Pressing Matters - How To Clean Your Iron Inside & Out!

Hi Everyone! Welcome to Pressing Matters Part 2! 

This week we continue on the topic of pressing with a look at the maintenance and care of our irons. A brand new clean ironing board cover isn't going to do you much good if your iron is dirty... so let's take a little time to tend to our irons. Shari has done her research and tried many different things to solve the common issue "How do I get the gunk off my iron?". She also discovered something new and is excited to share this fun little tib-bit with the group in the video posted below!


 How To Clean Your Iron Inside and Out:


Supply List: 

  • Eraser Sponge – These are really handy for day-to-day cleaning and common scorched-on stains.
  • Old Towels and Rags – Your cleaning rags will get stained, so don't use your best towels!
  • Toothpicks – this is to help remove build-up from the steam holes.
  • Distilled Vinegar – Distilled vinegar is by far one of my favorite cleaning products for most household surfaces. It's acidity cuts through all kinds of gunk and grime, yet it is safe enough to eat. It is pretty much my go-to household cleaner. No worries about poisoning a kid or pet or polluting our environment. The biggest complaint is the pickle smell. If you like pickles that isn't much of a problem, but if you don't... the smell dissipates quickly, especially if you have a nice smelling candle burning or some essential oils going in the background.
  • Baking Soda – Baking soda is my second favorite cleaning product, especially when paired up with white vinegar. Used on a damp cloth, it works great as a non-abrasive scrub on most solid surfaces. Mix it with vinegar and the exciting bubbly reaction makes for a pretty powerful duo.
  • Acetaminophen tablet – Use the solid white capsules. This works great to break down the most stubborn gunk.
  • Filtered Tap Water – Filtered tap water is the best water to use in your iron. Consider investing in a filtered water pitcher so you will always have plenty on hand.

Clean the Outside of Your Iron

A build-up of grime on the sole plate of your iron not only looks bad, but can cause stains on your fabric as you iron. To minimize normal day-to-day build-up, regularly take the time to wipe your cool iron down with a little white vinegar or an eraser cleaning sponge. Sometimes, however, there will be that project that really gets your iron dirty. Starches leave a scorched film, iron-on adhesives leave a gunky mess, and, in my case, some mystery fibers from a bargain felt pressing mat left a gritty residue that melted and stuck hard and fast to my sole plate.

For this iron cleaning job, a quick wipe down with vinegar or an eraser sponge isn't going to cut it. Because I am not sure what it is that is stuck to the bottom of my iron I am going to start with the least aggressive cleaning methods and work my way up. To help break down the grime, start by soaking an old towel in vinegar and laying your cool iron on it for a half hour or so. You may want to lay down a layer of plastic underneath your wet towel to protect your work surface. Now, just walk away and let the vinegar do the work. After letting the iron sit on the vinegar, plug your iron in, turn off the steam, and turn the heat down to medium. Now, just take a little time ironing over the vinegar-soaked towel to rub off the gunk. Repeat as needed. This works best for removing general types of grime that has built up on your sole plate.

If this doesn't do the trick, time for a little baking soda and some elbow grease. Wet a rag with vinegar and then sprinkle with baking soda. Now, give your sole plate a good scrub with plenty of elbow grease. The vinegar and baking soda work together to break down the build-up and the mild abrasive of the baking soda helps to scrub it away.

Soak a fresh cloth in plain vinegar and wipe away any remaining baking soda, squeezing some of the vinegar into the steam holes to help dissolve away any remaining baking soda. As you work, use a toothpick to remove any baking soda or dirt from the steam holes.

Still got gunk? Don't be tempted to use an abrasive scrubbing pad or you risk scratching the surface of your iron. Dirt and grime adhere more easily to scratched and scuffed surfaces. Instead, let's pull out the BIG guns in the form of a little acetaminophen tablet. Yes, that is correct, the solid white pill that you take when you have a headache. This works particularly well for removing iron-on adhesives and scorched residue from synthetic fibers that are not easily broken down by vinegar and baking soda,

Simply turn your iron on high. When it is hot, carefully rub the tablet over all the stubborn spots. The acetaminophen will start to melt and break down even the most stubborn scorched-on debris. Carefully wipe the residue off with a clean cloth as you work. When you are all finished, give your iron a final wipe down with vinegar or an eraser sponge to remove any remaining residue.


Inside Your Iron

The sole plate isn't the only place on your iron that harbors dirt and grime that can damage your fabric.

Using the wrong kind of water in your iron will cause mineral deposits to build up inside your iron that will eventually work their way out of the steam holes onto your fabric. Combined with a bit of steam or spray, these deposits can leave stains on your fabric.

More often than not, it is recommended that you only use Distilled Water in your iron to prevent mineral deposits. While this sounds reasonable, many irons are designed to be used with tap water and distilled water may actually damage the inside of your iron. This may seem counter-intuitive, but what happens is that the pure water molecules in distilled water are mildly acidic and over time will start to corrode the metals parts inside your iron which will in turn cause the very mineral deposits you are trying to avoid.

Avoid De-ionized Water. It is full of positively-charged ions that don't mix well with any electric device.

The minerals in Spring Water may be good for your health, but are not good for the inside of your iron.

The safest water to use in your iron is Filtered Tap Water. Invest in a simple filtered pitcher and you will have an endless supply at your fingertips. Even better, if you have a refrigerator with an icemaker and water dispenser, most refrigerator filters will even filter out the sodium that’s present from water softeners.

So, if you have been using the wrong kind of water and you are being troubled with mineral deposits that are causing your iron to spit, dribble, and stain your fabric, what is one to do??

Like we did with cleaning the sole plate of your iron, let's start with the least aggressive options and move our way up, if necessary.

Lay an old towel on your work surface to catch any dirt from your iron.

Empty your iron reservoir out and fill with clean filtered tap water. Turn your iron on high and pump the manual steam button to get as much steam running through the iron as possible. As you do this, move the steam control lever back and forth to dislodge build-up from the gaskets inside your iron.

Do this repeatedly until your iron stops spitting dirt and water and steams evenly.

If this doesn't do the trick, consider pulling out the big guns... a half and half mixture of distilled vinegar and filtered water. BEFORE YOU DO THIS however, be sure to refer to your user's manual. Some irons may specifically suggest cleaning your iron with vinegar, but others will not. Although most irons have a protective coating inside the water chamber, the acid in the vinegar may eventually break down some linings and corrode your iron's metal innards. Unless your iron specifically recommends using vinegar to clean the inside, use this cleaning method as a last resort before replacing your iron altogether.

Fill your water reservoir with the vinegar mixture. Turn your iron on high and pump the manual steam button to get as much steam running through the iron as possible. As you do this, move the steam control lever back and forth to dislodge build up from the gaskets.

After a little bit, dirt and mineral deposits will start to dissolve and come out of the steam holes. Repeat, as necessary.

Once you have emptied out all the vinegar mixture fill your reservoir with plain filtered water and pump the manual steam button to get as much steam running through the iron as possible to clear out any remaining vinegar.

Repeat this process until the smell of vinegar disappears and your steam is clear of any soil or mineral deposits. Use a toothpick to fish out any deposits that get clogged in the steam holes as you work, being careful not to burn yourself in the process.

Now that your iron is clean, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Wipe down the sole plate of your iron regularly and only use filtered water from here on out to keep your iron clean inside and out.




July 22, 2020

do you have a pdf of this instructional page / month ?


June 28, 2020

Great ideas. Rather than purchase acetaminophen tablets, I just purchase cleaner for my iron soleplate. Works great!


June 10, 2020

Yay Sheri….great tips. Like others, I never heard about the acetaminophen caplets being used like this! You are a great asset to the Pixie Faire family. Thanks for all you do.


June 10, 2020

I’m not exactly sure how or why the acetaminophen tablet works, in fact, when I first came across this recommendation I blew it off and wasn’t going to bother with it. When I had so much trouble removing the remaining residue on my iron, I thought I may as well give it a try. Was rather impressed by how well it worked. So as not to waste medication, save your expired pills for this purpose.


June 10, 2020

Great recommendations Pamela. You could just use the cloth to hold the pill before wiping it down. :o)


June 09, 2020

I bought a new iron about 4 months ago and it said to use the filtered water as you recommended. But it does recommend that the water be emptied out of your iron and the lid over the opening for the water, not all irons have this, but if you do to leave that lid open so the ater can evaporate

Pamela W
Pamela W

June 09, 2020

The acetaminophen pill was quite the surprise on the list of items. However, I’ve burnt myself accidentally enough doing normal things, so I’d definitely recommend doing that while using an oven mitt or something to protect hands from burns! I’m making a guess, but pills are usually coated in a carnauba wax and starch combination, so I have to wonder if it might work as well, and a bit more safely, to use car wax or surfboard wax instead? You could put the wax onto cloth and not have to touch the hot iron surface so directly, and equally not waste medication.

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