Dealing with tough stains? Regular cleaners might not cut it, and that says more about the type of stains you’re dealing with than it does about your cleaning skills. When you’re facing stains like rust or water stains, products that pack a punch will make more of an impact than any regular cleaner you use, especially in places like the kitchen and bathroom.
Two such products often come to mind when we’re dealing with tough stains: CLR and vinegar. These two products are often pitted against each other because of their popularity and strength. CLR is a chemical product while vinegar is a natural product that many see as an alternative to commercial high-strength cleaners. So which one is best? In this guide, we’ll break down their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cleaning specific parts of the home. Whether you’re tackling rusty showerheads, dirty dishwashers, or stained windows, you’ll know exactly which product to use!
The answer to this question might not be as simple as it seems. For the most part, the answer depends on what you intend to use the product for.
Vinegar is considered one of the most essential pantry items for any home. Not only can you use it in cooking, but vinegar is an incredibly versatile product that you can also use to clean and disinfect almost any surface at home. That’s because vinegar is extremely acidic and anti-bacterial, and so has been a popular cleaning choice for budget-conscious families. It is also a natural product that can be safely used around small children and pets.
Calcium Lime Rust (or CLR) remover is a cleaning product that is well-known for its efficiency in eliminating calcium and lime deposits, rust, and other hard stains that regular household cleaners can’t remove. CLR is made up of a variety of acids that all perform their job, namely citric acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and sulfamic acid. It is this variety of acids that makes CLR so strong. It is also what makes CLR incredibly dangerous if you don’t follow its directions properly or carelessly leave it out where small children and pets may ingest it.
Showerheads are almost always wet, making them the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Once you start to notice that your shower’s water pressure has become inconsistent, that could mean it’s time to tackle the chore of doing a deep clean. Some bacteria that hide in our showerheads can be dangerous to our health, and you’ll need a strong cleaner to completely kill them off.
There are two ways you can clean your showerhead: by removing the showerhead and cleaning it from the inside out or cleaning it while it’s still attached to the shower. Some showerheads cannot or should not be removed and so you’ll first need to understand the kind of showerhead you have before you start cleaning.
You can use both CLR and vinegar to clean a showerhead that is still attached, though the methods differ slightly. To clean with vinegar, fill a small plastic bag with vinegar and fit it under the showerhead until the showerhead is submerged in the liquid. Use a rubber band or a hair tie to keep the bag in place. You can leave the showerhead submerged for an hour or longer if needed. After an hour, remove the bag and use a soft cloth to remove any dirt. If your showerhead is particularly dirty, stained, or beginning to rust, CLR might be a better option for cleaning.
To clean an attached showerhead with CLR, dilute the product in water with a 50:50 ratio in a small bowl large enough to fit your showerhead. Submerge your showerhead in the solution for 2 to 3 minutes. The strength of the product drastically cuts down your cleaning time compared to what it would be if you chose vinegar to clean the showerhead. After 2 to 3 minutes, you can use a soft cloth or old toothbrush to remove any clinging dirt around the showerhead. Refill the bowl with water and let the showerhead soak for another minute.
In our tests, we found that CLR performed faster, easier and far more thoroughly than Vinegar when cleaning showerheads.
CLR vs vinegar for showerheads: CLR wins
If you’re pressed for time or low on household cleaner, vinegar can work in a pinch to clean your dishwasher. Clear out your dishwasher by removing the racks, filters, and other accessories. Make sure you do a preliminary clean using a wet cloth to remove any large chunks of food or soap residue. Once you’ve cleaned the dishwasher to the best of your abilities, pour some vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place the bowl at the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle and wait for it to end. Once it’s finished, you’ll immediately notice that the dishwasher will be sparkling clean and smelling better than it has in a while. But you’re not done yet. Remove the bowl and sprinkle baking soda (around1 cup) on the bottom of the dishwasher to remove any stubborn stains. Run a short cycle and you’ll find a cleaner dishwasher at the end of it. It’s a simple and budget-friendly way to clean a dishwasher.
If you want to get serious about deep cleaning your dishwasher, CLR might be the right product. Dishwashers can be hubs of harmful bacteria that feed off leftover food debris that doesn’t get cleaned out. If you’re particularly worried about you or your family becoming ill or you’ve noticed rust and hard water stains in the dishwasher, CLR is the product you want to have handy. To begin, clear out the dishwasher. You’ll want to remove any filters, racks, utensil holders, and anything else you keep in the dishwasher. You can clean these separately. When the dishwasher is sufficiently empty, pour ½ cup of CLR directly onto the bottom of the dishwasher. The strength of the product means you don’t need a lot to clean it. Run a normal cycle and inspect the results after. If there are any stains still clinging on, use a toothbrush to go on in and help remove it. If you’re satisfied with the results, run a normal cycle with just water to rinse out the CLR.
Both vinegar and CLR can be used to clean a dishwasher. But because of the size of these appliances as well as the harmful bacteria that can propagate in them, it’s wise to use a cleaner that is stronger and more potent.
CLR vs vinegar for dishwashers: CLR wins
There’s nothing that brings a house’s appearance down more than smudged dirty windows. Windows face all kinds of things, from rain to dirt and dirty hands, and that means they will need a more regular clean. Fortunately, cleaning windows is one of the easiest chores you can accomplish that will instantly brighten up a home.
If you’re using vinegar to clean a window, you’ll need white vinegar diluted in water and a soft cloth to start. Make sure there is no direct sunlight on the window you’re intending to clean, as sunlight on vinegar will leave an even worse stain. Move the vinegar solution to a spray bottle and spray evenly on the window’s glass. Use the soft cloth to clean smudges and remove stains. If a stain is particularly stubborn, you can use undiluted vinegar and a stronger hand to remove it. When you’re done, rinse the vinegar away with clean water.
If, after the vinegar wash, you’re still left with a streaky glass window, it might be time to break out the CLR cleaner. Because of the product’s unique ingredients and strong formula, it can instantly remove streaks and stains that vinegar alone cannot handle. To use, combine CLR and water in a 50:50 ratio in a clean bucket. Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to scrub the solution evenly over the glass window. Wait 5 minutes to make sure the stain has enough time to dissolve. After 5 minutes, rinse the window with a clean sponge soaked in water. Make sure every little bit of CLR cleaner is rinsed away.
Vinegar is a suitable choice for daily cleaning, but it’s not the best choice for heavy-duty cleaning. If you want sparkling clean windows that shine, CLR cleaner is the way to go.
CLR vs vinegar for windows: CLR wins
You’re bound to encounter tough stains and rust over the course of owning or renting a home, and it is important to approach the problem with the right product. If you’re reading this, you’re likely torn between two products: vinegar and CLR.
So which one is better and which one should you pick up? While vinegar is a natural anti-bacterial product that you probably already have in your pantry, it cannot always deal with tough stains and mineral deposits that can crop up in our homes. Overall, then, CLR is the best overall cleaner. It can eliminate calcium and lime deposits as well as remove rust and tough water stains that plague our kitchens and bathrooms. And because it is formulated to be strong, you can dilute it to suit your purposes, making it a versatile part of your cleaning arsenal. While the smell of CLR is something that may take some getting used to, we’re sure you’ll get used to it once you see the effects it can have on your cleaning regime!
As with almost any product, it is important to keep both vinegar and CLR out of the reach of small children and pets. Undiluted, both can be dangerous to their health. However, because CLR is a chemical product that is around 15 times stronger than vinegar, it is important to be extra careful with CLR. That includes everything from storage to use. You’ll want to make sure that an area is well-ventilated and that children and pets are in another room when you use CLR cleaner.
So if you need to clean something around children and pets or if you live in a small home with poor ventilation, vinegar is the safer choice for you.
While effective at removing stains, CLR should not be used on anything and everything that needs cleaning. It should not be used on wood, fabric, stone, aluminum, and anything that has a coat of paint or sealant. It’s always better to go the careful route when using CLR, so make sure you spot test everything you plan to use CLR cleaner on. To do that, choose a small area that can easily be camouflaged in case something goes wrong. Dilute your CLR in some water and apply it to the area. Wait a few minutes and rinse the area with water. If there is no adverse effect on the material, it should be safe to clean with CLR.
Cost is an important factor for many people choosing the right cleaning product for them. When it comes to CLR vs vinegar, it is important to look at cost-per-use instead of the overall cost of the product. Vinegar is cheaper at the unit price, but you will need a lot of vinegar to handle all the stains and dirt that can build up in a home. On the other hand, CLR is diluted at each use, which means the product lasts longer than one might expect. If you prefer a cheaper upfront cost, vinegar is a perfect choice. But if you’re considering long-term costs, then CLR is the better option.