Learn how to clean an iron the right way to get a sparkling clean plate. The iron, that item of electrical genius, is probably the most important addition to the tools of the trade for every sewer and person who doesn’t want to wear crinkled clothing. The iron is the workhorse behind the scenes making every seam, tuck, pleat or collar stand out. It needs to be kept clean and functional to perform its very important pressing duties.
How to Clean an Iron
Over the years the hard-working iron has become more efficient and with added steam functions, different heat settings and a special coating on the base. Because of this, the iron is now able to press various types of fabrics, however, dirt and residue on fabrics can get in the way of the iron’s ability to press perfectly. Knowing how to clean an iron could save some of your prized fabrics from being spoilt before you have had a chance to wear the garment you made or chose with love and care.
Here are some handy ideas and suggestions for different cleaning materials to clean the surface or bottom plate of your iron. This plate is known as the soleplate.
Tips for How to Clean an Iron
- POWER OFF – First and foremost remember an iron is an electrical appliance. Do not have it switched on or plugged in when you are cleaning the iron and using water.
- PAY ATTENTION – Follow cleaning directions carefully and never leave the iron on and unattended during a cleaning process. The outcome of that mistake could be a shocking experience!
- DON’T SCRATCH -Do not scrape or scratch the bottom of the iron to remove any coating or gooey stuff that seems to be sticking onto the bottom of the iron. Scratching with a sharp tool will damage the Teflon coating of the iron.
There are numerous solutions that you can use to clean your iron. I usually use a bit of detergent on a gentle kitchen scrubber but here are some other common products. Many of these you will have in your house already so there no need for a trip to the store.
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- COMMERCIAL CLEANERS – There are numerous cleaning solutions on the market that advertise they will clean your iron. Always read the instructions carefully and check with your iron manufacturer that it is compatible.
- BAKING SODA – Baking soda and water mixed together make a good natural cleaner. Mix the baking soda and the water into a paste. Take the paste and rub it onto the soleplate of the iron then use a soft brush or some old toweling to wipe away the paste. Let the iron dry before using it again and check for any residue.
- ACETONE – Another good stain remover is the acetone you use to remove nail polish. Turn on the iron so it is warm and then turn it off and unplug. Soak some acetone onto some cotton wool. You are going to dab the acetone onto the soleplate of the warm iron. The acetone evaporates quickly, but at the same time, it cleans the surface of the iron. Wipe the iron with a damp cloth after you have finished cleaning.
- VINEGAR – Vinegar is another useful all-purpose cleaner. Use white vinegar on a cloth and rub the soleplate to remove any dirt. Rub with the vinegar cloth and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
- BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR – Stubborn dirt calls for a dynamic duo. Combine baking soda and vinegar. Soak a towel in the mixture and lay it flat. Take the iron and rub it over the towel making the same side to side movements you would if you were ironing the towel.
- DETERGENT – Dishwashing detergent works well using a rag or soft towel. Mix some dish detergent in a bowl with warm water. Dip a cloth into the detergent water and rub the dirt off the bottom of the iron.
- TOOTHPASTE – Here’s an interesting suggestion – try some toothpaste. Just rub some white toothpaste onto the soleplate, leave it for a short while, and then rub off with a damp cloth. The reason toothpaste can work is that it is slightly abrasive.
Whether you want to use something physically abrasive on the soleplate will depend on whether it is stainless steel or Teflon coated. You can normally tell the difference easily – stainless steel is silver and shiny whereas Teflon will have a matt grey or white surface.
Don’t use anything abrasive on Teflon. If you want to clean stainless steel try one of the below but remember to still be very gentle. Scratches will collect more dirt and gunk in the long run. Never use anything really scratchy like metal.
- NEWSPAPER – Newspaper makes a good scrubber. Scrunch up a piece of newspaper and use it to rub over the dirty soleplate of the iron. A newspaper is a great absorber of grease and fatty residue. Heat the iron and then remove it from the socket before beginning to rub with the newspaper.
- OLD TOWEL – Use an old towel or facecloth to rub the soleplate. When used with one of the cleaning solutions above it can be really effective without damaging the plate.
- SCRUBBERS – Using kitchen scrubbers and sponges with the detergent solution helps to remove stubborn dirt. Use gentle scrubbers and no harsh abrasives.
- SALT – Add a bit a pinch of salt into the mix. Sprinkle some salt onto a sheet of paper. Warm up the iron, unplug and run it over the salt. The salt helps to remove stains and dirt. When you are finished, and the iron is cool, wipe away the salt with a dry cloth.
- COTTON BUDS – Clean out the steam holes or vents of a steam iron with a cotton bud. Dip the bud into a detergent solution and insert the bud into the vent and wipe it out.
- TOOTHBRUSH – If you don’t have any cotton buds to clean the holes, try a soft toothbrush.
How to Clean an Iron with Limescale
The inside of your iron is just as important as the outside. Tap water can often contain chemicals and lime that can clog and damage the inside water well.
Commercial descaling solutions remove limescale buildup that may prevent the steam vents from working correctly and shorten the life of your iron.
When storing your iron for longer periods, it can pay to empty the water well to lessen any corrosion inside. Bottled or distilled water will always lengthen the life of your iron.
How to Clean an Iron From Interfacing
These are just some general tips and household products to use to help you clean your iron. However, there are some other specific items that stick like glue to your iron and may need special attention. A common iron sticker is fusible interfacing.
Have you ever had that awful feeling that comes from putting the interfacing the wrong way onto the fabric? Then as you press your iron onto the interfacing it shrivels into a ball and sticks to the iron! A Teflon coated iron does not respond well to heavy abrasives and strong acetone cleaners.
What seems to work well is a white vinegar solution applied with a soft brush, like a toothbrush, to release the sticky interfacing that has adhered to the iron by mistake. Keep an old toothbrush aside just for this purpose.
Preventing a Dirty Iron
Prevention and learning how to clean an iron is better than a cure they say. Here are some preventative measures you can take.
- WATER CHOICE – Remember to keep your iron clean and to use distilled or boiled water in the iron for steaming. The boiled water has no additives that would affect the water residue on the soleplate and cause stains or dirty base to iron with.
- EMPTY TANK – Another good idea is to empty the water tank of the iron after use and to stand the iron upright when you are not using it.
- AVOID BUTTONS – When you are ironing avoid ironing over plastic buttons and clips. If you iron over a plastic button by mistake put your iron in the freezer. The plastic will freeze into a hard ball and is easily removed from the surface of the garment.
- IRON ON WRONG SIDE – Remember to turn printed t-shirts inside out to avoid ironing directly onto transfers.
- PRESSING CLOTH – A pressing cloth is a piece of cotton fabric placed between the item and your iron. When you are ironing tricky fabrics that may melt, this can prevent any transfer of dyes or gunk on your iron.
- STORE UPRIGHT – It is best to store your iron in an upright position so water does not leak out and cause rust.
When you have finished cleaning, it is important to first test the iron on a steam setting on some scrap fabric or old clothing.
The solution you used may be in the duct holes and it may need to come out first before you iron your favorite shirt. The ducts may be clean but could still have some dirty water left in them.
When Should You Clean an Iron
It is better to clean an iron regularly as a method of maintenance rather than leaving it until it is really dirty. Of course the more you use your iron, the more you will need to clean it. If you see dirt or build up, it is time to start cleaning.
Buying a New Iron
Sorry to say but if your iron has been really damaged then it may just be time to purchase a new one. Irons vary enormously in price but really they all do the same thing – you guessed it – ironing. Not my favorite chore but one that is always necessary.
How to Clean an Iron – In Conclusion
There is no doubt that keeping your iron in tip top condition and always clean on the surface is going to make all the difference to the important step of ironing or pressing. Start using your iron the way you mean to continue and it will give you a long life. The sole plate may even become your sole-mate!