Do You Need Distilled Water for Ironing?

There is a lot of confusion as to what water is best for ironing. Unless you have your iron’s user manual available, it is difficult to say exactly what water should be used in your specific model, as different irons have different water requirements. After researching several top brands, these are our findings.

Do you need distilled water for ironing? Ideally, you need 50% distilled water and 50% regular tap water for your iron to perform at its best. Short of referring directly to your irons user manual, this is the safest solution to ensure your iron lasts and functions as it should.

What is Distilled Water?

Distilled water (also referred to as demineralized water) is a type of purified water. It is made by boiling normal water in one container and catching only the condensed or evaporated vapor into a separate container.

This process removes the minerals and impurities in the water as they do not boil and rise with the water vapor so remain in the original container.

It can be bought at your local hardware or grocery store. A mixture of tap and distilled water can be used in your iron for years without causing mineral buildup or blockages in steam holes.

Can You Use Tap Water Instead of Distilled Water?

Most modern steam irons and steam generator irons are designed to use tap water.

However, most manufacturers add a caution for individuals living in areas with particularly hard water. In this case, the water should be diluted. Hard water causes mineral buildup in the machine, causing clogging. This not only reduces the efficiency of the iron but can drastically reduce its longevity.

Can You Use Water Softener Instead of Distilled Water?

There are several types of softeners and most of them can be used in your appliance. However, some softeners use chemical products such as salt that result in rust or salt buildup that may cause white or brown stains on your clothing.

If you notice this when using a softener, we recommend using your irons self-cleaning function and then switching to the 50/50 rule of distilled and untreated tap water.

When Should You NOT Use Distilled Water in an Iron?

Distilled water contains no minerals and this can cause it to “scavenge” minerals from the iron itself.  Some irons specifically require regular tap water to prevent this.

So depending on the iron’s makeup, distilled water could be harmful to the iron and cause corrosion. As this is a key factor to your iron lasting and working correctly, manufacturers will be clear on the proper care for your appliance. If unsure, refer to your user manual.

Distilled water could also be the reason your irons spits or leaks. Because distilled water contains no impurities, it boils at a higher temperature. This could cause your iron to leak as the average iron will heat the water in the heating chamber to 212° Fahrenheit, converting it to steam. Distilled water which has not yet been vapourised will leak through the steam holes and could create watermarks on your clothes. Check out this link if your iron is leaking water.

Benefits of Using Distilled Water in Your Iron

Distilled Water Prevents Hard Water Build-up In Your Iron

Hard water is water that contains a higher concentration of mineral content, like calcium, magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates, and sulfates.  Over time, these mineral deposits, also called limescale, collect and clog the inside of a steam iron.

How do you know if you have hard water in your area? The first place you’ll notice limescale is in your kettle. If forms a white shell-like substance that sticks to the base or heating elements of your appliances.

In the United States, official studies indicate that 85% of the country has hard water (source). Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Tampa are known for having some of the hardest water. Refer to the below map to check your area and apply the 50/50 rule where applicable.


Distilled Water Prevents Rust In Your Iron

During the purification process, salts are also eliminated from distilled water.

Salt can causes metal parts in your iron to rust. This not only ages your iron but can cause the water to brown because of rust deposits in the water. This water can cause stains on your clothing. Once rust sets in, it is near impossible to remove and your iron would most likely have to be replaced.

In some regions bordering the sea, the salt content in your water may be high. If this case, use distilled or bottled water only.

Water Requirements for Top Iron Brands

This below information could vary depending on which model you own but according to our research, these are our findings.

Note: In cases where distilled water is required but not readily available, you could also use normal store-bought bottled water.

  • BLACK+DECKER: Tap water is recommended.
  • Hamilton Beach: Normal tap water is recommended for Hamilton Beach. The iron requires some minerals in the water as this helps protect parts from corroding. However, they advise using a combination of bottled water and tap water in hard water areas.
  • Oliso: Oliso uses regular tap water for ironing.
  • Panasonic: Regular tap water can be used with the Panasonic brands we looked into.
  • Philips: Philips advises prolonging the lifespan of your iron by using 50% distilled or demineralized water mixed with 50% tap water.
  • Rowenta: Rowenta recommends mixing half tap water with half distilled water.
  • Steam Fast: Steamfast highly recommends distilled or de-mineralized water to minimize the potential build-up of mineral deposits. As their most popular iron is the mini-travel iron and traveling with distilled water is a hassle, bottled water would be the easiest substitute.
  • Sunbeam: Tap water should be used in the Sunbeam.
  • T-Fal: Use 50% distilled water mixed with 50% tap water.

To be 100% sure you follow the proper care conditions for your iron, be sure to refer to your user manual. If you have a warranty on your product, you would not want to compromise any cover by using your iron incorrectly

How to Make Distilled Water at Home

Most stores have distilled water readily available, but if you find it hard to come by, you can easily make it at home.

  1. Fill a large stainless steel pot to halfway with normal tap water.
  2. Place a glass bowl in the water, but ensure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot. Place a baking pan or rack under it to keep it secure if it does not float.
  3. Bring the water in the pot to a boil.
  4. Create a condensation effect by creating a cold barrier. This can be done by inverting the pot’s lid and placing ice on it.
  5. As the water continues to boil, the hot steam comes into contact with the cold lid creating condensation. The distilled water will begin to drip and collect in the glass bowl.
  6. Continue to boil the water in the pot until you have enough distilled water in the glass bowl.
  7. When you have enough distilled water. Turn off the heat and allow the water in the bowl to cool before pouring it into a bottle for later use.

Note: The distilled water should not boil, so ensure it is placed far enough away from the base of the pot. You can also turn down the heat of the stove plate if needed.

In Conclusion

Above all else, check your steam irons user manual to ensure you are using the correct water and taking the proper care to ensure it works optimally. Failing that, the 50/50 distilled and tap water rule is a safe bet.

There are some steam irons that are designed to use distilled water alone but more modern designs have been manufactured with convenience in mind, and unless you’re a seasoned ironer, the average person does not have distilled water on hand.

Distilled water is also not optimum for those using steam generator irons which produce high powered steam, and a lot of it. These machines have Anti-Calc systems built into the appliance to help eliminate limescale.

For irons that use tap water, follow the manuals cleaning instructions to ensure even a slight limescale buildup does not affect the optimum performance of your steam iron. If you’re one of those people who churns and burns through irons and couldn’t be bothered with distilled water, invest in a self-cleaning iron. Our advice is that it’s worth spending a little more to get an iron that will last.