Bon Ami

Bon Ami

Maxwell Ryan
May 3, 2006

This is an ode to Bon Ami, a cleaning product that is over 120 years old and still unparalleled in its performance.

We came across Bon Ami when were designing our Apartment Therapy Home Cleaning Kit and looking for a scrubbing powder that was environmentally friendly. It has been a staple ever since. Not only does it not rely on harsh phosphates, chlorine, perfume or dyes (as most other cleaners do), it has a gentle abrasive - provided by the mineral feldspar - that cleans really stubborn stuff without scratching.

Invented in 1886 by The J.T. Robertson Soap Company of Manchester, Connecticut, the history of Bon Ami is a classic story of early century entrepreneurship and mid century marketing and late century environmental concerns.

Bon Ami almost disappeared altogether in the late 60's only to be resuscitated by new ownership, a great ad campaign ("Never Underestimate the Cleaning Power of a 94 Year-Old Chick With a French Name.") and inclusion in the 1974 Whole Earth Epilog:

A letter helped the reintroduction of Bon Ami from Gordon T. Beaham, III and was reprinted on page 594 of the September 1974 Whole Earth (Catalog) Epilog. The letter pointed out that Bon Ami could be considered less harmful to the environment than other cleaners because it did not use phosphates, chlorine, perfume or dyes in its formula: "But we live in a time, I believe, when many 'old fashioned' old reliable products are about to become New Products, and Products of the Future, as we delicately restructure our priorities, re-direct technology toward what's ecologically necessary…."

What a nice note to end on. If you haven't tried Bon Ami lately, why don't you put aside your Comet and your Ajax and give it a try.

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