How to Clean an Iron Inside and Out

Yes, you need to clean this laundry room appliance: Sticky stains and and water deposit buildup can damage your clothes and reduce the iron's lifespan.

Your iron has one main job: to rid your clothes of all those unsightly wrinkles. But this appliance can't tackle creases or smooth stubborn collars if it isn't clean. Residue and mineral deposits can accumulate on the soleplate over time, while excess moisture in the water tank can lead to mildew buildup. Both can impact your iron's performance or, worse, lead to burns on your garments.

To avoid adding more to your plate when you iron your clothes, learn how to keep this small appliance in its best state. Follow these expert-approved steps to clean your iron so it lasts longer and presses your clothes safely for years to come.

Woman ironing teal shirt with yellow clothing iron
Ekaterina Goncharova / GETTY IMAGES

How Often to Clean an Iron

Your iron's cleaning cadence ultimately depends on how often you use it, says Kathy Cohoon, the director of franchise operations at Two Maids. If you use your iron daily, she recommends cleaning it at least once a month. "If you only use it here and there, then aim to give your iron a good deep clean a couple times a year," she says. "Keeping your iron sparkling is visually pleasing, but can also help protect the plate against wear and tear that could lead to fabric burns or the need to replace the unit."

How to Clean an Iron

Although your iron is a cleaning tool, it needs some routine care to function properly. "Definitely empty out the water reservoir after every use, as the stagnant water can cause mold and other buildup," says Cohoon.

Materials You'll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Cotton swabs
  • Distilled water

Follow these steps to clean your iron, according to Vera Peterson, the president of Molly Maid:

  1. To clean the iron's vents and soleplate, start by making a homemade iron cleaner. Mix together a 2:1 ratio of baking soda and water to create a paste.
  2. Apply the paste to the iron's soleplate, coating the areas with heavy mineral deposits and wipe off with a wet cloth.
  3. Dip cotton swabs in distilled water and insert the ends into the steam vents.
  4. Empty any water from the reservoir and add distilled water or a mixture of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 3/4 cup distilled water.
  5. Run the iron on full steam.
  6. Gently move the iron to and fro over a bowl. Water and steam will wash any scale and dust through the soleplate.
  7. Once the water reservoir is empty, your iron is clean.

Iron Self-Clean Function

Many irons have a self-cleaning feature, say experts at Black + Decker. You can and should utilize this option by following the manufacturer's instructions.

Closeup on woman cleaning iron with cloth
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How to Remove Stains on Your Iron's Soleplate

When the soleplate of your iron is sticky with those tell-tale black stains—a combination of burn marks, melted fabric fibers, water deposit buildup, dirt, and dust—you can refresh it by using just two cleaning essentials: a dry cotton towel and salt, says Peterson.

Materials You'll Need

  • Dry cotton towel
  • Salt

Follow the Peterson's steps to remove sticky black stains from the iron's soleplate:

  1. Turn your iron up to the highest setting and turn the steam off completely.
  2. Run the hot, dry iron across a dry cotton towel until it's clean.
  3. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt on a newspaper, paper towel, or dry cotton towel and repeat. Monitor this process closely to prevent safety hazards.

How to Keep an Iron Clean

A little iron maintenance goes a long way, say our experts. "To prolong the lifespan of your iron and keep things running smoothly, be sure to follow all fabric care instructions, don't use the iron on an overly hot setting, and once cool, wipe down after each use," says Cohoon.

As mentioned, emptying the water reservoir at the end of every ironing session is essential, since trapped moisture can lead to mold buildup, says Cohoon. "Replace with fresh water during the next use," she says. She also suggests wiping down the exterior of the iron with a microfiber cloth after each use to keep it clean.

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