Before you toss that steam iron because it refuses to steam and the soleplate is sporting a brown, burned-on, gross mess — you might want to give it a little love with a good cleanup. It's not difficult to bring a tired steam iron back to working like a dream!
As always, check the owners manual before proceeding with any cleaning process so you don't void an active warranty.
CLEAN THE SOLEPLATE
The soleplate is the iron's flat surface that has the tiny holes where the steam comes out; it's the part that gets hot. Over time, it can get dirty with a buildup of scorched, ugly brown stains from various melted-on fabrics and spray starches. A dirty steam iron will not press fabric properly and will leave streaks of dirt and stain behind on your clothing.
My favorite way to clean the iron's soleplate is with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Make sure the magic eraser is wet, and then rub the cold soleplate until it comes clean. It will leave no mess, no residue and no clogged steam holes. It really is like magic.
CLEAN THE INSIDE
STEP NO. 1
To remove buildup from the inside of the iron and the steam holes — which, over time, can really clog things up — mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a measuring cup, and then pour this mixture into the iron's water chamber up to the maximum-fill line.
STEP NO. 2
Turn the iron on to its hottest/highest steam setting. Leave the iron on and sitting in an upright position on the ironing board for 10 minutes or so. Do not leave it unattended.
STEP NO. 3
Lift and hold the iron so that the soleplate is parallel to the ironing board. Allow it to steam until the reservoir is empty.
Depending on how clogged-up the iron is, it may take several attempts at this process to bust through. It's the vinegar that eventually will break down all of that hard-water scale and buildup inside the iron.
STEP NO. 4
Refill the reservoir with more vinegar and water mixture. Unplug the iron, and take it to the sink. Shake it to loosen the mineral buildup inside, and then turn it upside down over the sink so the vinegar and water can pour out. You are likely to see flakes and chunks of gunk come out with the liquid. Repeat this process until only clear liquid comes out of the iron into the sink.
STEP NO. 5
Rinse the reservoir with clear water several times to remove all traces of vinegar.
It is best to clean both the inside and the soleplate of a steam iron regularly to keep it in tip-top condition. How often? That depends on how much you use it. A good rule of thumb is to clean a steam iron monthly or following 30 reservoir fill-ups.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living.
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