How to Clean Your Iron So It's as Good as New

Is your iron in need of a good clean? Dust, dirt, detergents, spray starch and melted fabric fibers can do damage to your iron’s soleplate. Even worse, when your iron is dirty, the grime drags across fabrics, creating stains or marks. The good news? Learning how to clean an iron is easy.


How to clean an iron and make it good as new

There are lots of methods cleaning an iron. Your cleaning process might depend on your specific iron: The bottom of your iron can be made of stainless, teflon or other materials. Just as you would with a stainless or teflon kitchen item, take care when cleaning your iron to avoid scratching the surface. Ventilation is important also — be sure to open a window, as some of these methods create less-than-pleasant odors. 

Method 1: Baking soda and water

Mix some baking soda with a little water to create a paste, and rub the paste across the iron. You can use a soft brush to scrub the soleplate and dissolve any gunk. Wipe clean with water. You will probably need to clean out the steam holes with a damp cotton swab.

After you have removed all the baking soda, fill the iron with water and turn it up to the steam setting. Iron over a thick towel using lots of steam to make sure the vent holes are completely cleared of the baking soda paste.

Method 2: Dryer sheets

Iron with dryer sheet

Turn your iron to a low setting and let it heat up. You don’t want any steam, so make sure the reservoir of water is empty.

Place a dryer sheet on a thick folded towel that’s hanging off the edge of your ironing board. Run the iron over the sheet until the gunk on the iron comes off. The dryer sheet may leave some oily residue on the bottom of the iron, so after the iron cools, wipe down the soleplate with a damp towel to remove that residue. This method works well if you have a buildup of starch or just a small amount of dirt on the iron.

Method 3: Newspaper

If you don’t have a dryer sheet hand, you can use newspaper. Place some newspaper on top of a thick towel that is draped over the edge of the ironing board. Be sure to empty the reservoir with this method as well.

Heat up the iron on a high setting, and then drag the iron surface across newspaper to remove the buildup. You can also scrunch up the newspaper and use it to scrub the iron surface. If you go that route, wear an oven mitt when holding the newspaper to keep your hand safe. 

Method 4: Acetone nail polish remover

This method may be a little unorthodox, but I have found that a cotton ball or piece of scrap cotton fabric soaked in acetone nail polish remover works well for dissolving gunk on the bottom of the iron.

Plug in and heat it the iron, then unplug and quickly dab the soaked cotton on the hot surface. Again, take care when getting near that hot surface with your fingers — another task for the oven mitt!

You will have to clean a small area at a time because the acetone evaporates quickly, but it does a good job of dissolving the stuck-on material and cleaning the surface. When finished, wipe down with water and a cloth. 

Method 5: Kitchen cleaning sponges or pads

A lot of non-scratch household sponges and scrubbers can be used to clean the surface of the iron, but they require a bit more elbow grease.

The white eraser-type sponges work well on irons. If you have a ceramic cooktop, the specific no-scratch cleaner that you use for the cooktop can be used for the iron, but as with the baking soda you will need to get all that cleanser out of the vent holes before using the iron on your sewing or quilting projects. 

Method 6: Commercial iron cleaning products

Iron with fusible stuck on

Who hasn’t put the hot iron down on the glue side of the interfacing? We have all been there! This might be the most alarming problem of all. While the iron is hot, grab an old towel and use the technique described above: drag the iron over the edge to scrape off most of the interfacing.

Some fabrics can melt on the iron as well, and create a really stubborn mess that will not scrub or scrape off with any method. When this happens, I recommend a commercial iron cleaner, which are sold in the notions area of sewing and quilting stores.

Follow the directions on the package, which usually say to squeeze the cleaner onto a folded towel and then press down on the towel with your hot, dry iron, continuously moving the iron and cleaning the whole surface. It will sizzle and possibly smoke a little. Be sure to open the windows because the smell is quite something. But it definitely works and has saved many a costly iron!

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One Response to “How to Clean Your Iron So It's as Good as New”

  1. Evelyn Knowles

    How do I clean a steam iron where the water has been left inside?