How to clean an iron

Everyone needs to know how to clean an iron, because sooner or later, most irons begin leaving marks on your clothes. Here's how to restore your iron to its smudge-free glory

How to clean an iron

Wondering how to clean an iron, as it's constantly leaving unsightly marks on your clean clothing? There's no point ironing clothes if it's going to make them dirty again, so if your iron is misbehaving, give it a thorough clean before using it.

Read on to find out how to clean an iron with everything from bicarbonate of soda to toothpaste, then catch all our cleaning hacks, tips and how tos on our dedicated page. And, if you do need a new one, don't miss our pick of the best irons, too.

How to clean an iron

Most of these iron cleaning tips need the iron to be turned off and it's best if it's unplugged, too. These tips will help you remove sticky gunk and all sorts of build up from your iron. You're sure to find a favourite method amongst them.

1. How to clean an iron with baking soda

First, make sure your iron is unplugged and that the plate is cold (we'll say this a lot). Then, empty the water tank. Next, combine two teaspoons of baking soda/bicarbonate of soda with water and make a paste. Use a pastry brush to apply the paste to the plate. Leave for a few minutes, then rub at the plate, concentrating on the dirtiest areas, with a clean, microfibre cloth. Use another clean microfibre cloth to clean the excess paste off the iron. 

If there are stubborn marks, mix another baking soda paste, this time switching the water for white vinegar. Finally, plug in the iron and refill the water tank. Once it's heated up, set to steam and sit the iron on its end on an old piece of fabric, plate up. After five minutes like this, use the iron on the old piece of fabric. It should now be clean. Find more cleaning hacks with bicarbonate of soda in our guide.

2. How to clean an iron with vinegar

No baking soda on hand? Swap out your paste for a mixture of half a cup of water with half a cup of vinegar. Dip a clean microfibre cloth into the solution and work at the dirty parts of the plate. Refill the iron's water tank and plug it back in, setting it to steam. Again, pop it on its end on an old piece of fabric (think towel or tea towel), and leave it for five minutes. Find more ways to use vinegar to clean your home with our guide.

3. How to clean an iron with salt (and vinegar)

Are those stains on the plate a bit more stubborn than you'd anticipated? Unplug, empty the tank and ensure the iron's plate is cool. Boil the kettle then combine half a cup of hot water with three to four teaspoons of salt; combine that with half a cup of white vinegar, and when it's cooled, dip your clean, microfibre cloth into it and take it to the iron's plate. Repeat the steps above, refilling the tank, plugging in the iron, setting to steam and sitting on its end on an old piece of fabric. After five minutes like this, it should be good to go.

More ways to clean your home with vinegar in our guide.

4. How to descale an iron with vinegar

Limescale can make using the steam function of the iron difficult and, more than that, tends to show up on dark fabrics. So, how to descale an iron? It's pretty simple. You can either resort to an iron descaler, or try one of our natural solutions. If you're using an iron descaler, follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter, ensuring that the product you've bought is suitable for irons – they'll often descale irons and kettles, but not always. 

Otherwise, unplug the iron, let it cool and empty the water tank. Then pour either neat white vinegar or a half-and-half white vinegar/water mix (depending on how bad the limescale is) into the water tank, filling it by about a third. 

Next, simply repeat the process above, putting the iron on its end on a piece of old fabric, plugging it back in and setting it to steam. You might want to open the windows at this point. Once the tank's empty of the vinegar, refill it with water, and repeat the steam-till-empty process. If there's lots of limescale left in the steam vents, turn off and let the iron cool again, then use a toothpick or a stiff toothbrush to work at them. It's also worth using a cotton bud dipped in vinegar to work into any stubborn areas. Finally, repeat the water-only steam to dissipate the vinegary smell. 

5. How to clean an iron with tumble dryer sheets

With this method, you should have your iron on – but on a low heat. Very carefully, rub the iron's metal plate with a clean tumble dryer sheet. As the sheet warms, the dirt should begin to come loose. Finally, put the heat setting up to high and iron over the old piece of fabric to remove any dryer sheet residue. Job (should be) done.

6. How to clean an iron with toothpaste

Iron unplugged? Water tank emptied down the sink? Metal plate cold? Let's begin this rather unusual – but effective – iron cleaning hack. First ensure you're using white toothpaste – avoid those blue and red stripes. Then simply rub it on to the plate, either with your finger or with an old but clean toothbrush. That done, remove the toothpaste with a clean, microfibre cloth. Repeat the process if necessary. Otherwise, if the iron looks clean, refill the tank, plug it in, set to steam, sit it on its end on an old piece of fabric for five minutes, then iron on to the old fabric to remove any traces of toothpaste that have been left over.  

7. How to clean an iron with kitchen roll

This is another iron cleaning hack that requires the iron to be on. First put it on its highest setting, but without steam. Then, simply iron over the kitchen roll until all the sticky residue is removed. Of course, you could swap the kitchen roll for an old tea towel (or that well-worn piece of old fabric). 

8. How to stop your iron leaving scorch marks

Always leaving scorch marks on your favourite clothes? It's all down to heat settings, rather than the iron itself. Ideally, before you iron, check the care label of the piece of clothing that you're ironing; it should give you a clear, upper temperature that you can iron at. If in doubt? Iron at a low setting and work your way up slowly. 

9. How to clean an iron: use distilled water only

If your iron keeps spitting out rusty bits or limescale as you're ironing, despite your best efforts to clean it, you're likely filling it with tap water in a hard water area. Depending on which minerals are prevalent in your area, you'll be getting different types of residue in your iron. If you're sick of descaling it all the time, consider using only distilled water for filling your iron. Your clothes will thank you. 

Alternatively, spritz your clothes directly with an ironing water (you can make it yourself from distilled water, a bit of rubbing alcohol or vodka, and a few drops of your favourite essential oil) and operate the iron on a non-steam setting. You'll still get decreasing action as the ironing water evaporates.

Buy a new iron?

If yours really is past it, perhaps it's time to buy a new iron? Don't miss our pick of the best irons, or check the best deals below, with the help of our price comparison tool.

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