Before you toss that steam clothes iron because it refuses to steam, and the soleplate is now sporting a brown, burned-on, gross mess—you might want to give it a little love with a good clean out and clean-up. It’s not difficult to bring a tired steam iron back to working like a dream!
As always, check the owner manual before proceeding with any cleaning process if you’d just as soon not void am active warranty.
Clean the soleplate
The soleplate is the iron’s flat surface that has the tiny holes where the steam comes out—the part that gets hot. Over time, it can get dirty with a buildup of scorched, ugly brown build-up of various stains from melted-on fabric to spray starch. A dirty steam clothes iron will not press fabric properly and leave streaks of dirt and stain behind on your clothing.
There are two ways to clean the scorched ugly brown build-up of various stains from melted-on fabric to spray starch from the soleplate of a steam iron. Both are effective, although I find Option A to be a bit messier than Option B.
Option A: Heat and scrape
Heat the iron to its Low setting and just until the residue begins to soften.
Using a wooden spatula, scrape all of the residues from the bottom of the heated soleplate.
Turn off the iron and allow it to cool.
Combine 2 parts baking soda and 1 part fresh hydrogen peroxide to make a paste, i.e., 2 tablespoons baking soda to 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide. Cover the dirty soleplate with this paste and allow it to sit for 20 minutes or so to soften the burned-on gunk. Vigorously scrub the surface with a cloth or scrubbing sponge to remove any remaining residue. Rinse with a clean wet cloth and wipe dry. If steam holes appear to be clogged with paste, use a wooden skewer, cotton swab, or something similar to clear them.
Option B: Magic Eraser
My favorite way to clean the iron’s soleplate is with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (I prefer the much cheaper generic melamine version). Make sure the magic eraser is wet, then rub the cold sole plate until it comes clean. No mess, no residue, and no clogged steam holes. It really is like magic.
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Clean the inside
To remove build-up from the inside of the clothes iron and the steam holes, which over time can really clog things up, mix equal amounts of white vinegar and water in a measuring cup, then pour this into the iron’s water chamber up to the maximum fill line.
Turn the iron on to its hottest and highest steam settings. Leave the iron on and in an upright position sitting on the ironing board for 10 minutes or so. Do not leave it unattended.
Lift and hold the iron as pictured above so that the soleplate is parallel to the ironing board. Allow it to steam until the reservoir is empty.
Depending on how clogged up the iron is, it may take several steam attempts to bust through. It’s the vinegar that eventually will break down all of that hard-water scale and buildup inside the iron.
Refill the reservoir with more vinegar and water mixture. Unplug the iron and take it to the sink. Shake it to loosen the mineral build-up inside, and then turn it upside down over the sink so the vinegar and water can pour out. You are likely to see flakes and chunks of gunk come out with the liquid. Repeat this process until only clear liquid comes out of the iron into the sink.
Rinse with clear water several times to remove all traces of vinegar.
It would be best if you cleaned both the inside and the soleplate of a steam clothes iron regularly to keep it in tip-top condition. How often? That depends on how much you use it. A good rule of thumb is to clean a steam iron monthly or following 30 reservoir fill-ups.