Cleaning the inside of your steam iron with vinegar is surprisingly effective! The vinegar dislodges limescale build-up as well as rust on the elements and inside the heating chamber.
You’ll be pouring the vinegar into the iron and heating it up, so keep in mind… it smells REALLY BAD… but it works. Pretty quickly you’ll begin to see bits of limescale, sediment, rust and even dirt ejecting from the steam holes.
It’s also completely safe. Besides the smell, and won’t do any permanent damage to your iron.
Also check out How to Clean the Bottom of an Iron Soleplate when you’re done.
Steps on How to Clean an Iron with Vinegar
- Open the window and work in a well-ventilated area
- Remove all the water from the iron
- Carefully pour distilled vinegar into the water tank (fill it to the max line)
- Turn the iron to high heat (linen or cotton)
- Once it heats up, it should begin to steam
- Expect a very strong burning vinegar smell (the hot vinegar is working its way through the heating elements and chambers and out through the steam holes)
- Press the steam burst button to increase the steam flow (you’ll begin to see build-up ejecting through the steam holes)
- Gently shake the iron and tilt it around to help dislodge any internal build-up
- Keep pressing the steam burst while tilting it in various directions
- Don’t forget to also press the spray nozzle button
- Place the iron vertically on an old cloth and press the steam burst to evaluate the progress
- If dirt keeps coming out, you need to keep going. You may need to refill the vinegar a 2nd or 3rd time.
- Once the cloth shows little to no dirt coming out of the steam holes, you can stop
- Pour all the remaining vinegar out of the water tank
- Fill the water tank with distilled water and repeat the process of steaming to remove all the vinegar
- This may take 1 or 2 full cycles to completely wash out the vinegar
- Once done, test the iron on older clothes first to see that no dirt, rust, limescale or vinegar is coming out
- To avoid build-up in the future, always use distilled water in your iron and, if available, use the self-clean button after each use
Why It Works
Vinegar contains around 5% acetic acid, which helps to break down some structures in dirt and oils. This is enough to loosen a significant amount of build-up inside your iron’s working parts like the heating elements and steam passages.
You must do this in a well-ventilated area. The whole room will smell like burning vinegar! It may even be helpful to do it somewhere outside of your home.
Do not do this on your favorite ironing board as the smell will transfer to the board!
Also be sure to use cleaning vinegar or white vinegar, not apple cider or wine vinegar. Distilled white vinegar with around 5% acidity works best.
IMPORTANT: Never combine the vinegar with other chemicals. If you combine bleach or hydrogen peroxide with the vinegar, for example, the resulting fumes may actually turn toxic.