Does CLR Really Work?

Does CLR work?Calcium, Lime, and Rust, that’s what CLR is supposed to remove easily from all types of surfaces. At least that’s what they say in their ubiquitous TV spots. At this point it’s been put to the test in thousands of homes across the country, so the reviews are in and we can make a determination on whether it actually works or not.

The big draw to a product like this is that these stains are usually quite a pain to remove, and you can spend a lot of time and energy scrubbing away at it, even using harsh and abrasive chemicals and cleaning products to try to get rid of them, but to no avail. At your wit’s end, you might be willing to try anything, and then you see a commercial for a product that is specifically designed for this purpose. It seems like all of your prayers might be answered, but then you remember that many “on TV” products end up not working out so well.

The Claim
The makers of CLR claim that it works wonders on all sorts of frequently cleaned and hard-to-clean items around the home, like tubs and toilets, coffee makers, shower heads, and dishwashers. Also they say it works on several different surfaces in the home as well as outside, like glass, chrome, and stainless steel. You can even run it through items like humidifiers and washing machines to clean them out from time to time when they get internal buildup.

The Hype
The hype is provided by how often they used to run the television ads for this, and how well they show it working. The most convincing display is when they show a crusted over shower head that they then dunk in a bowl of CLR. Moments later the clogs are all disolved and the shower head sprays perfectly. Of course the skeptics say that this is just trick photography, and they simply replaced the crusted up head with a new one that works just like new, or they cleaned it with something other than CLR.

The Cost
A 28 ounce jug of CLR can be purchased from Amazon for around $10. This is a rather peculiar price point, since it is supposed to work so well, most companies take advantage of a product like that and charge a premium for its effectiveness. Also, other cleaning products that make similar claims are twice the price or more, so it seems that they are pricing this at a level that makes you want to try it just to see what happens.

The Commitment
The whole point of using a cleaner like this is that it works almost instantly and effortlessly so you don’t have to apply a bunch of elbow grease to stains that have set in gradually over weeks or possibly months. If it can’t do that then it’s not worth the purchase price, and so most people that buy this will be evaluating whether or not it is as easy to use as it is depicted in the promos.

The feedback is split right down the middle on CLR, which likely means it won’t live up to your expectations if you are expecting it to perform like it’s shown to on TV. Those that say it works well seem to have used it on surfaces that weren’t heavily stained, and those that say it doesn’t work seem to have put it to real tests, so it’s basically a coin flip as to whether or not you will find success with it. As a worst case scenario you’ll have spent about $10 and wasted your time on a product that didn’t work out for you. As a best case scenario you might fall into the camp that says it worked for them. But with these odds it doesn’t make sense to try it when you can pay a little bit more and get something with an 8 in 10 chance of working, or perhaps even better odds.

Final CLR Review

We’re giving the CLR cleaner a Risky Try rating, it just hasn’t put up the sort of numbers we like to see on a cleaning product. Even at a low price point you don’t want to waste your time trying something that has such a spotty record of success. There are other cleaners these days that do a better job at wowing consumers, and there are also cleaners that are made from all-natural ingredients that help you be a bit greener.

Our Recommendation
You were probably interested in C.L.R. because you thought it would help you spend less time scrubbing and fussing over ugly stains around your home. In order to be happy with it the product would need to work consistently across many different types of stains and surfaces. We’re just not seeing that here and our recommendation is to look elsewhere for a better-reviewed product that makes the same or similar claims.

What do you think? Does CLR work or not?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Helina April 4, 2013 at 4:55 am

I don’t know about coffee maker and dish washers, but anything in the bathroom is tough to clean. Especially the tub always gets dirty build up on the side and removing them is a pain in the ass. I was going to gladly purchase this since it’s fairly cheap, but is too bad it’s not receiving good enough reviews. I don’t know anymore…


RLG August 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I use the CLR on my coffee maker. My expensive coffee maker quit working and I couldn’t figure out why. My husband said it had lime buildup and he went and bought the CLR. I couldn’t believe it. We put a cap full of CLR into the maker along with water and ran it through a few times and the coffee pot works just like brand new. I use it in my bathroom for hard water stains. This is an amazing product and very reasonable in price too.


Phil May 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm

CLR contains very caustic substances (it has to). If it leaks on a rug or clothing, etc., it will probably stain/bleach it or burn a hole through it. It has also been known to dissolve the finish on porcelain/ceramics (like your toilet or sink). You will get a great clean only to find that a stain comes back that you have to work hard to get out now. That could be indicative that the coating on the porcelain/ceramic is gone. Stains on toilets shouldn’t take elbow grease to get out if the finish coating is still viable. If you haven’t used CLR on your bathroom porcelain/ceramics, I would suggest using something else.

With things that work wonders, there’s a price.


Diane June 18, 2015 at 2:26 am

I’ve tried CLR a number of times….mostly I found it’s completely useless! I let it sit for quite awhille and although it took SOME of the very lightest accumulation off, mostly I had to scrub and scrub to get it off…If I have to do that anyway….why buy CLR? It doesn’t do whats claimed!


reef bismuth September 17, 2015 at 12:59 am

I’ve used it a lot. As I remember it used to work really well and the ingredients listed a real acid. Strong enough to work but not strong enough to hurt you unless you did something really stupid. Now it barely does anything and the “acid” in there sounds like a food product. I think that they weakened it so now it does nearly nothing.


Paul Dugas September 18, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Tried CLR (not a knock off brand but the real CLR) on a shower head that was pretty clogged up with the white crusty deposits of city water. I let it soak overnight when initial results weren’t very promising. Found it no more effective after 12 hour soaking so I tossed the shower head and the CLR in the trash. What turned out to work much better was a new shower head from Lowes. Worked much better for not much more than the cost of CLR.
Maybe I should have tried the AmWay CLR my neighbor is always peddling – NOT!


Lani Torio October 1, 2015 at 7:44 am

I tried this product over 10 years ago. Bought it from Canadian tire. I used a small amount to wipe off the stain and the yellowish grime on the bathtub/sink as well as lime build up on the shower head. Needless to say, it DID not work, I don’t know why it is still on the market, perhaps the marketing hype keeps fooling people. I returned the opened product to Canadian tire and they refunded the entire amount. Don’t waste your time and money!!


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