How to Clean a Steam Iron

How to Clean a Steam Iron: A Step-by-Step Guide

Last Updated on January 10, 2023

Irons are a useful tool to keep around the house to ensure you can keep your clothes, curtains and sheets looking and feeling fresh. Learning how to clean iron is a particularly good idea if you have hard water in your area. If you live in a hard water area, it means that your tap water that is known to contain minerals that can easily build up and clog the steam vents on your iron over time. This article describes several ways you can clean an iron using ingredients and supplies you most likely already have in your home.

Of course, there are harsher commercial-grade cleaners available for your iron but a good homemade cleaner is usually enough to achieve the desired result.

Have you ever wondered how to clean a steam iron? If so, you have come to the right place.

Why Is Cleaning Your Steam Iron Important?

Knowing how to clean a steam iron is important because cleaning your iron will help the steam function run more smoothly and more efficiently. Additionally, when steam irons aren’t occasionally cleaned they can leave rusty coloured watermarks on your clothes, ruining them for good. Fortunately, this can easily be avoided if you simply clean your iron.

Before You Get Started

Before you begin cleaning your iron you first want to make sure that it is not connected to a power source. If you have just finished using your iron, you always want to make sure you give it enough time to cool down completely.

What Supplies Will I Need?

To clean both the inside and the soleplate on your iron you will need to gather the following supplies:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Distilled water
  • Cotton swabs (a soft toothbrush or clean cloth could also be useful)
  • Baking soda or salt

How to Clean an Iron: A Two-Part Method

Cleaning Inside Your Iron

1. Empty the water tank.

First, make sure to empty the reservoir so you can start fresh, with the right ingredients.

2. Mix together distilled water and vinegar.

Combine 175ml distilled water with 60ml of white vinegar and add the mixture to the iron’s reservoir. Fill the water tank all the way up to the top.

3. Heat up the iron.

Plug your iron in with the steam setting turned on the highest setting and wait for it to heat up. This usually takes about three to five minutes, depending on the iron.

4. Hold down the steam button.

Push the steam function button and hold it down until vapour is visibly coming out of the steam holes.

5. Repeat step 4.

Continue pressing and depressing the steam button approximately 5-10 times for 20-30 seconds each time. This helps to loosen any mineral deposits or build-up that can accumulate in the vents of your iron.

6. Clean the steam vents.

Individually clean each steam vent using a cotton swab. A damp cloth or even a soft toothbrush could also come in handy during this step of the process to get the best results. Just make sure not to scratch the soleplate by using an abrasive material.

7. Cool and empty your iron.

Unplug your and always let it cool before emptying the water and vinegar mixture from the tank. Add fresh water before the next use, but don’t store it in the iron.

Cleaning the Bottom Soleplate

steaming soleplate

Finding an iron plate cleaner can be a challenge but you can actually clean the soleplate of your iron using several different homemade mixtures. We describe how to descale an iron using the two most common methods in detail here. You may find that either works well for your iron so we recommend making whichever one you already have the supplies for in your home. They both feature a similar process so we have combined the instructions below.

Option 1: Baking Soda and Distilled Water or White Vinegar

Option 2: Salt and White Vinegar

1: Mix the ingredients.

Combine one part water or white vinegar with two parts baking soda to create a paste cleaning solution.

Or, combine equal parts salt and white vinegar to create a paste-like cleaning solution.

2: Apply the mixture to the soleplate.

Using a clean towel or your hands, rub the solution on the iron’s soleplate.

3: Wipe it clean.

Using a clean damp cloth gently wipe the baking soda and water mixture from the soleplate.

4: Remove and leftover solution from the steam holes.

Add clean water and turn the iron on, along with the steam setting. Once heated, press the steam button and run it over a towel in order to remove any leftover paste in holes or on the soleplate itself.

5: Cool and empty your iron.

Unless you plan on using it straight away, turn your iron off and let it cool. Once cooled, empty the water reservoir and you are all done!

Other Things to Consider

The following sections answer any lingering questions and explore some general maintenance tips.

Alternative Iron Plate Cleaner Options

We already explained how to clean the bottom of iron using the two most common methods, however, you may be surprised to learn that toothpaste can clean many things, even the metal soleplate on your iron. Try using toothpaste if you don’t already have the ingredients needed for the other methods.

What About Residue Melted on the Soleplate?

man steaming clothes

For stubborn issues on the soleplate, like melted plastic, set the iron in a pan lined with ice cubes. After about 10 minutes, which should be enough time for the plastic to harden, try scraping it off with a hard plastic spatula or knife. Just make sure not to use metal as it can damage the soleplate.

Additional Care and Maintenance Tips

We recommend you fill your iron with distilled water whenever possible. This will help reduce minerals from accumulating in the vents and on the soleplate. This will also extend the time between cleanings, allowing you to perform less maintenance overall.

Lastly, we recommend cleaning your steam iron on a monthly basis, if you use it frequently, in order to keep it running at its peak performance level.


Now that you know how to clean a steam iron, committing to the process on a regular basis should be easier than ever. The entire process, which includes cleaning the water reservoir and the bottom soleplate, should only take about an hour total and a lot of that time is waiting for it to cool down. Just remember, cleaning your iron could preserve its lifespan and protect your clothes against possible stains for many years to come, so stop procrastinating and use our tips to keep your iron clean.

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