How to Clean an Iron

Cleaning your iron is very easy and much cheaper than replacing it. Unfortunately many people today choose to replace their iron instead of cleaning it because they simply don’t know how or are afraid that it is more complicated than it actually is. We’ll tell you step-by-step how to clean an iron yourself. (Its is also more environmentally-friendly than pitching it where it will end up adding more waste to our already overflowing land fills.)

There are two parts of an iron that you need to know how to clean to prevent staining on your clothes and to ensure proper function of your iron. These two parts are called the sole plate which is the actual surface that smoothes your clothes and the reservoir which holds the water for steam and includes the ducts that spray steam onto your clothing or whatever surface that you wish to iron.

The sole plate will need to have any residue removed including chemicals, such as detergents, starch spray and fabric softener. Sole plates can be Teflon coated or not and depending on which type your iron has the way to clean it without damaging the sole plate will vary.

The reservoir will need to be flushed and the steam ducts cleared of any debris that may be clogging them. You will know when it is time to clean your iron because it will pull or drag across the fabric you are attempting to iron.

You should also inspect your iron and check for staining of the sole plate and check the steam holes for residue from the water steaming through them. This residue is usually white in color and is made up of deposited minerals from the water in the reservoir.

Also, please follow any precautions from the manufacturer in the instruction manual that came with your iron. Use of some substances could void your warranty or damage the iron.

Cleaning the Sole Plate

First make sure the iron is unplugged and cool. Remove any water in the reservoir. Then determine whether the sole plate is Teflon coated or a non Teflon surface. Most irons today are Teflon and a nylon mesh pad will be useful for our purposes here. Do not ever attempt to clean a Teflon sole plate with a metal scrubber because this will severely damage the Teflon coating.

If you don’t have a nylon mesh pad you can use a cloth as well. Begin by scrubbing the sole plate with the nylon mesh pad and a solution of soap and water. If using a cloth, dampen it with water and use salt to wipe the surface of the sole plate. You can use toothpaste on more stubborn stains.

For heavy starch build up try a cloth dampened with a white vinegar and salt solution. Heat up the vinegar until it dissolves the salt and then rub the surface.

Yet another suggestion is to mix up a paste of baking soda and water. Then apply this paste to the sole plate and scrub with a cloth. Once the sole plate is clean make sure to wipe the surface again, this time using a clean cloth and clean water only.

If the sole plate is not Teflon you may heat up the iron to the low or cotton setting and then spread salt onto either a piece of aluminum foil or a piece of wax paper. Use the salt as an abrasive cleaner by passing the iron over the salted surface until it is clean. Unplug, let cool and follow with a cloth dampened with water.

Cleaning the Reservoir

The next step is to clean the reservoir. This can be done with white vinegar. Fill the reservoir of the cool iron ¼ of the way with vinegar. Vinegar produces rather strong smelling fumes when heated so be sure to do this in a well ventilated area. Near an open window for example.

Turn the iron to the steam setting. Steam a clean white cloth until the reservoir is completely empty. Check to see if the mineral deposits are gone. If not repeat until clean. Follow with a full reservoir of clean water. Repeat steaming with clean water several times.


To prevent or minimize these mineral deposits from reoccurring, use only distilled or purified water for steaming. If you will continue using tap water, drain all water from your iron immediately after each use, while the iron is still hot. Be careful to avoid the steam by pouring the water over a sink and away from face. Clogged steam ducts can be opened with a pipe cleaner if necessary.

Periodic wiping all other parts of the iron with a damp cloth and mild cleanser will help prevent the transfer of dirt from the iron to your clothing.

There are several iron cleanser products available on the market today. If you wish to try one, follow the manufacturer’s directions. One final suggestion for prevention of iron build up is to purchase a self-cleaning iron.