8 Things You Should Be Cleaning With A Steam Iron

The steam function is your friend.

steam pillow cases
Photo: Shanna Sullivan

Your trusty iron leads a lonely existence-gathering dust in the closet waiting for a special occasion when a wrinkled shirt might come its way-possibly watching its younger, hipper cousin, the handheld steamer, get all the attention. But the classic appliance has a lot more to offer, if we only realized its true potential. When used on the steam setting, the iron has much more up its very crisp sleeve than the ability to press wrinkles out of a button-up. No ironing board needed!

"Most people think the handheld steamers are really versatile," says Dave Briganti, the product manager at Rowenta. "But the originator of garment care-the steam iron-can do the same things, and possibly even better." Ahead, Briganti walks us through the steam iron's myriad uses. Who knew?

stack of pillows
Shanna Sullivan

Refresh Upholstery for Guests

Are you having people over and want your home to look as fresh and clean as possible? Did your kids spill something the other day, and you want to squash any odors that may be lingering around before their arrival? If you don't have time to run couch covers or pillow cases through the washing machine, you can always turn to the great refresher, your steam iron. Simply lay them down on a flat surface, adjust the thermostat on the iron to the correct fabric setting and turn the steam button on top to on. Hold the iron about six inches away and press the button to blast the items with steam from the soleplate (make sure your hand is out of the way!). Do gentle passes back and forth to ensure it's penetrating the fabric. With just a few bursts, they'll look like new.

grey rug and plant
Shanna Sullivan

Spruce Up Rugs

Steam will breath new life into any fabric that's feeling a little past its prime, thicker items like throw rugs included. The most obvious difference between an iron and a handheld steamer, is the iron has a thermostat where you can adjust the temperature depending on the fabric, but it also has more power. On average, steamers blast 20 grams of steam per minute. While a steam iron, like theRowenta Pro Master, gives off 200 grams of steam per burst. "The more powerful burst of steam will better penetrate the rug," says Briganti. "Keep doing bursts of steam as you're going over it and it will create the same sanitizing effect you would get if you were using a handheld steamer, but more effectively."

steam pet bed
Shanna Sullivan

Purify Your Pet Beds

Steam irons are not only great for getting rid of wrinkles and refreshing fabrics, they can also help kill bacteria. "I always joke that irons help defunctify my home," says Briganti. And what needs more "defunctify-ing" than your cat or dog's favorite place to nap? After a bit of time, a pet bed can get a little funky, but may not be in need of a full wash. Briganti suggests sanitizing fabric with the steam function instead. "If you put anything under a really high-powered steam, it will kill a majority of the bacteria and critters lingering on around."

stuffed animals
Shanna Sullivan

Get Rid of Germs on Toys

Kids toys are another place where bacteria can accumulate-you can't think about it too much without getting a case of the icks-but a steam iron can help. It should never replace washing, but a few bursts on teddy bears and other soft toys between laundering, will keep things fresh and as germ-free as possible. "You should be extremely cautious about anything you get for your children and always put in the laundry first," says Briganti. "But this is just another way to give a little extra attention to sanitizing and refreshing toys."

steam linens
Shanna Sullivan

Prep for Dinner Parties

Most of us have some nice linens and decorations stashed away for holidays and special occasions. And, when we break them out, they usually look the part-like they've been stashed away since the last festive gathering. With creases, crinkles and maybe even a faint musty aroma, your table cloths, runners and napkins deserve a pick-me-up before they make their debut. "If you don't want your life to look like it's been crumpled into a ball, a few blasts from the steam iron will make everything look more put-together," says Briganti.

steam drapes
Shanna Sullivan

Break-in Drapes

Getting anything new is a treat, but some items look better after they've received a little love. Straight out of the package, curtains are often stiff and full of creases, but running over them a few times with a steam iron will give them a soft worn-in look that's easier on the eyes. Also, if you're obsessive about germs, Briganti suggest blasting them with the steam iron every few weeks to get rid of dust, odors or any other bacteria that may have accumulated. Be sure to hold the iron vertical for hanging curtains, and horizontal for anything that's laying flat.

spring style camila and marc
Janelle Jones

Get One More Wear

Irons are not only for getting wrinkles out of your clothes, but can also be used to stretch the lifespan of your favorite items between washes. Did you sport a dress to a party during the week and want to wear it again for a date over the weekend (and maybe next week, too)? If it's seeming a little dodgy, but you don't feel like or have the time to wash it, just hit it with the steam iron. "It will give you an extra wear out of a garment," says Briganti. "It refreshes the fabric and kills any residual smells from whatever you were doing the night before."

Cashmere sweaters
Lucy Schaeffer

Freshen Up Wool and Cashmere

Steam is also great when you don't want to put the high temperature of a soulplate on delicate items like wool and cashmere sweaters. "Putting the iron directly on the fabric might burn an item, but if you just give it some blasts of steam, it won't cause any damage," says Briganti. Hitting them with steam will also prolong the time before you need to go to the cleaner or handwash. It will also take out any creases from sitting folded up in your closet. Just hang the sweater and burst it evenly with steam, then very gently pull the bottom of the fabric. "The steam will loosen the fabric and penetrate through the wool or cashmere to get rid of any creases and refresh odors."

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