A new steam iron may cost you anywhere from $17 to $40, but do you really need one? If your iron has stopped steaming or occasionally leaves a dark mark on a white shirt, you may just need to clean it. Spray starch, fabric softener and detergent build up on the soleplate, and minerals from tap water can clog steam holes. A good cleaning, however, will easily repair a steam iron that does not steam any more.
Clean the Exterior
First, clean the bottom of the cool, unplugged iron. Using a sponge and water, scrub the flat surface as well as the indentations from which steam is supposed to escape. If the indentations are difficult to reach with the sponge, try a moistened cotton tipped swab. Since many irons have a special coating, don't use a scratchy pad or abrasive cleaner.
Vinegar and Water
Next, to remove mineral deposits from the water reservoir, reach for that dependable household helper white vinegar. However, before you do, check with the iron's manufacturer to be sure your warranty allows it. Mix a solution of 1/3 cup water to 1/3 cup vinegar. Pour it into the water reservoir, and turn on the iron with the steam option selected. Let sit for three minutes steaming. Next, drain the iron, as follows: Unplug the iron. Lay it, ironing surface down, on a plate placed in your kitchen sink. Let it drain until empty (about an hour). Finally, flush the water tank with water. When you again use the iron, let your first project be a rag to collect any residual gunk!
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Washington State University's website, CreativeCleaner.com, suggests the same approach using 1/3 cup vinegar mixed with 1 tsp. of baking soda. Pour the fizzing mixture into the iron, plug it in, turn it to steam and rest it on the soleplate on a cooling rack. After 30 minutes, unplug the iron, empty the tank and rinse it with clear water. Again, first use the iron on material you don't value.
It is also possible to clean an iron with a product that is a chelating agent designed to remove mineral deposits. Among these cleaners are CLR, Faultless Hot Iron Cleaner, Whink Steam Iron Cleaner and Lime Away. It's important to follow instructions, as well as keep these products from children because they are poisonous. Generally, such cleaners are used with a cool iron. A solution of water and the cleaner is mixed and added to the water reservoir and allowed to sit.