Cleaning Agates With CLR: A Beginner’s Guide

There are many ways to clean up the stones that you’ve collected. In this article, we’ll teach you about cleaning agates with CLR.

What is CLR?

CLR (better known as Calcium, Lime & Rust Remover), is a well known cleaning product generally used in homes to clean up bathtubs, sinks, and other home items gunked up with calcium or lime deposits.

See CLR Safety Data Sheets for more in depth product information.

It is generally thought of as a more beginner friendly way to clean up agates than using oxalic acid or muriatic acid.

How does CLR clean up agates?

CLR won’t take every agate and make it look amazing.

CLR is specifically aimed at dissolving calcium build up, as well as rust. And that is exactly what it does with the deposits on your stone. It dissolves them. If you have other deposits on or in your agate, then CLR won’t help.

The reason we say this is that sometimes, we don’t know what is on the rocks. Sometimes we have to try a few different methods to bring the agate to the condition that we want to it to be.

Knowing that CLR works on calcium, lime, and rust is key.

If the CLR fails to take off the build up you want to remove, then you should be able to assume that the build up or gunk is calcium, lime, or rust.

How to Use CLR to Clean Up Agates?

Unlike using volatile acids to clean up rocks, CLR is pretty simple and can be done without constant concern of burning yourself or creating toxic fumes, though some people really dislike the way it smells.

Here are the steps we’d recommend:

  • Clean up the agates as best you can before you use the CLR on them. This means rinsing them, scrubbing them with dish soap and a brush to remove as much of the exterior build up, dirt, etc, then rinse again.
  • Locate a vessel to soak the stones in. We generally prefer something glass, clear, with a flat bottom. This will allow you to get a good look at your agate while it is soaking from all sides.
  • Place the agate in the bottom of the vessel. If you are planning on doing more than one stone at a time, this is fine, but we recommend if you can to place the stones so that they are not stacked on top of each other.
  • Pour CLR into the vessel until it covers the agate(s).
  • Watch the agate to see if any reaction seems to be occurring. Often, you will notice small bubbles coming from areas on the stone that looked to be like calcium deposits.
  • Remove the agate when it seems like the agate is either as clean as you want it, or you can confirm that the CLR isn’t doing anything to help make it look the way you want.
  • If you see progress, but not enough, rinse the stone with water. Scrub it again with dish soap, maybe even scrape at tough areas with a pick, then rise again. Then place it back in the CLR.

How long to leave the stones in CLR?

How long you soak the stones depends on how much of the calcium needs to be taken off. Sometimes it might take just a few minutes, in other cases it might be worthwhile to leave them for days.

The CLR seems to make quicker work of the calcium and lime, but rust can take a much longer soak.

Disposing of Used CLR

CLR is meant to be used in the home, in sinks, bathtubs, etc.

However, in general we use it in the home significantly diluted.

If you are pouring out a solution of CLR, most folks would have no problems with you pouring it into your toilet or sink so long as you dilute it significantly, and then run water down after it.

We are not big fans of putting anything into the house pipes that is mixed with dissolved rock or sediment, as we are pretty paranoid about clogging up the household pipes and/or septic.

It is pretty unlikely that a CLR mixture would cause any harm but our rule is just to not putting anything unnecessary down the house pipes.

Instead we’d probably look and see if there was any need for CLR around the house (interior or exterior), and use up the solution that way.

Safety Measures For Cleaning Agates with CLR

CLR is definitely less volatile than other acids but it is still something you want to be careful using, especially when it is full strength and not diluted.

Avoid breathing any fumes, keep the product off your bare skin, and avoid getting it in your eyes or on mucinous membranes.

Don’t use your bare hands or fingers to stir the rocks soaking in the CLR or to retrieve your rocks to get a better look at them. Use thongs or rubber gloves instead.

CLR will harm wood, paper, natural surfaces, stone surfaces, and metal. Make sure that any full strength CLR gets cleaned up right away so that it doesn’t damage your home.

Finally, don’t mix up products or methods. If you are using CLR, finish using the CLR, and clean the rocks well before moving on to using a stronger product (like acid).

Do you have some stubborn stains? If so try:

Cleaning Rocks with Iron Out: A Beginner’s Guide

Cleaning Rocks with Muriatic Acid: 3 Things You Should Know

Cleaning rocks with Hydrogen Peroxide: A How-to Guide

And finally, if you have more questions about rock collecting, check out our knowledge hub for tons of content for folks who love rocks.