You need an iron to keep your clothes looking neat and fresh, but what happens when your iron is the cause of dirty marks and stains? Learn the signs it’s time for your iron to be cleaned, how best to keep it in tip-top condition, and what preventative measures you can take to ensure your iron remains as fresh as your laundry.
Signs your iron needs cleaning
- Discolored foot or soleplate
- Sticky residue on iron or clothes
- Chalky mineral deposits on clothes
- Iron doesn’t glide smoothly
The signs that your iron is in need of cleaning can build up slowly, so don’t be surprised if the first thing you notice is a stain on your clothing. Paying attention to the condition of your iron will go a long way toward protecting your clothes and making the job of cleaning your iron faster and easier.
The flat surface of the iron, known as the soleplate, is the area you’ll first notice dirt and residue buildup. Look for scorch marks, discoloration, and brown or white deposits. These are all signs your iron needs to be cleaned.
Before cleaning: Always check the manufacturer’s instructions, and don’t use any harsh or abrasive cleaners on your iron. Many irons have self-cleaning cycles that you can use to clean the water reservoir and steam vents. Here’s a list of all-natural house cleaning products you may want to learn about.
How to clean your iron: cold cleaning methods
If you’re nervous about touching a hot iron, these tips are for you. These methods will provide the best cleaning results on a cold iron. If you have a particularly stubborn stain or buildup, you might need to warm the iron to fully remove it.
How to clean an iron with baking soda
Baking soda is a fantastic all-purpose cleaner for many household surfaces, and your iron is no exception. To remove stains from the soleplate, make a paste of baking soda and water, and scrub it over the flat surface. Then use a damp, clean cloth to wipe away the excess, and be sure to dry your iron fully.
Removing oily stains from an iron
If your iron has oily stains, use white vinegar as a cleaner. Soak paper towels in vinegar and lie the cold iron flat on them for half an hour to break down the stain. Afterwards wipe clean with fresh water and blot dry.
How to clean an iron with baking soda and white vinegar
When you’re dealing with a lot of residue, lie an old towel flat on your ironing board and sprinkle it with baking soda. Use a spray bottle to spritz it with the household cleaning agent vinegar until it begins to react, then run the iron over the mixture as though you’re ironing the towel. The combination of the movement and the fizzing cleaning solution should shift all but the most stubborn stains.
Using toothpaste to clean an iron
Use a white toothpaste (any brand) and carefully apply it where the iron is stained. Avoid getting toothpaste into the steam vents if possible. If you do get paste in the holes, clean them gently with a cotton swab. Leave the toothpaste on the plate for a minute before wiping off with a clean cloth.
How to clean your iron: warm cleaning methods
Heat is a great cleaner, and sometimes it’s the most effective way of getting stains off your iron. These methods use a warm, rather than hot, setting, and are a first resort if cold cleaning methods fail to work on your iron.
Using salt to clean an iron
Cover your ironing board with paper—parchment or baking paper if you have it, otherwise use old newspaper—and spread salt across the paper. Heat the iron to a low setting and iron the salted paper using a firm motion. Once the stains have been removed, let the iron dry and wipe clean.
Cleaning an iron with dryer sheets
Dryer sheets are effective cleaners, especially if you have a lot of sticky buildup on your iron. Heat the iron to a warm setting, and put on a pair of oven gloves to protect your hands. Then rub a dryer sheet or two across the soleplate and scrub away any stains.
How to clean your iron: hot cleaning methods
When cleaning a hot iron, always take care to avoid burns. Heat and steam are great cleaners, so hot cleaning methods offer the best and fastest way to remove stains. Always make sure the iron is facing away from you before discharging steam, and wear oven gloves to protect your hands from the hot soleplate. To avoid burning your cleaning materials, always keep them moving over the plate and turn them over so the same area doesn’t get overheated.
Cleaning an iron with soap and water
The obvious ways are sometimes the best! Dish soap and warm water are among the best cleaners for most household objects, and your iron is one of them. Heat the iron until it’s hot and then use a sponge or pan scrubber to clean the soleplate. Avoid using plastic scrubbers, as the iron will melt them. Once the iron is clean, wipe down with fresh water.
Using old newspaper to clean an iron
Old newspaper is a great cleaner because it’s very absorbent. To clean an iron with newspaper, scrunch it up and scrub it over the hot surface of the soleplate. Take care not to let the paper get too hot! Newspaper is particularly good at removing sticky residue.
How nail polish remover can clean an iron
Acetone, or nail polish remover, is a handy chemical cleaner that you probably already have in your home. To use it on your iron, heat the soleplate and then apply the acetone by soaking a cotton ball and dabbing it onto the plate. The acetone will evaporate quickly, breaking down any stains. Once the iron is clean, wipe it with fresh water to remove any residue.
Tylenol: the surprising secret to cleaning an iron
Yes, really! You’ll need to use the white, uncoated Tylenol pills (or a generic form of Acetaminophen) for this to work. Heat the iron and spread paper towels over your ironing board, then rub Tylenol over the stained area, using a pair of tweezers to hold the tablets. You’ll probably need half a dozen or so to do an entire soleplate, depending on the extent of the staining. The pills will dissolve into a gel in the heat. Cover the stain with this gel and then wipe the iron across the paper towels, making sure to iron a clean area each time. You should see the buildup coming off on the paper. Repeat until the stain has gone, and then wipe the iron with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue.
How to prevent stains and buildup on irons
Prevention is better than a cure, so follow these tips to extend the life of your iron.
- Avoid using hard water. Over 85 percent of Americans have hard water, which can cause limescale buildup in domestic appliances. Consider using filtered or distilled water instead.
- Don’t iron on too high a setting. Heat can damage or melt fabrics, leaving a sticky residue behind or scorching the soleplate. Iron clothes at the right temperature for best results. That’s low heat for silks and synthetics, medium for wool, and high for cotton and linen.
- Empty the water reservoir after every use. This prevents limescale buildup and keeps your iron from smelling stale.
Cleaning your iron doesn’t have to be difficult. A little maintenance can prevent stains from becoming problematic, saving your clothing, and your pocketbook! As soon as you notice your iron has stopped gliding smoothly, it’s time for a cleaning. Following these tips, you can clean any stains or scorches from your iron and return it to perfect working order.