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CLR vs Lime Away: Which Cleaner is More Effective?

Your kitchen and bathroom look sparkling clean, except for the drains and faucets.

It’s not because you haven’t cleaned them – they’re just stained from minerals in the water.

A more powerful cleaner is needed to wipe out this discoloration.

Stubborn Water Stains

Build-up from water stains may appear in a number of different colors.

White, orange, red, even green – the stains will vary depending on what’s in your water supply.

You’ll find these marks by shower and sink drains, on faucets, and at the water line in toilet bowls. Hard water makes them appear quickly.

Even with a water softener, with time mineral deposits are inevitable.

You’ve probably found that no amount of scrubbing with your all-purpose bathroom cleaner has an effect.

Something more powerful is needed.

CLR or Lime Away?

An acid-based cleaner is the best way to remove water deposits.

Vinegar and lemon juice are two natural alternatives, but they just don’t work as quickly and effectively.

CLR uses similar ingredients to Lime Away. Actually, “Lime-A-Way” is the proper name, but aren’t those hyphens awkward?

Anyway, the ingredients – Lime Away uses sulfamic acid while CLR uses a combo of lactic acid, gluconic acid, and a few other solvents.

Too much detail? All you need to know is that they both are made specifically for water stains and break them down well.

So which does a better job?

In my experience, CLR is a bit more powerful. If you’ve tried other descaling liquids and been left with a bit of discoloration, CLR may just do what others can’t.

What I do like better about Lime Away is that it comes in a spray bottle.

CLR doesn’t recommend you put their cleaner in a spray bottle – perhaps it’s more risky if you accidentally spray it in your eyes.

Lime Away is still very effective on most stains. If ease of use is important, I think it’s the better way to go.

Where to Use

CLR and Lime Away are both great for the following:

  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Tile
  • Glass

To avoid problems, be sure to wipe away the cleaner after a few minutes. Then, rinse the area to make sure the cleaner has been completely removed.

Where Not to Use

First off, your stomach has enough acid without Lime Away or CLR joining the party. So don’t ingest it.

Likewise, you shouldn’t use these acid-based cleaners on any surface that food will touch.

If you have a stained plate or food container, instead try soaking it with vinegar. It may not completely get the stain out, but it’s the safe way to go.

Other places you should avoid using liquid descalers like CLR are stone, wood, plastic, and painted surfaces. These are strong cleaners. They can etch less durable materials, especially if left for a long time.

With metals, the manufacturers recommend avoiding these cleaners. In my experience, though, I’ve had no problems with metal such as faucets and drains so long as the cleaner is completely rinsed away afterwards.

I wouldn’t use them on large metal surfaces like an entire stainless steel sink or appliance.

Cleaning Tips

Wearing rubber gloves is important. You’ll probably come into contact with CLR or Lime Away when you’re wiping the cleaner away, and it can be harsh on your skin.

With CLR, you’ll put some of the cleaner on a cloth or sponge to apply it. Wait about two minutes to wipe it off. Then, rinse the area completely.

Lime Away is similar – spray, then wait 1-2 minutes to wipe and rinse away.

If you have especially difficult stains on porcelain, I highly recommend a pumice stone for scrubbing.

Keep in mind pumice stone is too abrasive for metal and many surfaces. Porcelain is strong enough to not get scratched. Just be sure to wet the pumice beforehand.

Shower and faucet heads are positioned in a way that makes it hard to soak them in cleaner without it dripping away.

What I recommend is adding cleaner to an old bowl or container and submerging the shower or faucet head for two minutes. Afterwards, use an old toothbrush to scrape away the built up deposits.


Both CLR and Lime Away are excellent tools for cleaning your kitchen and bathroom.

Lime Away’s spray bottle makes it the easier to apply option.

CLR seems to have a slight edge in how effectively it removes certain stains.

Either will be far more effective than any all-purpose cleaner with minimal scrubbing needed.