How to Clean a Clothes Steamer

Clothes steamer next to rolled pink cloth and cleaning solution

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

Clothes steamers are ideal for removing wrinkles from clothes, drapes, and linens without the need for an iron and ironing board. A steamer can even be used around the house to clean and sanitize surfaces from upholstery to cooktops to shower doors. While versatile and easy to use, if the nozzle starts to sputter and spit, it is time to clean your clothes steamer.

How Often to Clean a Clothes Steamer

The cleaning frequency required for a clothes steamer is dependent on several factors. How often do you use your clothes steamer? Do you use tap water or distilled water to fill the water tank? What type of clothes steamer are you using, a small hand-held model or a larger free-standing floor model?

The most telling sign that the clothes steamer needs to be thoroughly cleaned is a sputtering stream of steam from the nozzle. You can also inspect the nozzle for white residue around each small opening. The build-up is likely limescale and mineral deposits that are clogging the appliance, causing it to work at a less than optimum performance.

For clothes steamers that are used daily, a monthly cleaning is recommended to keep the appliance in top working order. For seldom-used steam cleaners, thorough cleaning is recommended before storing it away, so the steamer is ready for the next time it will be used.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sink or bucket
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Small bowl


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Distilled water
  • Toothpick


Materials and tools to clean a steamer

The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Before cleaning your clothes steamer, read the owner's use and care manual for specific steps for your model. If you can not find the manual, look online at the manufacturer's website for a copy.

  1. Unplug the Appliance

    If you are cleaning a clothes steamer immediately after a steaming session, unplug the appliance and allow it to slightly cool down. Even if the steamer is cool, leave it unplugged as you prep it for cleaning.

    Clothes steamer unplugged from wall outlet

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  2. Empty the Water Tank

    With the appliance unplugged from a power source and cooled, remove or empty the water reservoir into a sink or bucket. Dispose of the water or use it to water houseplants.

    Clothes steamer water tank poured out in sink

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  3. Add Distilled White Vinegar

    Fill the water reservoir with distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar. Do not use apple cider or any other flavored vinegar that may leave sediments in the tank.

    Distilled white vinegar added into clothes steamer water tank

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  4. Power up the Steamer

    Plug the appliance into an outlet and allow it to reach its highest temperature.

    Clothes steamer turned on

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  5. Expel the Vinegar

    Holding the nozzle over a sink or bucket, shoot out the vinegar at the highest full-steam setting. Blast out the steam until the water reservoir is nearly empty.


    Keep your face well away from the steam to avoid contact with the aerosolized acetic acid in the vinegar. Watch nearby countertops and wall cabinets. If they develop any condensation from the vinegar steam, stop and immediately wipe them off with plain water and dry with a clean cloth. To avoid damage to surfaces, consider doing this over a bathtub or other hardy surface.

    Pour the vinegar down the sink drain. It is also a good cleaner to help remove the sticky gunk that often cling to the sides of the drain pipes.

    Clothes steamer nozzle held over yellow bucket to expel vinegar through steam setting

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  6. Refill the Water Tank

    Once the vinegar is nearly gone, unplug the appliance, allow it to cool slightly, and refill the water reservoir with distilled water.

    Clothes steamer water tank refilled with distilled water

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  7. Expel the Heated Water

    Power up the steamer again and expel all of the distilled water in the tank. This will rinse away any remaining vinegar. Pour this water down the drain.

    Clothes steamer nozzle held over yellow bucket to expel heated water

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  8. Cool and Disassemble

    Unplug the clothes steamer and allow it to cool completely. Disassemble as many of the steamer components as possible and dry with a microfiber cloth or allow them to air dry.

    Clothes steamer unplugged and left to cool down

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  9. Inspect Components

    While the clothes steamer is disassembled, inspect the components for any problems. Look for cracked hoses or gaskets.

    Carefully check the nozzle for residue in the small openings. If you see white, powdery residue, fill a small bowl with warm distilled white vinegar (heat in the microwave). Place the nozzle in the bowl and allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight.

    Rinse well and use a toothpick to remove any clogged areas before reassembling the steamer.

    Toothpick removing clogged holes in clothes steamer nozzle

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

  10. Reassemble Steamer

    When all of the components are clean and dry, reassemble the steamer for storage. If you plan to use it right away, fill the steamer with distilled water.

    Clothes steamer reassembled for storage

    The Spruce / Sanja Kostic

Tips to Keep Your Clothes Steamer Clean Longer

  • Always use distilled water in the reservoir.
  • Do not overfill the water tank.
  • Do not allow the water reservoir to run dry during a steaming session. This can cause mineral deposits to scorch or burn.
  • Always empty the water reservoir between steaming sessions.
  • Do not store the steamer for long periods with water in the reservoir.
  • Wipe the reservoir dry after each use, so it's completely dried before being stored.
  • Disassemble the steamer components so that they dry thoroughly between steaming sessions, particularly before storing the steamer.
  • Store the steamer with the nozzle in an upright position.