How to clean an iron

How to Clean Your Iron

Different Methods to Clean an Iron

So, you have decided it’s time for your clothes iron to get cleaned. Whatever brought you to this point in your life, I have done all the work for you, testing different methods to see what will clean the iron.

Before we get much further into this, I do want to say to make sure you are VERY careful and that you do not touch the plates on an iron that is on or plugged in.

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How to clean an iron

Why does my iron get full of junk?

If you have a steam option on your iron, the area the water sits might have rusty water in it.

The iron could have some burnt on stuff from one of your ironing adventures.  Whether you let the iron sit on something too long or you didn’t even notice it on the fabric, it can happen.

Sometimes little fibers melt and that gets onto the iron even if you don’t notice it in the clothes.

Okay, so I’m going to tell you WHY I needed to clean my iron, before I show you the embarrassing picture of it. Let me know in the comments if this has ever happened to you!

Being someone who likes to try new crafts, I was making some iron on transfer Christmas gifts last year. Everything was going really well and very smoothly, until I got a little arrogant with my LAST one.

I placed the transfer paper THE WRONG SIDE UP on the fabric, and just plopped the iron down and wondered why I couldn’t move it smoothly along the fabric.

Welp, that’s because I put the iron directly on the ink. In the moment, I tried rubbing off as much as I could, but it didn’t do much but smear it all over.


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Then, I feel a little embarrassed to admit, but I decided it was Future Kristin’s problem and put the iron away. Thankfully, I really only use the iron on craft type projects, so I had a lot of time before I needed to figure it out.

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How to Clean an Iron Bottom

Alright, so let’s get into how to clean an iron bottom and we’ll start with the 4 methods I found. Then I’ll let you know what didn’t work, and then what did work.

Hint: 2 of the methods worked for me, and one worked much better than the other!

Okay, here’s the before picture of the iron…please don’t judge me too much!

How to clean your iron

Okay, so now that you know my iron cleaning credentials, here are the methods I found when doing a simple Google search:

  • Magic Eraser
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda
  • Vinegar Soak
  • White toothpaste

What Did NOT Work for Cleaning the Iron

Magic Eraser

While I’m 98% sure Magic Erasers do contain some bit of real magic, I was not impressed with the results I was getting. In fact, I was SO confident in Magic Erasers, that this was the method I tried first!

Using a wet Magic Eraser on a cool iron, I scrubbed and scrubbed and had a little residue come off on the eraser itself, but it wasn’t a noticeable difference for how much time I spent on it. 

This might work best when you have less stuff on your iron to clean than I did.

White Toothpaste – Maybe would have worked

It’s not really fair to list this in the “did not work” area, because I didn’t actually try it. It was next on my list to try (I tried everything in the order listed above).

Based on my experience with the other two methods that I’ll list below, I don’t think it would have worked that well.

I think the toothpaste would have been gritty enough to act like an abrasive, like the baking soda did in the next method listed below.

If you have tried this, I’m really interested in if this worked for you or not, so please leave a comment below!

Now let’s get into what DID work!

4 ways to clean an iron

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Cleaning an Iron – What DID Work!

Vinegar + Baking Soda, the runner up

This did start to work for me.  I got out my ironing board and put a towel I didn’t care about on it, folded in half.

I sprinkled some baking soda on the towel, then poured the distilled white vinegar on top and let it bubble for a few seconds.  

I turned the iron on it’s lowest setting, and started ironing over the towel.  I used A LOT of elbow grease here, and A LOT of pressure.

I also went in various directions: back and forth, side to side, clockwise circles, counter clockwise circles, zig zags, literally anything I could think of while keeping pressure down on the iron.

This was successful in the sense that the towel became discolored and I could see the burnt flakes coming off onto the towel.  I also could notice a difference on the iron itself.  

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HOWEVER, it’s a lot of work.  After 4 rounds of this (after two rounds I re-folded the towel so I was working with a clean side, I also tried higher heat but saw no difference), I realized maybe it wasn’t going to be the quickest way.

Here’s what it looked like after doing the vinegar and baking soda:

how to clean an iron

Vinegar Soak, the winning method!

I turned off the iron, re-folded the towel to yet another clean side.  I poured ONLY vinegar directly onto the towel in a space large enough to cover the most dirty parts of the iron.

I put the iron onto the towel and waited.

Remember to keep the iron TURNED OFF for this.  Unplug it while you’re at it, just to be safe!

how to clean your iron with vinegar

Um hi, this was my favorite method.  This was totally worth it.

I waited 20 minutes, and then took a deep breath and pushed down hard on the iron and slid it across the towel, and voila!  Quite a lot of gunk and junk came off!  I did this a few more times and you can see the noticeable difference.

Once again, I refolded and turned the towel over, poured some more vinegar on it, and put the iron face down.  

This time I let it sit for 40 minutes.  Definitely an improvement, but I’m not sure that the extra 20 minutes was necessary.  I was also able to scrape off the gunk with my fingernail pretty easily. 


I scraped and rubbed off as much as I could.

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I decided it was time for a different towel.  I could fairly easily rinse the original one used, but I didn’t know if the water would make a difference – typically it dilutes the vinegar, and since this was working I didn’t want to change anything about the process.

I soaked the new towel in the vinegar and let it soak for another 20 minutes.

For me, a cleaning hack is something that can be done easily and quickly.  I don’t think devoting over an hour to this really makes it a hack, but I’m hoping that in the future it will be much easier if i make this a part of my cleaning schedule.  For example, I should have done this immediately after I did the iron-on transfer projects around Christmas. 

Save your fingernails!  A toothpick ended up working just as well for scraping and my finger has probably been spared when all is said and done.

And, the moment we’ve been waiting for, here is the AFTER picture of my CLEAN iron!

how to clean an iron

Why Should I Clean My Iron?

Plain and simple: you don’t want that crap to get on your clothes (or whatever you’re ironing).

If you need another reason, let me tell you, when it gets to the point my iron was at it was a PAIN.  You will save yourself a lot of time if you try to keep the iron clean, as I am now vowing to do for the rest of my life.

How Often Should I Clean My Iron?

It depends how often you use it! 

For someone like me that doesn’t have clothes to iron very often (the non-iron dress shirts my husband wears to work are a GAME CHANGER), and only uses the iron for projects, I’m going to plan to clean it after each project I use it for…so probably about 2-3 times a year.

If you find yourself ironing more often, you might want to clean it every couple months, or just go based on what you’re seeing with the iron.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried the toothpaste method or have another way to clean an iron!


How to Clean Your Iron

How to clean your iron

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