How to Clean an Iron So It Doesn’t Damage Your Clothes

Ironing is supposed to unwrinkle your clothes and make them look better. But when you notice brown stains on your garments or a funky smell on freshly pressed items, it’s time to pull out your cleaning tools. That’s when knowing how to clean an iron comes in handy.

Of course, you don’t want to wait until your iron damages your clothing. Experts recommend cleaning your iron once or twice a year, but if you use it often, clean it monthly. Even the best steam irons need to be cleaned regularly. Starch, minerals from hard water, and fibers from the fabrics you’re ironing can stick to the soleplate, where the heat bakes them in, causing scorch marks, rust, and brown or black gunk. This residue can cause your iron to work less efficiently and do more harm than good. Worst of all, it can lead to fires.

Knowing how to clean an iron is just as important as knowing how to iron—and it’s easier than you might think. We’re going to show you a variety of methods so you can choose the one that uses items you probably already have in your home. Be sure to first check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning recommendations in case there are dos and don’ts for your specific model.

Supplies for cleaning an iron

Depending on the cleaning method you choose, you’ll want to gather some of these items before you get started:

That looks like a mighty long list, but keep these two things in mind: You won’t use all of those items; one or two will do. And you’re not cleaning your bathroom from top to bottom or anything else quite so involved. Cleaning an iron is a relatively simple process.

How to clean an iron with newspaper and salt

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This may sound weird, but it works! The coarseness of the salt acts like sandpaper to remove marks and grime.

How to clean an iron with baking soda

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How to Clean an Iron So It Doesn’t Damage Your Clothes

A safe and natural multitasker, baking soda has so many surprising uses, including cleaning your iron.

How to clean an iron with vinegar

Vinegar is another miracle cleaner. Use it alone if your iron shows signs of corrosion, such as rust stains, which can be caused by water left in the reservoir. Or pair it with baking soda to get rid of almost any buildup (more on how to do that below).

How to clean an iron with baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are cleaning staples, and together, they’re a powerful—and safe—combination.

How to clean an iron with toothpaste

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Because of its abrasive ingredients used to clean teeth, toothpaste is a good option for cleaning scorch marks off your iron’s soleplate. For best results—for both the iron and your teeth—you may want to use a toothpaste that contains baking soda.

If toothpaste gets into the steam vents, fill the water tank with distilled water, place the iron in an upright position on a towel on your ironing board, and set the iron to steam. Let it sit for a few minutes. Then hold the steam button for about 20 seconds to release the toothpaste. Wipe it with a damp cloth and repeat until the steam is flowing freely.

How to clean an iron with Tylenol

Yes, the same Tylenol (or any white acetaminophen tablet) you take for headaches also works wonders on a rusty iron. There’s a whole science behind it, but all you really need to know is that it works.

How to clean an iron with dryer sheets

Thanks to their light abrasiveness, dryer sheets can also double as iron cleaners.

How to clean an iron with nail polish remover

Acetone nail polish remover will also remove residue from your soleplate but should be used outside—or at the very least with the windows open—so you don’t breathe in the chemical fumes.

How to clean an iron with a Magic Eraser

There’s a reason it’s called a Magic Eraser: It magically erases all kinds of stains, including hard water spots on your soleplate.

How to remove plastic from an iron

If you’ve ever ironed a dress shirt only to have part of the plastic button end up stuck to the iron, this is a good trick to know.

Supplies for cleaning a steam iron:

Yep, this is another item you need to clean on the regular, just as you’d clean a typical iron, clothes dryer, and pretty much every other appliance in your house. If you have a steam iron, you’ll want to keep these items in your laundry room so you can clean the inside as well as the outside.

How to clean a steam iron

Because a steam iron has vents, which can get clogged simply by using tap water, it’s important to clean them regularly. The water reservoir, which can get smelly or mildewy, also deserves regular cleanings.

How to keep an iron clean

Here are a few easy tips for preventing black gunk and brown stains from ending up on your soleplate in the first place:

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