womans hand holding steam iron that is bursting with steam

How to Clean a Steam Iron So It Steams and Looks Like New


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!

womans hand holding steam iron that is bursting with steam

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

Step 1

Heat the iron to its Low setting and just until the residue begins to soften.

Step 2

Using a wooden spatula, scrape all of the residues from the bottom of the heated soleplate.

Step 3

Turn off the iron and allow it to cool.

Step 4

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.

We are a Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you., an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon, at no cost to you.


Clean the inside

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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. 



More from Mary's Everyday Cheapskate

induction cooktop GE-Cafe
female hand in yellow rubber glove holding spray bottle of homemade cleaning solution
closeup of female hands pouring hydrogen peroxide into a clean cloth
dust on a wood surface
brown leather sofa with pillows of contrasting color
kitchen with green painted floor
spring cleaning concept with tools and products
Tired cleaning lady on white with spray bottle that won't spray!
A woman preparing food in a kitchen

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our EC users. Keep your comments positive, encouraging, supportive, and on-topic. Please no lectures or personal promotions.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
2 replies
  1. Belinda Prichard says:

    After purchasing Iron-Off for many, many years I decided I would try other options. The baking soda paste was much to messy and I couldn’t ever get the steam holes to unclog. I had purchased a clothes steamer at a yard sale for $25. It is right beside my ironing board. So, I decided I would use hot steam in a cold iron. I took a Teflon scraper from the kitchen and lightly ran it over the sole plate after heating it with the steamer. It worked perfectly! No mess and the iron looks like new.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *