Given how much you use it, your iron is bound to accumulate some unwanted grime. A few spots here and there might not seem like a big deal, but it's important to clean your iron before it becomes unusable. Learn how to clean your iron the right way so that you can stop grime in its tracks and give your iron the happy life it deserves.

How To Clean An Iron

How To Clean The Steam Plate

an iron on a pink background

Before you begin the cleaning process, make sure your iron is unplugged and cool. The cleaning technique you use will depend on the sort of stain that is on the plate.

Oily Substances

You'll need:

  • a rag or dishcloth
  • vinegar or ammonia

Dip your cloth into some vinegar and scrub away the oil. If you have tougher stains, you can use ammonia instead. Once you're done, use another cloth to dry everything.

Regular Wear And Tear

If your steam plate just has the usual buildup on it, you'll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • a dishcloth or rag

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl to make a paste. When the paste is nice and thick, dip a dishcloth or rag into it and scrub away the grime on the plate. When you've removed everything, dip a cloth in water and run it over the plate to remove any of the paste.

a woman cleaning an iron with a pink rag

Mineral Deposits

You'll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of distilled water
  • cotton swabs
  • a dishcloth or rag

Mix the water and baking soda together to make a paste. Dip your rag into the paste and rub it over the steam plate. Clean the paste off with a clean rag or cloth.

Then dip your cotton swabs in some water and clean out the steam vents. Refill the water reservoir and turn on the steam. Finally, run a clean towel over the plate.

a person cleaning an iron with cotton


Whether you're working on an art project or you ran your iron over a button, sometimes plastic gets burned onto your iron. No worries! Just grab these items:

  • a plastic spatula
  • an old towel
  • a pan
  • ice water

Turn your iron onto the warm setting and wait until the plastic becomes soft enough to remove. Use the spatula to scrape off any plastic from the steam plate. Once you've removed the majority of the plastic, iron a towel sprinkled with a bit of salt. Unplug your iron and wait for it to cool completely.

Next, fill a pan with ice water and let your iron sit inside of it for five to ten minutes or until the plastic freezes. Use the spatula to remove any remaining pieces of plastic. In order to remove the rest of the residue, turn your iron back onto the warm temperature and iron an old towel or cloth. If you notice the towel on its own isn't working, place a dryer sheet over the top of your towel and iron over both

a woman ironing a pink towel

How To Unclog An Iron

If your steam iron is clogged, it can become virtually unusable until it is cleaned. To bring your iron back to its glory days, you'll need:

  • 1 cup of vinegar
  • 1 cup of distilled water
  • cotton swabs
  • a towel

Make sure your iron is unplugged and completely cool before you begin cleaning. Then place your iron upright and clean out any grime or buildup in the steam holes with a cotton swab.

After the outside is clean, fill your reservoir with the vinegar and half a cup of water. Turn on your steam feature and let your iron heat up before using it. Lay your towel on the ironing board. Hold down the steam button for 20 to 30 seconds and iron the towel.

Next, empty the reservoir and refill it with the other half cup of water. Steam the towel again with the clean water to remove any vinegar and prevent further mineral deposits. Once you're done, turn off your iron, let it cool completely, and empty out any remaining water

an iron on a board next to shirts

Store-Bought Cleaning Products To Use

DIY solutions are always useful for cleaning an iron, but there are also store-bought cleaning supplies available. CLR and Rowenta are cleaners you can use for your iron's steam plate, but they'll be harsher on your iron than the DIY treatments. You can still use them, but be sure to read and follow the instructions on the cleaner labels and on the manufacturer's guide that came with your iron.

Tips To Prevent Buildup

Now you know how to clean an iron, but how do you prevent problems from occurring in the future? Make sure that you:

  • empty out the water reservoir after every use to prevent mineral deposits from caking onto your steam plate
  • store the iron an upright position whenever you're not using it to prevent leaking
  • don't clean the steam vents with metal objects, since they can scratch the surface and make things worse
  • clean the iron only when it's cool, or you could burn yourself or the items you're trying to use
  • wash out your iron with the vinegar and water solution once every four to five months to prevent mineral deposits
a dirty iron on a green ironing board

Learning how to clean and maintain your iron is the key to giving it a long and happy life. Remember to use distilled water, as it's gentler on the metal, and to use vinegar to get rid of those pesky mineral deposits. Each iron is different, so it's important to read your manual carefully to learn what your iron can and can't take and what solutions might be best for your particular model.

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