When is it time to clean an iron? If gummy buildup on the bottom soleplate "grabs" the fabric, rather than glides across; or instead of emitting steam, mineral deposits spurt out (or no steam at all), your iron is overdue for a refresh. Here's how to clean an iron with natural, readily available ingredients.
Depending on what substances are built up on your iron, different methods work best, so you can experiment with one or all.
For an iron soleplate with a nonstick coating, try a cleaning strategy like this one that won't scratch the surface. Put a few drops of liquid dish detergent into water, and use a paper towel or a soft rag dipped in sudsy water to wipe away residue.
Here's another good option that won't scratch the base of your iron. Dampen a paper towel or soft rag with distilled white vinegar, and wipe the soleplate to remove the gunk. If residue remains, soak a clean paper towel or rag in distilled white vinegar, lay the cool iron soleplate on the towel, and let soak for 15-30 minutes. Wipe away the remainder.
Baking Soda, Salt, Vinegar, or Baking Soda
Dampen a paper towel or rag with water or vinegar and dip a corner in baking soda or coarse salt. Buff the soleplate clean. Baking soda is less likely to scratch your iron than coarse salt.
Toothbrush, Cotton Swabs, or Pipe Cleaners
A toothbrush, cotton swabs, and pipe cleaners are handy tools for cleaning your iron's soleplate and steam vents. Scrub the soleplate with an old toothbrush to loosen and remove residue or use it to clean deposits (or remaining baking soda or salt) from the vents. Cotton swabs and pipe cleaners work well, too, for removing deposits from steam vents.
Empty your iron's reservoir of stale water and refill with distilled water. Set the iron on high heat and full steam. (Some irons have a "steam clean" setting.) Let your iron set, allowing it to emit steam and clear the vents. You can also iron an old towel for several minutes so steam flushes the debris onto the towel. Empty any remaining water from the reservoir. Avoid putting vinegar in the water reservoir.