What Causes a Steam Iron to Spit Water All Over the Clothes?

Unfortunately, it's all too common. You're ironing your clothes and suddenly water starts to spit and leak from the steam vents. If you're really "lucky," you'll even find that substance coming out in spurts is brown in color and has soiled your freshly laundered clothing. The likely whys and wherefores of spitting and leaking are many.

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When irons spit and stain clothes, frustration results.

Why it Happens

Iron manufacturer Rowenta claims that spitting can be caused by mineral deposits in the water with which you fill your iron. These minerals cause buildup inside the iron that eventually clogs steam vents. As you use the iron, heat causes pressure to build. The mineral deposits partially clogging the vents cause water to be emitted in spurts.

Reliable Corporation, another iron maker, contends that most irons spit because the soleplate alone cannot consistently maintain temperatures high enough to convert water to steam. Water that has not been turned to steam leaks out of the vents as water.

Your iron may also spit water if you leave the steam setting activated while you use the iron at low, or dry, settings. If the iron shuts off automatically before you finish pressing your clothes, resuming use before it has fully reheated can also lead to spitting.

Brown or White Emissions

The brown liquid that spurts out of your iron's steam vents may be caused by iron deposits or organic matter in the hard water used to fill an iron. Any white substance that emits may be a sign of calcium in the water.

Water Recommendations

Rowenta recommends using tap water with 12 or less grains of hardness per gallon. If your tap water does not meet this standard, or you find you cannot verify the hardness statistics, stick with bottled spring water. Other manufacturers recommend using distilled water.

Maintenance and Use Tips

Emptying the water tank after each use can help prevent clogging. If your iron has a self-cleaning mechanism, use it regularly to clear mineral deposits. Or clean the iron the old-fashioned way: Fill it with a mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water and allow it to reach its highest temperature. (You can even run the iron over an old towel to be sure the solution is forced through all the vents.) Let the iron cool, empty it and refill it with clear water to rinse. Dump the clear water and leave the iron empty until its next use.

If your ironing is often interrupted, triggering the auto-shutoff feature, and you don't have the patience to allow the device to reheat before you proceed, look for an iron that allows you to bypass the auto-shutoff feature. Remember to shut off the steam when using the iron at low temperatures.