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Fit for Your Favorite Clothes: Learn How to Clean an Iron With Household Items

Ironing clothes on ironing board
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If you're serious about looking your best, you've probably learned the value of using a quality iron on your favorite clothes. But like your wardrobe, your iron has its own cleaning needs—and without regular maintenance, you may begin to notice rust on the soleplate or a coating of dirt on its surface.

To keep your iron working its best, it's important to prevent built-up mineral deposits from inhibiting steam release. A dirty reservoir can also lead to dirty steam, which penetrates your clothes during ironing sessions. Thankfully, cleaning your iron is a simple task, and it only takes a few minutes to complete.

Keep scrolling to learn how to clean an iron, and ensure your favorite wardrobe pieces come out fresh every time.

How Often Should You Clean an Iron?

how to clean an iron - ironing board in modern laundry room

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Keep an eye on your iron's soleplate and clean it as soon as you see any stains or discoloration. Look to your garments as well for signs that the iron may not be doing its job. If you don't iron very often, you can put this task on your cleaning schedule every two to three months. Be sure to always replace the water in your iron's reservoir before using it on your fresh laundry, regardless of the last time you cleaned it.

If your iron is a regular part of your daily routine, you should wash it at least once per month to keep the appliance in good condition. The more often your iron is cleaned, the easier the job will be each time.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean washcloths
  • Distilled water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Cotton swabs
  • Ice (optional)
  • Plastic scraper (optional)

How to Clean an Iron With Baking Soda

how to clean an iron - steam coming from iron

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Step 1: Start With a Baking Soda Paste

Clean your appliance by creating a baking soda paste with two parts baking soda and one part water. Ensure the iron is completely cooled down, then spread the baking soda paste over the soleplate, working it into the steam holes and across the metal surface with a clean cloth. Allow the baking soda to remain on the iron’s surface for five to 10 minutes. Wipe the baking soda from the plate using a clean, damp cloth.

If your iron has a non-stick soleplate, you can also use standard dish soap in place of baking soda to clean the metal surface.

Step 2: Remove Scorch Marks

If scorch marks or other stubborn stains remain on the iron, mix two parts white vinegar and one part salt in a pot, then heat the cleaning solution on the stove with medium heat. Stop as soon as the salt dissolves—don’t wait until the vinegar boils. Allow the mixture to cool, apply it to a clean cloth, and scrub your iron to remove any stains.

Step 3: Clean the Reservoir

Check your iron's care manual to confirm that vinegar is safe for use inside your specific model. If so, mix up a natural cleaner with three parts distilled water and one part vinegar, then pour it into the iron's reservoir until it is one-third full. If vinegar is prohibited for your iron, use only distilled water. Never use tap water inside your iron's reservoir, as the minerals from your pipes may clog the steam holes or vents over time.

Step 4: Iron It Out

Turn on the iron to the highest setting and iron any clean piece of fabric with steam. Note that the fabric will likely get dirty, so don’t choose a garment that’s especially important (an old towel is a great option). Iron for five to 10 minutes, then turn off the appliance and let it cool. Clean the steam holes with a fresh cotton swab before emptying the reservoir and refilling it with fresh distilled water.

How to Clean Sticky Substances From an Iron With Ice

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Step 1: Gather the Supplies

Plastic, rubber, and other sticky substances can melt on the surface of your iron and create smudges that are especially difficult to remove with a standard deep clean. Instead of reaching for the baking soda, gather a baking pan and some ice cubes from your freezer to get the job done.

Step 2: Soak the Soleplate

Line your baking pan with ice, then gently rest the iron onto the surface. Aim to soak the affected area of your iron's soleplate without submerging the iron itself. The cold temperature of the ice will harden the sticky substance while loosening it from the plate.

Step 3: Scrape Off Debris

Once the substance has hardened, gently begin scraping it off of your iron's metal plate with a plastic scraper. After it's removed, wipe down the surface with a washcloth, then follow the regular deep cleaning steps before using the appliance to iron clothes.

If you don't have a scraper handy, your fingernails may be able to do the trick—just ensure the iron is unplugged so it can't begin to heat up.

Tips to Keep an Iron Clean Longer

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There are a few different methods of cleaning to keep your iron's soleplate and steam holes functioning best after several uses. Most importantly, always empty the reservoir after ironing, then refill it with fresh distilled water before each use.

If you use your iron daily, wipe it down at least once per week to keep the metal plate smooth between deep cleans. Cleaning products like Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are effective to remove small smudges from the plate with simple wipe-downs.

You can also clean the soleplate with dryer sheets: Simply turn the iron on to low heat, then gently wipe the surface (taking care not to burn your fingers). Switch to a fresh dryer sheet when it begins to warm up, continuing the process until the plate is clean and your iron glides easily across fabrics.