How to Clean Your Iron

Try this easy method for removing burns and buildup from your iron.

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February 10, 2021

Buildup on your iron is completely normal. Between my kids and their crafts and its practical use to tame wrinkles in synthetic fabrics, our iron takes a beating and needs regular cleaning. In fact, yours might need cleaning even if it doesn’t look worn; the best way to tell if your iron needs cleaning is if there is any resistance as you’re using the iron. Does it feel like it did when you first bought it? If not, time for a little maintenance. The below tips should help you return your small appliance to like-new condition.

Cleaning your clothing iron.

How to Clean an Iron

Tips for cleaning your iron inside and out.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

What Makes Your Iron So Dirty?

  • Mineral deposit buildup in the water reservoir
  • Hot, hot heat melting graphic details or synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, acrylic, polyester
  • Spray starch buildup
  • Unused water left in your reservoir

How to Clean Your Iron’s Water Reservoir

Limescale and mineral deposit buildup shouldn’t be too surprising; it’s just what happens when water sits stagnant in a warm, enclosed area for an extended period of time. It’s not easy to remove though. In an iron, it can plug holes and affect the iron’s functionality, which is why deep-cleaning your iron’s reservoir is important.

Maintain the iron by filling the reservoir with 50/50 white vinegar and filtered water. If the buildup is severe, fill the reservoir and allow it to sit for 24 hours to really soak in. Turn the iron on, and assemble a thick rag or old towel with a kitchen cooling rack atop it. With the steam setting cranked to maximum output, steam all of the vinegar-water solution from the chamber through the cooling rack so that the holes have an opportunity to fully extinguish any blockages without being suffocated.

Refill the reservoir with distilled water, and deplete the chamber again, this time directly against a white cotton rag to capture any calcified bits. You’ll need to monitor to see if any rust-colored pieces make their way on the towel. If nothing appears, consider it safe to use your iron on whites again!

Keep future mineral deposits at bay by only using filtered or distilled water in your iron, and empty after each use so that the reservoir can air-dry.

How to Get Sticky Residue or Burns Off the Sole Plate

Cleaning your clothing iron.

How to Clean an Iron

Tips for cleaning your iron inside and out.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Synthetic fabrics are mostly to blame for the grimy residue on my iron. As fibers in the fabric soften and melt, they transfer to the plate, and as the iron cools the residue hardens. There are a few things you can do to remove buildup:

Dryer sheets: Pre-heat your iron on the lowest heat setting, no steam. Rub over the warm surface with balled-up dryer sheets, and watch the softened build-up wipe away. As shown below, the surface will appear oily as you cleanse, so use a cotton rag to remove excess prior to using the iron on fabric.

Metal Scraper: Use a metal spatula to scrape along the surface of the iron as it softens when the iron heats up. If the iron has a non-stick surface, be cautious of how you scrape, so that you don’t scratch into the surface of the iron. Iron atop an old rag, and at an angle over the edge of your ironing board to scrape excess from the surface.

Vinegar-Soaked Towel: Dampen a cotton towel with white vinegar, and sprinkle table salt on top of the towel as an agitator. Heat the iron, steam on, and repeatedly pass over the wet towel to massage the vinegar and salt against the plate. You’ll be able to see the residue rubbing off onto the towel, and your iron will look shiny and new.

Cleaning your clothing iron.

How to Clean an Iron

Tips for cleaning your iron inside and out.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Lemon: If the sole plate to your iron is rusty, cut a lemon in half and rub it along the rust spots to help alleviate rust. If the rust is in the steam holes, refer to the tips on cleaning the water reservoir above, and repeat until the iron no longer transfers rust stains onto a white rag.

Cleaning your clothing iron.

How to Clean an Iron

Tips for cleaning your iron inside and out.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

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