How to Clean an Iron

It’s time to clean your iron when you feel resistance while ironing. You can clean two parts of your iron: the sole plate (that plate on the bottom) and the reservoir (the container in the iron that holds water). Starch spray, detergent, and fabric softener can build-up on your soleplate and can, in turn, stain fabrics. A dirty reservoir results in steam vents (the little holes in your sole plate) that are clogged with minerals from the water.

What You’ll Need:

  • Salt
  • Soft cloth
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled or purified water
  • Oven cleaner

Cleaning the Iron:

  1. To clean the soleplate: First, turn off your iron and let it cool completely before cleaning. Haley’s Cleaning Tips by Rosemary and Graham Haley suggests rubbing the bottom of your iron with salt on a damp cloth. You can also use soapy water and a nylon mesh pad. For stubborn stains, try using toothpaste on a soft cloth. Cleaning Plain and Simple by Donna Smallin recommends cleaning starch build-up with a cloth damp with white vinegar or a solution of equal parts white vinegar and salt (heated up so the salt dissolves). How to Cheat at Cleaning by Jeff Brendenerg suggests cleaning the soleplate with a paste of baking soda and water. Wipe the paste onto the soleplate with a damp cloth and then wipe it off with the other side of the cloth.
    • WARNING: Never use a metal scouring pad on the soleplate since this can scratch and damage the iron.
    • If your iron does not have a non-stick surface, try this tip from the author of Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean, Linda Cobb: Heat the iron to the hottest, non-steam setting. Sprinkle a brown paper bag with salt and run the iron over the bag.
  2. To clean the reservoir: Fill the reservoir 1/4 full with white vinegar and steam the iron until the reservoir is empty. The fumes from the vinegar will be strong so be sure to open a window or door. Refill the reservoir with water and repeat until no mineral deposits remain in the steam vents. When you’re finished, rinse the reservoir out with purified or distilled water. Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook cautions against using vinegar to clean the reservoir because it sometimes causes a brown ooze to form, so if this happens try using just water.
    • You can prevent this mineral build-up by only using purified or distilled water in the reservoir when steaming clothes.
    • If you decide to continue using regular water, empty the reservoir after each use while it is still hot. This allows it to dry completely.
    • Clean the steam vents themselves by poking the minerals through with a pipe cleaner.
  3. To remove burn marks: Turn off your iron and let it cool completely. Cover every part of the iron, except the soleplate, with paper. Take it outside and spray oven cleaner directly onto the soleplate. Let it sit for 3 minutes before rinsing the soleplate with a rag damp with cool water.


  1. Stacey says:

    Use a Magic Eraser to wipe all marks off your iron and enjoy effortless ironing once again!

  2. Holly says:

    Mr. Clean Magic Eraser worked really well for the not so tough spots.

    Salt and toothpaste, separately and used together, worked well … but it takes a LONG time for the really caked on spots … and my elbow got tired.

    I do not recommend the hot iron with salt on the paper bag because it seemed to do no good whatsoever, and all it did was send salt flying all over the place, including in my eye!

  3. Brandy says:

    The Magic Eraser really worked. Wet it just a little and wipe away.

  4. Mary says:

    I used the baking soda paste on a wet rag and it cleaned my iron just like new.

  5. Amy H. says:

    Hey, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for giving me these ideas. I had written off an iron due to glue from interfacing being permanently stuck on it. Because of your help, I was able to reclaim it. Although I did have to try ALL of the methods before I got one that removed the glue! Oven cleaner… I wouldn’t have thought… but, of course!

  6. Lori S. says:

    How do you clean the clothes that get the brown marks from the iron?

    I think the vinegar is a great idea for the iron. It is amazing how many things you can clean with vinegar. Thank you for the ideas that everyone has shared.

  7. Laura B. says:

    Make a baking soda paste and dab it on the brown spot, rub it in and leave it for a while, then rinse it out.

  8. Nancy B says:

    Baking soda and a rag made my iron look brand new. Thank you for the tip!

  9. Tammy says:

    I used CHOMP wallpaper stripper and it came right off.

  10. Anne says:

    The thing that worked best for me after trying the white vinegar, baking soda, and salt, was the cleaner that I use on the top of my glass stovetop. I let it sit for a few minutes and then rubbed it off with a Teflon pad. It worked great.

  11. Grandma Jo says:

    I was ironing a T-shirt transfer on to a T-shirt and had carefully read the instructions. “Push hard for 30 seconds”. Well 20 seconds into it I decided to check and make sure I wasn’t scorching the white T. Well, I had put the transfer upside down and the sticky side and the ink were melted onto the iron. :0( I thought I could get it off with rubbing alcohol. That didn’t phase it. I then did a yahoo search-found this site and used oven cleaner, the type for cold oven. YEA!! It worked!!

  12. AJ says:

    I accidentally knocked my iron over and it went sole plate first onto the carpet; should I use the methods listed to clean it?

    Would that work you think?

    I have to get my BDU uniform ironed by tomorrow… >.>

  13. Cosmik says:

    I was laughing at the salt in the eye and the iron-transfer getting stuck to the iron… Anyway, my iron is BURNED REALLY BAD so I’m going to try oven-cleaner. I tried scrubbing the burn out of it with one of those green, abrasive scouring pads but it did no good and scratched up my iron. I don’t recommend that.

  14. Guille says:

    I just wanted to thank this people who resolved worry about other people problems; the baking soda was a great use of non-chemical stuff. My iron got some kind of glue from a black new t-shirt and it got sticky on the sole plate. I got worried about it, but this site was some good help. Now, I love baking soda. Thanks people and I hope this comment helps someone else.

  15. Partelo says:

    Thanks a lot for the oven cleaner idea. My iron looks like crap now.

  16. Grandma Jo says:

    Sorry Partelo. Did you use the oven cleaner for cold ovens? It sure worked great for me. And AJ, I hope you tried the oven cleaner.

  17. Grandma Jo says:

    Please put the cleaner on a rag (not the iron) and rub the sole plate.

  18. Brizz says:

    I used a paste made up of baking powder and white vinegar. Apply it on a cold iron with a damp cloth and rub briskly, depending on how badly marked the sole plate is. I finished off by scrubbing with a sponge pan cleaner using the paste again. Finally, wash the sole plate with the scrubber and then put iron on the full steam setting and turn it on and let it steam for a good few minutes. Let it cool and polish off with a clean damp cloth. Good as new in 15 mins! :)

  19. Angel says:

    My iron had a large black circle on it. I think it mainly happened when I ironed black felt while crafting. I also do a lot of applique work and iron HeatnBond and interfacing with my iron. So overtime, it had gotten sticky stuff burned on to it. I was about to replace it, thinking it was a lost cause.

    I first tried making a baking soda paste and then tried salt, neither worked. I don’t have oven cleaner on hand, but I noticed an earlier commenter say they used the same cleaner they use for their stove top. So then I tried Bar Keepers Friend (I use it for my flat-top electric stove) and it came right off with a lot of scrubbing (about 5 minutes). You can find BKF at specialty stores like Williams-Sonoma. I don’t think my regular grocery store carries it. I would try this before oven cleaner. It’s a powder that has a bit of abrasion to it. I use it when I need something stronger than Soft Scrub. Works wonders on my stainless kitchen sink and pots and pans too.

  20. G-Man says:

    I use a nylon abrasive pad soaked in Goof Off on my stainless. It works great. Not sure I’d use it with coated sole plates.

  21. Dawn says:

    I used pure elbow grease and it came off, and it was really badly burnt. Seems like a lot of lazy people use too many gadgets and stinky, toxic crap to me, when it’s elbow grease you get the best results from.

  22. Dette says:

    Used the oven cleaner on the soleplate, waited three minutes and all the burn marks were gone with a wet rag…thanks for the tip!

  23. Basak says:

    I used Cerama Bryte cooktop cleaner for my iron, which had burn marks, and it worked great. I used a Cerama Bryte cleaning pad to rub the marks, waited for three minutes and wiped it with a damp paper towel.

  24. Britfan says:

    A damp Mr Clean Magic Eraser worked a charm. Thanks for the tip!

  25. Marie says:

    I just dug an old Rowenta Surfline iron out of the closet because my college-age daughter wanted an iron. This iron was ruined…so I thought. Years ago, I tried cleaning it with baking soda, salt, vinegar, Soleplate cleaners, etc., etc. It has such bad burn marks that I had bought and used another iron for a couple of years now.

    Because Bar Keepers Friend works so well on my stainless steel pots and pans, I decided to try one last time to save this expensive iron. After about 20 minutes of some really hard elbow grease, even using Q-tips in the little holes and divots, my iron looks and works like new! I can’t believe it. I ran the Soleplate over some wax paper to polish the bottom, and now my daughter gets the other iron. I have my Rowenta back!

  26. Cookie says:

    I used a dry Brillo pad; it did not scratch the iron and the plate was nice and shiny. I saw this method somewhere, but I don’t remember if it was on TV or the internet.

  27. AM says:

    Oven cleaner did the trick! Thank goodness, and thank you for this site. I thought the iron was a goner. I first tried Goo Gone, and it didn’t phase it. But, Goo Gone did remove the interfacing that ended up on my “ironing mat,” which is also now useable again. Thanks, everyone!

  28. Kristian says:

    Just tried the salt and paper bag trick and it WORKED! In fact, I just used an envelope because I was out of paper bags. Full heat with no steam = instant success!

  29. Veronica says:

    Thanks guys. This is my second iron and I’d like to keep it, so I will try everyone’s suggestions. Thanks so much.
    Signed, Desperate

  30. Janette says:

    I tried number three because my iron had a burnt stain on it. It worked great in getting it all nice and shiny, but now my iron doesn’t heat up anymore. It doesn’t work at all. :(

  31. Lisa says:

    Oven cleaner worked great on my iron. It took a few applications, but came off nicely.

  32. SG says:

    I can’t believe all the different methods mentioned to get the gunk off the iron. There is a super easy way to do it. It’s called “Faultless Hot Iron Cleaner.” Comes in a little tube. You can buy it at Walmart. All you do is put a little of the cream on a rag, and rub it on the iron while it is on, and very hot. The gunk comes right off. Simple as that! I keep it nearby while I’m ironing, and anytime I feel the iron not running smoothly over the item, I clean it. Only takes seconds. (If the iron is REALLY gunky, it might take a minute or two of applying and rubbing.)

  33. Teddy says:

    Serious gook on my iron’s stainless steel sole plate. Nothing could clean this melted-on plastic’ee gunk… until I used oven cleaner.

    Here is the procedure:

    1. Turn the iron upside down (sole plate facing the ceiling).
    2. Plug in the iron and set to hottest non-steam setting.
    3. Spray oven cleaner directly onto the sole plate (it will bubble like crazy).
    4. Immediately unplug the iron, and then scrub the oven cleaner covered sole plate with a plastic scrub pad or the back of a wet sponge that has a scrub pad.
    5. Wipe the residue off of the sole plate with the sponge side of a wet sponge.

    Repeat this process until all of the goo is gone.
    *Oven cleaner only worked when the iron was hot. I applied oven cleaner to the iron, when cold, and left it on for 8 hours, and it had no effect.

  34. KS says:

    Thanks to the one who suggested toothpaste. It worked like magic. Vinegar and baking soda didn’t help for me. It saved my two irons. Thanks again…

  35. Julie says:

    Oven cleaner worked FANTASTIC!!!!! Super easy. :)

  36. BK says:

    Tried all. Nothing. Tore a piece of Brillo pad off…less than width of my finger…and scrubbed. GONE. Oven cleaner, vinegar, salt. Forget about it…

  37. Sarah says:

    I did the vinegar and salt, and it did good. It took off all that build up. My iron looks new again. Thanks for the tip.

  38. Mary G. says:

    My daughter used the iron to melt glue off the carpet and now my iron has melted glue on the plate. What can I use to clean it up with? I tried melting it off by turning on the iron; no luck. Help please.

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question! Yay!

Leave a Comment