From snagging fabrics to leaving stains and marks on your clothes, a dirty iron can do more harm than good. But do you know how to clean an iron the right way? Lucky for you, The Maids has over 40 years of housekeeping experience, and we’re more than happy to share proven housekeeping tips.

You can usually get by with cleaning your iron once or twice per year, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Keep in mind that a quick tidying up of the exterior isn’t always enough. When your iron no longer glides smoothly, or you see a dull residue on the soleplate, you’ll need to learn how to clean the bottom of an iron, too. Synthetic fabrics, sizing, and starch can stick to the soleplate, and the heat bakes them into a residue that can be hard to remove. If your iron isn’t steaming like it should or depositing rusty stains onto your clothes, the steam holes may be clogged. That means learning how to clean an iron inside.

Before you jump into our guide on how to clean an iron, check out your iron’s user manual. The best advice you can get for troubleshooting, maintaining, and cleaning an appliance comes from the manufacturer. Should you use distilled water? Does your iron descale itself? You can find the answers in the manual. Don’t have one? There’s a good chance you can find it online, so give it a search. No matter which cleaning approach you use for your iron, don’t use sharp objects or strong abrasives. You definitely don’t want to cause damage!

If you’ve got your manual and are ready to go, then keep reading. You’ll learn how to clean an iron like a pro so you can get back to smoothing out wrinkles and lining up creases.

How to Clean a Steam Iron

Is your steam iron sputtering and spitting? Does it spray dingy-looking water instead of fresh, hot steam? Blame all those minerals and other deposits in your tap water for clogging your iron’s steam vents.

Here’s what you need to clean your steam iron:

  • Toothpick
  • Old toothbrush
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Distilled water
  • Absorbent cloth or towel

Before you reach for a commercial cleaner to clear the buildup, try a DIY safe and effective cleaning solution you can make right at home. It’s eco-friendly, gentle on your iron, and inexpensive. Start with a cool, unplugged iron sitting on a towel to catch any overflow.

  • Mix a half-cup of distilled white vinegar and half-cup of distilled water and pour it into the iron.
  • Inspect the steam vents for white residue or other buildup and use a toothpick or toothbrush dipped in vinegar to clean them out.
  • Plug in the iron, set it for steam, and wait for about five minutes.
  • Press the steam button and hold it for 30 seconds or until the steam is at full blast.
  • Repeat this last process five times.
  • Turn off the iron, unplug it, and let it cool.
  • Dump out the remaining water and vinegar.

Fill your iron with distilled water, set it for steam, and when it heats up, press the steam button a few times to clear out the vinegar and the deposits. Why distilled water? Unlike regular tap water, distilled water doesn’t contain minerals that can clog up your iron. Even if your user manual says you can, you may not want to use tap water. So for ironing and cleaning your iron, use distilled water to keep your iron clean and steaming up a storm.

Your iron’s insides are clean and ready to steam and press, but what about the business end of the appliance? Even the best iron can’t get the job done if its soleplate isn’t clean, smooth, and ready to press into action.

How to Clean the Bottom of An Iron

Does your iron stumble across your clothes instead of gliding smoothly along? Do your creases look more like zigzags than crisp, straight lines? Then you need to know how to clean an iron plate. You don’t want burnt fingers, so begin your iron cleaning efforts by making sure your iron is cool and unplugged and sitting on a towel. If you didn’t get all the deposits out of the steam vents when you cleaned the inside of your iron, cotton swabs dipped in vinegar can help remove the rest.

When you know how to clean the bottom of an iron without damaging it, your iron lasts longer and your clothes look more presentable. For residue from baked-on dirt, grime, starch, and more, here’s how to clean a burnt iron soleplate using safe, effective cleaning solutions:

Baking Soda

From deodorizing fridges to cleaning ovens, baking soda is a tried and true natural cleaner and it’s safe for cleaning your iron’s soleplate. It’s only slightly abrasive, so it won’t scratch your iron as it breaks down buildup. Mix two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of water to make a cleaning paste. Scrub the soleplate gently with your paste and try to keep the paste out of the steam vents. Wipe away the buildup and paste with a damp cloth.

Distilled White Vinegar

Yes, vinegar is a cleaning solution you can use on the bottom and inside of your iron. Distilled white vinegar is right up there with baking soda for its cleaning versatility. A natural cleaner, disinfectant, and deodorizer, white vinegar is a housekeeping must-have. Soak a clean cloth in vinegar and place your iron on it facing down.

Wait 30 minutes and wipe away the vinegar and grime with a damp cloth. For tougher buildup on your iron’s soleplate, use a vinegar and salt mixture. Mix one part salt and one part water in a saucepan and heat the solution until the salt disappears. Wear dishwashing gloves and use a microfiber cloth to lightly scrub the bottom of your iron to remove excess buildup.

Pro Tip: Distilled white vinegar gets rid of iron scorch marks too. Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with vinegar and wipe the stain. Repeat with a clean part of the cloth till the scorch mark is gone.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

A Magic Eraser has so many amazing uses, it’s no wonder it made our iron cleaning guide! These modern sponge scrubbers can remove dirt, scuff marks, paint, and buildup on your iron. Wet the magic eraser and squeeze out most of the water. Rub the soleplate of your iron gently to remove the buildup and keep your cleaning eraser damp.

Newspaper and Salt

Set your iron to a warm setting and lay out a piece of newspaper on an ironing board. Sprinkle salt over the newspaper and iron in circles until most of the salt is removed. Unplug your iron, let it cool, and wipe away the salt and loosened grime with a damp cloth.

Dryer Sheets

Like baking soda, dryer sheets are slightly abrasive, so they can loosen buildup with the help of a little heat. Set your iron to the lowest setting, grab an oven mitt, ball up a dryer sheet, and start rubbing. When one gets too warm, just reach for another dryer sheet. Repeat until your iron’s soleplate shines.

Tips for Maintaining Your Clothes Iron

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your appliance’s manufacturer is the best resource for how to clean and maintain an appliance and keep it under warranty. But there are some proven universal tips for keeping most irons working their best:

  • Clean your iron when it needs it, but at least twice per year or as often as the manufacturer recommends.
  • Tap water contains minerals and deposits that can clog steam vents, corrode metal, and damage your iron. Always use distilled water.
  • Fill your iron’s water reservoir when the iron is cool and unplugged, and wipe moisture from the outside before you plug it in.
  • Empty your iron’s water reservoir after each use and wipe moisture from the outside before you store it.
  • Store your cool iron in an upright position to prevent leakage and face the soleplate away from other items to prevent scratches.
  • When ironing, use the recommended settings for specific fabrics and avoid running your iron over snaps, buttons, decals, and metal or plastic zippers.

Now that you know how to clean an iron, why stop there? Check out our extensive library of professional tips and tricks for cleaning things all over the house. Whether it’s through our insightful articles or by using one of our popular residential cleaning services, The Maids is committed to helping you enjoy a healthier, cleaner home. Find out more when you get your free online estimate today.

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