How to Clean an Iron

Every now and then I’ll be de-wrinkling a piece of fabric and my iron will take more effort than usual to push across the fabric. It no longer has that “fresh out of the box” glide that’s so effortless. That’s when I know it’s time to clean it. I admit I abuse my professional iron.

All that spray starch, fabric softener, detergent, iron-on interfacing and t-shirt transfer paper, even glitter (I sew a lot of costumes with glitter) build upon the soleplate. Not only that, but my water is full of nasty minerals that clog the steam vents with white crusty deposits. Cleaning your iron doesn’t take long and will prevent you from staining your fabrics with that gunky residue.

I’m sure there are lots of specialty products out there for cleaning irons, but you probably have everything you need in your cupboard already. Here’s how to do it.

Cleaning the sole plate
First of all, make sure the iron is turned off and cool. We don’t want any burns. Next, you’re going to take a cloth and rub the area with a cleaning mixture.

There are several solutions you can use–salt water, dish soap and water, or baking soda and water. For stubborn build-up, you can use toothpaste and a plastic scouring pad (never use metal on the soleplate, you’ll scratch it.) For starch build-up, try a solution of white vinegar and salt dissolved in warm water. I’ve also heard of people using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or glass stove top cleaner.

If you have an iron without a non-stick surface, you can heat up the iron on a dry setting and iron a paper bag sprinkled with salt.

Once you’ve cleaned off the plate, dry it with a clean cloth.

Cleaning the water reservoir
Fill the tank 1/4 full with white vinegar and steam the iron until there’s nothing left. Then repeat several times with water until all the mineral deposits are gone. If the steam vents are stubbornly clogged, try poking them with a pipe cleaner or other soft object.

Warning: vinegar steam smells bad–open your windows or clean the iron outside.

A few handy tips
1) To avoid mineral build-up in the first place, use only distilled water in your iron or steamer.

2) Use spray oven cleaner to clear burn marks off your sole plate. Let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse with a damp rag. (Don’t let it get on the rest of your iron, just the plate.)

Take good care of your iron and it will take good care of you!

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