How to Clean an Iron: Expert Tips for Inside, Outside, and Bottom of Your Machine

If the bottom of your iron is starting to look less than fresh—or flat-out burnt—you’re probably wondering how to clean an iron…without burning your fingers in the process. It’s totally doable. With the right approach, you can restore the bottom of your iron and, in turn, keep it working as effectively as the first day you got it.

Dirty irons do nothing for your clothes.

Photo: Ragnar Schmuck/Getty Images

“Cleaning an iron regularly will help to maintain it and give it a longer lifespan,” says Mallory Micetich, Angi Home Expert. “Additionally, you’ll notice that if it isn’t clean, the iron soleplate won’t glide easily, can stick to fabric, and can even spray dirty water on clothes and stain them.”

If you can’t remember when you last cleaned your iron, or you never have, there’s no need to worry. Here, AD speaks with experts who have hacks aplenty to make the inside and the bottom of your iron look brand new. Read on to get their tips on how to get rid of clogs and buildup in order to achieve a clean iron.

Step-By-Step Iron Cleaning

Step 1: Gather cleaning products

Keeping your iron clean doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time, effort, or money. A few DIY cleaning products are all you need. Micetich and Patric Richardson, host of The Laundry Guy and author of House Love, recommend having a few common household items on hand for iron cleaning: distilled white vinegar, baking soda, and distilled water. “Cotton swabs, cotton balls, a sponge, and an old toothbrush can also be helpful when cleaning an iron,” Micetich adds.

For his part, Richardson prefers a cloth, whether it’s an old towel or a microfiber cloth, and notes that you may also need a descaling product if there’s any hard water buildup on your iron too. “You can pick that up at the hardware store and follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” he says.

Step 2: Use vinegar to clean the inside of the iron

When you’re all set to begin, Micetich recommends working from the inside out. Make sure that you have an unplugged and cool iron, of course, and then mix about one-fourth cup distilled white vinegar with three-fourths cup water. “You can pour this mixture into the iron’s water reservoir and then plug the iron in and turn it on,” she says. “Once it’s heated up, you use the steam button on the highest setting to move the vinegar and water mixture through the iron.” Repeat this process two or three times through the water reservoir to ensure that the inner workings of the iron are clean.

“When you’re finished, turn off the iron and wait for it to cool down,” Micetich continues. “Once cool, dump out any of the mixture that remains within the iron.”

Step 3: Clean the iron soleplate

To clean the iron soleplate, or the bottom of an iron, so that it returns to its fresh-from-the-box sheen, Richardson has this trick to share. To start, “saturate a clean cloth in distilled white vinegar,” he says. “Place it on your ironing board, and iron over the cloth several times.”

How do you get brown stuff off an iron?

By repeatedly smoothing over the towel, the dirty iron will create steam that’ll lift any “gunk” off the iron plate, he says. And when it shines, turn the iron off and wait for it to cool. As a final step, wipe down the plate with a damp, clean cloth, “and you’re good to go,” Richardson says.

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