and use it most sparingly while wearing gloves, keeping in mind that it is highly concentrated!
Mixing oxalic acid for household use is simple and takes just a few moments to complete. The strength of the oxalic mixture depends on the cleaning and bleaching needs of the project.
Oxalic acid is often used to bleach stained wood. Here’s a quick tutorial from our friends at Hunker for how to do that:
Oxalic Acid Paste
Step 1. Mix three parts oxalic acid crystals with one part warm water to create an oxalic acid paste. The paste can be used on wood with dark stains created by watermarks. This paste can also be used as a spot treatment but should not be used to cover an entire surface. Work on a small area at a time.
Step 2. Apply the paste to the stained areas with a paintbrush and allow to dry.
Step 3. Remove the oxalic acid paste with a wet sponge. Thoroughly clean or discard the sponge after removing the oxalic acid paste.
Oxalic Acid Wash
Step 1. Create an oxalic acid wash to bleach larger sections of wood that do not require the deep bleaching the oxalic paste creates. For small areas mix 1 ounce of oxalic acid with one-cup warm water. For larger areas mix 8 ounces of oxalic acid crystals with one-quart warm water.
Step 2. Apply the wash to the wood surface using a sponge. The wash will bleach the surface of the wood evenly. It is important to cover all areas of the wood to achieve the desired result. Be certain to get the wash in trim pieces and into corner pieces.
Step 3. Remove oxalic acid wash with a clean sponge and clean water.
Caution: Keep in mind that a bag of oxalic acid is 100% oxalic acid, while Bar Keepers Friend contains oxalic acid (plus inert fillers). You can use much less oxalic acid to get a great response than the amount of BKF you might use to accomplish the same result. And please make sure you always wear gloves when using either BKF or oxalic acid!
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
One of the ingredients in our homemade detergent for both standard and HE washers (get the recipe HERE), Super Washing Soda is not always easy to find. And when you can find it, it’s pricey—$5.50 for a 55-oz. box is typical. You can stop looking for it. Super Washing Soda is a brand name for sodium carbonate (which is NOT edible and should NOT to be confused with sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda). Read more