​How to Clean an Iron, 6 Different (Easy!) Ways

If you’ve ever ruined a fancy blouse with an iron that sputters icky water, you’re smart to be a little paranoid about dirty irons. Residue from synthetic fabrics, spray starch, detergent, and a build-up of dirt and dust can all contribute to a dirty sole plate that can ruin your best clothes. Here’s how to clean your iron to make sure that never happens.

Because you probably won’t have extra time to deep clean household appliances when you’re about to iron something, clean your iron routinely so it’s ready to go when you need to use it. You’ll know your iron needs cleaning when it stops gliding smoothly, or there’s visible residue on the sole plate.

What You Need

To get your iron squeaky clean, gather the following:

  • your iron
  • baking soda
  • water
  • a small bowl
  • a spatula (optional)
  • a cleaning cloth or rag
  • cotton swabs (Q-tips)
  • distilled water
  • white vinegar (optional)
  • a clean cloth that you don’t mind dirtying (like an old kitchen towel)

How to Clean an Iron, Step By Step

  1. Make sure your iron is off and cool to the touch.
  2. Mix water and baking soda in a small bowl to form a paste that’s a bit on the runny side.
  3. Spread the paste over the sole plate of your iron with your spatula or hands. If there’s a lot of visible buildup, be extra generous with the paste and leave it on for several minutes.
  4. Wipe the paste off of the sole plate with a clean, damp cloth.
  5. Dip a cotton swab in distilled white vinegar and run it in and around the vents in the base plate.
  6. Empty the iron’s water reservoir.
  7. Fill the reservoir with distilled water OR a mix of 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar (check manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure they don’t forbid the use of vinegar in your iron).
  8. Turn your iron on to its highest setting and set the steam function to ON.
  9. Iron a clean cloth or towel for a few minutes. Press the manual steam button periodically to force air and water through the sole plate vents. Do this until the water runs consistently clear and the iron leaves no marks.
  10. Unplug your iron, empty the reservoir, and leave it face down on your cloth or towel to catch any lingering sediment that may drip out. Keep an eye on it until it’s completely cooled down and you can put it away safely.

5 Other Iron Cleaning Methods

The above iron-cleaning instructions are great for routine maintenance. But sometimes you need to clean it quickly, or your iron needs some more targeted attention. Here are a few iron-cleaning methods to keep in mind, along with guidelines for when to use them.

For a Quick Fix, or a Small Amount of Buildup:

To ensure a clean iron when you have something to iron right then and there:

  • Turn your iron on to its lowest setting.
  • Run a dryer sheet over the base plate until there’s no residue.

How to Clean Your Iron With Paper Towels

When there’s sticky residue on the bottom of your iron and you can’t spare a towel or cloth, use the paper towel method to clean it off:

  • Turn your iron on to its highest setting.
  • Turn the steam function OFF.
  • Run the iron over a small stack of paper towels, sliding it around until the plate is no longer sticky.

How to Clean Your Iron With Salt and Newspaper

To clean the sole plate of your iron without messing with a paste, try the following:

  • Heat your iron to its highest temperature.
  • Turn the steam function OFF.
  • Lay down a sheet of newspaper and sprinkle it liberally with salt.
  • Run your iron over the salted newspaper until residue buildup and stains are gone.

How to Clean Your Iron With Toothpaste

White toothpaste (not gel) is another way to clean your iron without mixing your own paste:

  • Make sure your iron is off and completely cool.
  • Rub white toothpaste onto the sole plate.
  • Wipe off with a clean, damp cloth.

How to Remove Melted Fabric or Melted Plastic From an Iron

Ironing oopsies happen. Here’s how to clean up from big mistakes without having to trash your iron:

  • Heat the iron to a warm or hot setting until the plastic or stuck-on fabric begins to soften.
  • Remove what you can by scraping with a wooden spatula or metal bench scraper.
  • Unplug the iron and use tweezers to dislodge pieces from within the vent holes.
  • Use the baking soda method above to thoroughly clean the sole plate once the iron has completely cooled.

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