I’ve never had an iron that didn’t leak at one point or another. Most recently, after unboxing my brand new, “expensive” iron, I noticed it spitting water out of the soleplate. Having spent around $100, I was less than impressed! Steaming, I paged through the user manual only to find I had been overzealous with the steam burst function.
Why does an iron leak water when ironing? One of the main reasons that an iron leaks or spits is insufficient heat. The water in the heating chamber of the iron needs to heat to 212 °F to create steam and if used prematurely, it will leak water.
Spill-proof and anti-drip technology are widely advertised in modern steam ironing appliances, but somehow, there always seems to a complaint about leaks. Of course, there is always the chance of a faulty product, but in most cases, incorrect use is the problem. Lucky for us, it’s easy to resolve.
We personally leak test all our irons, check out our best steam irons review if you have not been able to resolve your old iron’s problems.
How to Stop a Steam Iron from Leaking?
In some cases, we may point out the obvious, but our goal is to cover any and all possibilities. This list can be used as a process of elimination. You can then assess is you can fix the issue, or if you should throw out that old crusty iron and replace it with an appliance that won’t create endless frustration.
1. Don’t Overfill Your Iron
Fill your iron to the max line marked on the casing. Not all water reservoirs are tightly sealed so if you overfill them, the water will spill out of the filling hole.
Even if you are using a measuring cup with the exact right amount of water, make sure you don’t still have water in the iron from a previous ironing session. Use the filling line as your gauge.
Lastly, make sure the lid or cap of your iron is firmly closed.
2. Wait for Your Iron to Heat-up Fully
Only start ironing when your irons indicator light turns off. When the iron is hot, water is released into the vaporization chamber where it heats up and turns into steam. The steam is released through the holes in the soleplate, relaxing the creased fabric. The hot soleplate then dries it and sets the garment in its perfect, crisp shape.
If you start to use it before the temperature is high enough, the machine may drip water that has not yet heated into steam. The steam setting should also be turned off to allow the steam pressure to build in the chamber.
By waiting for those few extra seconds, you have super-efficient, wrinkle beating steam that also kills bacteria and removes odors.
3. Use the Steam Burst Feature Intermittently
When using the steam burst, use it at intervals. It’s not meant for continuous use. The steam burst function is designed for the high-pressure steam treatment of, particularly stubborn wrinkles.
Use it as often as you want, only allow it to recharge for a few seconds between bursts to build up adequate pressure, or it will drip water that has not yet had enough time to heat and become wrinkle slaying steam.
If using the iron to vertical steam curtains or hanging garments, have the heat and steam setting all the way up and avoid direct contact between the fabric and the soleplate. Use the steam burst every 10 seconds. The regular steam generated by the iron between bursts will also help soften creases and freshen up the material.
4. Turn Steam Off at Low Temperatures
Turn off the steam function on your iron when using it at lower temperatures. In some iron designs, the heat of the soleplate may not be sufficient to convert the water to steam and this could drip through the steam holes on your soleplate.
Some steam iron models only release steam when the iron’s temperature is higher. Steam is automatically shut off on the lower settings to avoid spitting or water being released through the soleplate when it’s not hot enough.
When ironing silk, water droplets can create watermarks on the fabric, so here especially, check the steam button is in the off position. Your irons heat setting should also be on low. As an extra safety measure, use an ironing or pressing cloth as a barrier to catch any water that may still be in the system.
5. Use the Correct Water
Steam iron manufacturers advise against using distilled water alone as it can cause the iron to spit and leak. This is because distilled water only converts to steam at higher temperatures.
Most modern irons use tap water and in the case of hard water (water high in minerals) in some areas, a 50/50 distilled and tap water mix is best. Alternatively, refer to your irons user manual to be sure.
6. Clean Your Iron Regularly
Minerals in the water can cause clogging in your iron. Water heavy in minerals is called hard water*. This buildup in your iron results in it spitting and leaking water, as well as releasing deposits of organic matter that can leave powdery white or brown marks on your garments.
Clean your steam iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most modern steam irons have de-calcing systems that maintain the inner working parts of the appliance. Depending on how much you iron would determine how often you need to clean it.
Some irons have a cleaning light which will indicate if it needs attention. For average home use, cleaning once a month should be adequate.
Use the water type recommended by the manufacturer of your brand of iron. If you’re unsure what to use, mix 50% tap water with 50% distilled water. If you can’t find distilled water easily, then store-bought bottled water will do.
*Hard water has a negative impact on the lifespan of several home appliances including dishwashers, washing machines, and kettles. (source)
7. Store Your Iron with the Steam Setting Off
When you’re done using your iron, it’s best to empty out the water to reduce the amount of contact between the water and the inner working elements. Extended exposure to water can cause elements to corrode.
Have the steam setting on “off” to prevent any remaining water from seeping into the soleplate. Ideally, store the iron on its heel.
Spitting and leaking is definitely a problem if you’re using a brand new iron and following the user manual to the T. If you have ruled out any possibility of human error, then I’d recommend returning the steam iron.
The benefit of buying online is you get to return the product without any cost, only the slight inconvenience.