Like various other home appliances, your clothes iron, mainly steam iron, also needs to be cleaned, though not too often.

It becomes all the more necessary in case you disregard the manufacturer’s instructions for using distilled water rather than the normal tap water.

As a result, there can be an accumulation of mineral deposits or limescale on the soleplate as well as the inside of your steam iron.


Besides, it can collect dirt, grime, stains, and portions of burnt fabric that can, in turn, stick on to the clothes when you iron them and even leave behind stains.

Also, rust and dust particles stuck on the soleplate can cause wrinkles on the fabrics while using the iron. Accumulated dirt and residue shall also decrease the iron’s performance over some time.

How to Clean a Steam Iron

Discussed below are a few methods that can prove useful in cleaning an iron.

  1. Damp Cloth
  2. Dryer Sheets
  3. White Vinegar
  4. Baking soda
  5. Toothpaste
  6. Salt

Damp Cloth: Take a large rag, dip it in plain water, and wring out the excess water. Wipe the iron’s soleplate with this rag when it is slightly heated to get rid of the gunk from the soleplate.
For resistant stains, you may use a small amount of mild detergent and a nylon mesh pad.

Dryer Sheets: Turn the setting of the iron on low and rub a few dryer sheets over the bottom of your iron until you remove the accumulated dirt and grime.
Dryer sheet
Finally, iron on a clean rag to remove any traces of residue from the dryer sheets.

White Vinegar: Clean the inside of a steam iron by pouring white vinegar, or equal parts of vinegar and water in the water reservoir until it is one-third full. Turn it on (medium-high heat setting) and let it steam for about 5-10 minutes so that all the vinegar evaporates.

White vinegar

Next, fill the chamber with plain water and turn on the iron again to help remove the remaining mineral deposits and traces of vinegar. Finally, wipe the bottom of the iron and the steam vents with a paper towel or a clean rag. It shall also help you get rid of rust collected in the steam vents.

You may not need to follow this procedure if your steam iron uses a replaceable filter to descale water automatically. In such cases, make sure you replace the filter as recommended in the user manual.
cotton swab

You can also create a homemade cleaning solution by mixing equal parts of white vinegar and water, dip a rag in it, and wipe the soleplate with it. Also, clean the steam vents clogged with starch buildup with the help of a cotton swab dipped in this solution.

Baking Soda: When dealing with stubborn stains and rust at the iron’s plate, rub a paste of two teaspoons of baking soda and a little water on the affected area.
Baking soda
For best results, apply the paste on a soft cloth, rub it on the plate, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth. Instead of water, you may mix baking soda with white vinegar as well.

Toothpaste: Scrub off the gunk from the iron’s soleplate with a little white toothpaste (not gel).
Finally, wipe it off with a damp cloth to remove the buildup of grime and mineral deposits.

Salt: To clean dirt off the iron’s plate, put some salt on a paper towel or a cotton towel and run the iron over it while it is on the highest setting with the steam turned off. The dirt shall stick to the salt, thereby leaving your iron sparkling clean.


In case there is molten plastic stuck on the soleplate, sprinkle some salt on a piece of aluminum foil and iron it. This shall help loosen the plastic from the bottom.

If it is something waxy that you need to get rid of, then turn the iron to the highest setting and run it over a newspaper. To remove oily substances, soak a small amount of ammonia on a clean rag and wipe the plate with it, followed by a wipe down with a damp cloth.

You can also use commercially available iron cleaners. The ones mentioned above, however, are inexpensive, natural, easily accessible and safe to use.

Additional Tips

  • Before cleaning the iron, make sure it is cold and unplugged.
  • In case you have burnt fabric while ironing, then immediately place a wet sponge on the affected area. Due to the sudden change in temperature, it shall help peel off the remnant burnt fabric from the soleplate.
  • Do not clean the soleplate of your iron with a metal scouring pad or steel wool as it shall damage the iron by causing scratches. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, too, as they are likely to wear away the coating on the soleplate.
  • After ironing, remove excess water from the water chamber of a steam iron while it is still hot to keep it dry and prevent a buildup of mineral deposits. Thus, empty the reservoir after each use.
  • To make your clothes iron work smoothly and glide better, you may run it over a piece of wax paper when the iron is hot. Besides, you can also clean the iron by running it over wax paper sprinkled with salt.
  • Read your iron’s user manual to learn how to clean and maintain the iron to ensure its efficiency and longevity.