The bottom of your iron is called a sole plate (bet you didn’t know that) and can get quite grubby, which really affects how well your iron works, as well as potentially making whatever you’re ironing a bit grubby – not something that you’re going to want if you’re pressing a new make or getting freshly-washed clothes ready to put away!
When there’s a build up of various gross things, it’ll cause the sole plate (fancy lingo) to drag and stick to whatever you’re ironing – not good. Mine was getting so grimy that it was starting to do that, so instead of forking out for a new one, I decided to try out a couple of ‘home remedies’ to see if I could get it looking as good as new.
We have two irons – one’s mine that I use in my sewing room, and the other is the proper ‘ironing’ iron. Both are steam irons but aren’t actually used as steam irons because they’re pretty complicated to clean and need some extra care – if you’re here because your steam iron is getting a little rusty or isn’t spraying, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to help you with that – but I can give you some cleaning tips!
Soleplates should NEVER be scrubbed with something scratchy like a wire sponge – it’ll cause scratches, and even tiny inconsistencies on the bottom of the iron can cause a whole lot of snagging on your clothes; which is why you should opt for a nice, soft microfibre cloth instead.
I know that there are a lot of cleaning products specifically designed for cleaning irons, but I wanted to have a go at the ‘at home’ techniques before I splashed out – below, you can read about the methods that I used and how well they worked, so that you can decide whether to take the time concocting these iron-cleaning potions yourself, or pop to the shops and get an actual iron cleaner.
Method One: Baking Soda + Water
This was a ‘recipe’ that I came across quite a lot while I was doing my research, so I decided to give it a go – this particular recipe was one that I found on Wikihow. It seemed the easiest water & baking soda concoction! Here’s how you do it:
- Mix together 1 tablespoon of water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda to make a paste (apparently distilled water is the best for it, but I don’t think that many houses are likely to have that, so tap water’s fine)
- Spread the paste onto the bottom of the iron and leave it to sit for a few minutes
- Wet a clean cloth and wring out the excess water, and then wipe the paste off of the iron
Here’s the consistency of the paste – I’m pretty sure this was what it was meant to look like?
Did it work?
Right. To start with, I couldn’t find anything about whether the iron should be on or off for this method, but then I saw one article say ‘you can apply this with your fingers’, so I assumed that off would be the safer bet.
Well, the baking soda went very bubbly (effervescent, if you want to sound like a scientist) which I should’ve expected really, what with it being baking soda, and all! Lesson learned here: if in doubt, go for a bigger bowl.
Something else that I realised as I had a go at this method was how quickly the mixture dried. You want it to dry on the iron so that it can lift the dirt off, so make sure you get it on there nice and quick! It’s a very frothy consistency, like mousse, so is quite hard to spread – I opted for a ‘pat it on’ sort of approach.
The cloth that I used to wipe away the dirt on the iron came away pretty dirty, so it must’ve done something right! The rough patches of the iron were still there though, so I tried the next method…
Method Two: Newspaper
This one cropped up an awful lot as well on my travels across the iron-cleaning internet, so I thought I’d give it a go when I saw that there was still some rough residue left on the iron. Here’s how to do it:
This is for a ‘scorched’ iron, aka when there’s burnt stuff on it which means that it has a rough surface.
- Turn on the iron to the highest temperature
- Lay down some newspaper on the surface where you’re going to iron – I’d recommend doing this on an ironing board really, but wherever you do it, I won’t be accepting any responsibility of burned carpets or anything
- Iron over the newspaper, forwards and backwards a few times until the burnt fabric falls away from the soleplate.
Did It Work?
On the big iron, it worked WONDERFULLY! The iron was pretty much as good as new after the combination of the newspaper and baking soda/water combination. The little iron didn’t respond to the newspaper method so well, my theory being that it doesn’t go hot enough for it to work as well as it could do.
My one tip would be to choose a page with a lot of dark ink on it – think dense blocks of text or (even better) big, dark photos. The page will probably feel tacky on the bottom of the iron, so just hold the page still and go over it until it goes over smoothly before moving onto another ink-covered zone. Keep going until the bottom of the iron looks smooth and voila!
My sewing room iron is still a little bit dirty (I’m very sorry about the lack of before and after photos with this post, I forgot to take before photos, so the after ones probably won’t be of any help to you) so I think I’ll do some research into shop-bought iron cleaners to have a go with to see if they can get the job done.
I wasn’t expecting either of these methods to magically restore the irons to new, and they didn’t. Our irons haven’t been cleaned since we got them really, so there are a few years’ worth of dirt there – these home methods are probably far better for upkeep than deep cleaning, where you might just be better off grabbing an iron cleaner from the shops!