None of us really think about how to clean an iron, but it does actually need the occasional polish. If you want your clothes perfectly pressed after each laundry load, you’ll want to clean your iron. (Speaking of, are you cleaning your front loader or top load washing machine, too? Better yet, get a home cleaning service to take care of everything for you!)
If your iron’s soleplate is looking a little burnt, or your steam iron isn’t emitting steam, it’s time to give it a clean. For the iron soleplate, you can use dish soap, vinegar, or even bicarb soda. For the steam vents, an old toothbrush or cotton swabs will work. You can even steam clean an iron with distilled water — and the all-powerful distilled white vinegar.
Nobody wants wrinkly, dirty garments — and that’s what you’ll get if you don’t clean your iron regularly. Fortunately, you’ll have everything you need to clean an iron right in your home.
How Often To Clean An Iron
How often you’ll be cleaning an iron depends on how often you use it! The products you use alongside it will also factor in. Ideally, however, you’ll clean an iron at least once every 2–3 months. This helps remove mineral deposits and prevents dirt from collecting too much.
Meanwhile, clean the iron plate whenever you see a dull film on the surface, or any other kind of build-up. If your iron comes into contact with plastic, it should be cleaned immediately.
Always make sure your iron is switched off, unplugged, and completely cooled before cleaning! The last thing you want is burnt fingers — you won’t be able to clean anything then.
Cleaning An Iron’s Soleplate
If there are singe marks on your soleplate, or if the surface is looking a little dull, it’s time to clean the soleplate!
Using dish detergent
If your soleplate has nonstick coating, you won’t want to risk scratching the surface. If this is the case, just add some dish soap to hot water. Dip a paper towel or soft cloth into the mixture, and use it to wipe the soleplate to remove any residue.
Distilled white vinegar is perfect for cleaning all sorts of household appliances, and that includes your iron. Dip a paper towel or rag into some vinegar, then wipe away any dirt from the soleplate.
If the residue is particularly stubborn, soak a towel in the vinegar, then lay it out. Place the iron soleplate-down onto the towel and let it sit for 15–30 minutes. Wipe dry afterwards.
Using bicarb soda
You can use bicarb soda to buff a soleplate clean! Dampen a clean cloth or paper towel with water (or vinegar for an added cleaning boost) and then dip it into bicarb soda. Use it to carefully scrub the soleplate clean, avoiding the vents. Rinse using a clean cloth dipped in water.
NOTE: For more stubborn residue, you can make a paste of bicarb soda and vinegar, then apply it to any problem spots. Let it sit for 5–10 minutes, then wipe off with a damp cloth.
Using salt and newspaper
Spread some newspapers on your ironing board, then sprinkle some salt on the surface. Iron the salted newspaper in circles until it’s clean. Just be careful with this method — use the hottest setting, so you risk less scratches on the iron plate.
Unclogging A Steam Iron
If your steam iron is starting to sputter or if it leaves spots on your fabric, the steam vents are clogged and need cleaning. While you can use a commercial cleaning product, you can also clean the steam vents with things you probably already have!
Using a tool
For light mineral deposits and dirt build-up, you can use an old toothbrush or a cotton swab to (carefully!) clean the steam vents. An old toothbrush can also remove residue from the soleplate while scrubbing.
Avoid using anything metal since that could scratch the iron plate.
Steam cleaning the vents
If your iron needs a more thorough polish, it’s time to break out the white vinegar and give it a good steam clean.
- Unplug your iron and make sure it’s switched off and cooled.
- Empty the water reservoir of your iron and drain any stale water.
- Mix a cleaning solution of one part distilled white vinegar and one part distilled water. Pour it into the water reservoir.
- Plug your iron in and turn it on. Set it to run on high heat and full steam, or check if your iron has a steam cleaning function. Otherwise, hold the steam button for 20–30 seconds and repeat several times.
NOTE: You can also iron an old towel or any old clothing so that the iron flushes any dirt onto the fabric.
- Switch your iron off and unplug it. Allow the surface of the iron soleplate to cool completely.
- Empty any remaining vinegar and distilled water, then rinse the reservoir to remove the scent.
Removing Melted Plastic From An Iron
If you’ve accidentally left something plastic in your clothes and ironed over it, you’ll end up with a tiny mess. If it happens, unplug your iron and let it cool.
Fill a metal bowl or pan with ice cubes, then set the iron plate onto the ice to harden and chill the plastic. Take a plastic knife and chip away at the residue until it’s completely removed. Wipe down the surface with a damp cloth dipped in vinegar.
It’s important to remove all the melted plastic off your iron before you use it next. Otherwise, it’ll get onto your clothes —and then you’ll need to clean more than your iron!
Tips For Iron Maintenance
To keep your iron clean for longer — and also keep it working longer — here are some tips to follow!
- Always use distilled water when filling the reservoir. Tap water, even filtered, will contain minerals that can clog and corrode your iron.
- Fill the reservoir before plugging in the iron.
- Empty the reservoir after ironing and before storing. Wipe away any excess moisture.
- Always store your iron upright to avoid leaks and prevent your soleplate from getting scratched.
- Don’t iron over zippers, snaps, hooks, screen prints, and other clothes accessories or you risk damaging the soleplate. If necessary, layer a pressing cloth over your garment first.
And that’s that for how to clean an iron! Just remember to polish it regularly, or you could end up dirtying your clothes after you wash them — and what a waste that would be.