Ironing isn't usually on the top of anyone's list of fun things to do, and it can be even worse if your iron is sticking to the fabric or spraying dirty water. With just a little maintenance, you can keep your iron working well, looking great, and make ironing easier and more productive. There's even a way to remove accidentally melted plastic from your iron or from the fabric you were ironing.
How Often to Clean an Iron
A schedule for cleaning an iron is highly dependent on how often you use the iron and the products you use (starch or sizing) each time. However, an iron should be flushed to remove mineral deposits at least seasonally.
Clean the soleplate of an iron when you see a dull film or build-up on the surface. Always be sure that the iron is turned off, unplugged, and completely cool before you begin any cleaning process.
Unclogging a Steam Iron
You can purchase commercial steam iron cleaning products that promise to dissolve the clogs, but some iron manufacturers will void the warranty if you use them. They can be harsh and cause additional damage. The best thing to use is distilled white vinegar. It is more gentle and less expensive.
Equipment / Tools
- Large bowl
- Shallow pan
- Toothpick (wood or plastic) or old toothbrush
- Distilled white vinegar
- Distilled water
- Table salt or baking soda
- Ice cubes
- Plastic knife or old credit card
- White cloth
Mix the Cleaning Solution
Mix a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar and 1/2 cup of distilled water. Pour the mixture into a cool, unplugged iron.
Inspect the Steam Ducts
With the iron in an upright position on a sturdy surface, inspect the steam ducts. If you can see any white residue in the holes, use a wood or plastic toothpick or old toothbrush to clear away build-up. Never use anything metal that could scratch the soleplate.
Heat the Iron to Create Steam
Next, plug in the iron, turn it on, and set it to the steam feature. Allow the iron to heat for at least five minutes. Depress the steam button and hold for 20 to 30 seconds or until steam flows out freely. Do this at least six times.
Cool and Empty the Iron
Turn off the iron, unplug it, and allow the iron to cool completely. After cooling, empty any remaining vinegar and water mixture from the iron's reservoir.
Even if you are meticulous about using distilled water every time you iron, you should use the vinegar and distilled water mixture every few months to keep your iron steaming at its best.
How to Clean the Iron's Soleplate
The iron's soleplate should never be scrubbed with anything harsh that can cause scratching. Once the finish is marred, it is nearly impossible to prevent rusting or staining. The soleplate can get gummy and soiled by starch or sizing residue and should be cleaned regularly.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
Mix table salt or baking soda with a bit of distilled white vinegar to make a paste. If you choose baking soda, the vinegar will cause it to foam so mix in a bowl large enough to contain the foam.
Scrub the Soleplate
Dip a clean white cloth into the mixture and use it to scrub the soleplate. Some areas will need a bit of elbow grease to remove the grime. For really stuck-on build-up, allow the paste to sit for at least 10 minutes before scrubbing.
Rinse the Soleplate
Rinse the soleplate by using a clean white cloth dipped in clear water.
How to Remove Melted Plastic From the Soleplate
If something plastic has melted onto your iron, it must be removed or it will transfer to the next garment you iron and damage the fabric in the process.
Freeze the Plastic
Unplug and cool the iron. Fill a shallow pan with ice cubes and place the melted plastic-stained part of the iron on the ice. Let it sit for five to 10 minutes to harden the plastic.
Scrape Away the Plastic
Use a blunt plastic knife or the edge of an old credit card to scrape away the hardened plastic.
Clean the Soleplate
Mix table salt or baking soda with a bit of distilled white vinegar to make a paste. Gently scrub the soleplate to remove any plastic remnants left on the surface. Rinse with a clean cloth dipped in fresh water.
Remove Melted Plastic From Fabrics
If the plastic has transferred to the clothes you're ironing, place the fabric in the freezer for at least one hour. Use the same technique of a dull plastic knife to gently scrape away the plastic. This will be a slow process and may not remove the plastic completely.
Tips to Keep Your Iron Clean Longer
- Tap water (even if it's filtered) contains minerals that can clog, corrode, and damage the iron, resulting in rusty water spraying your clean clothes. Always use distilled, bottled water when filling an iron.
- The iron's water reservoir should be filled when the iron is cool and before it is plugged in.
- After ironing, when the iron has cooled, empty the reservoir before storing the iron. This is especially important if you don't iron frequently. Use a clean cloth to wipe away any exterior moisture.
- Storing the cooled iron in an upright position (with the soleplate up) will prevent any leaking of water and it will prevent the soleplate surface from becoming scratched or corroded.
- To protect your soleplate from damage, try to never iron over plastic zippers, metal zippers, snaps, hooks, pins, screen printing, or decals without using a pressing cloth.