How to clean an iron – and you already have everything you'll need

Our favourite methods using vinegar, salt and even paracetamol

room with clothes and clothes hanger and iron with ironing table
(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Ironing is the marmite of household chores; some see it as a therapeutic way to switch off, and others put it off until the laundry pile becomes too big to ignore. Whichever camp you fall into, it's important to learn how to clean an iron so that you can continue to smooth your laundry with ease and efficiency, as well as making sure your iron works well for longer, saving you time and money.

Even the best of the best steam irons can suffer from burn marks and sticky plates if they aren't cleaned every now and again. Limescale and mineral deposits can build up on iron soleplates, which can transfer to freshly laundered clothes leaving unsightly marks. That's where learning how to clean an iron comes in.

'Part of caring for clothes includes caring for the iron itself,' says Andrea Philips from the lifestyle team at Airtasker. 'The top signs that your iron is overdue a clean include if the iron is dragging instead of gliding when you are ironing your clothes, and you start noticing sticky stains on the fabric you just ironed.' 

And the best news about cleaning an iron is that there are several tried and tested methods that use staple items you will likely already have in the house, so you don't need to add any special cleaning products to your shopping list. We've put together this essential guide on how to clean an iron so that you can get yours gleaming.

How to clean an iron

'The best way to clean an iron depends on how bad the situation is,' explains Andrea. 'Some experimentation may be necessary, but be sure to review your iron’s user manual first to see if there are specific instructions or warnings.'

If your iron has become sticky as a result of various residues, the first thing to do is check if it has a self-clean feature and activate that. If that still doesn't shift stains on your iron soleplate, our guide is sure to have a method that will. Here's everything you need to know about how to clean an iron.

ironing board with a sheet and iron in a kitchen with herringbone wood floor

(Image credit: Brabantia)

First thing's first, the obvious (but important!) stuff. Before trying any of the methods in our guide, make sure your iron is switched off and unplugged, and the water tank is empty. Wait until it is has completely cooled down before you proceed.

How to clean an iron with white vinegar

Before you tackle the iron's soleplates, it's important to clean the iron's 'insides' too. Cleaning with vinegar is perfect for this, as the acidity of the vinegar will clear away any limescale hiding inside the steam ducts. 

  • Mix 1/2 a cup of white vinegar and 1/2 a cup of water and pour into the iron
  • Keeping the iron in an upright position, inspect the steam ducts on the soleplate
  • Use a toothpick or old toothbrush to remove any residue present

How to clean an iron with salt

Image of iron testing day at Future test facility featuring three irons

(Image credit: Future)

Salt is a tried and tested method for cleaning an iron's soleplates. It's very easy to do and you should be rewarded with a gleaming iron soleplate.

  • Lay down a sheet of waxy paper – baking paper should work well – and sprinkle salt generously all over it
  • Set your iron to warm and glide it over the paper several times in a number of different directions
  • Shake off the excess salt

How to clean an iron with toothpaste

Forget cleaning your teeth, toothpaste is the all-in-one wonder cleaner for the home that will set you back less than a pound. When it com

  • Smear a small amount of white toothpaste on any affected areas of your iron soleplate
  • Leave it for a minute then use a clean cloth to wipe the toothpaste away
  • To finish things off, fill up your iron's water tank, pop your iron on an old towel or similar, set it to steam, leaving it for a few minutes to work through

attic room with white walls and iron with iron table and clothes stand

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

How to clean an iron with paracetamol

Is your grimy iron soleplate giving you headache? Then why not reach for a paracetamol. But rather than downing a tablet with water, you can actually smooth over your iron to bring back that all important shine.

This viral cleaning hack continues to take the internet by storm and is surprisingly easy to follow.

room with clothes and clothes hanger and iron with ironing table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)
  • Set your iron soleplate onto its maximum heat setting and rub a paracetamol tablet (make sure it is a solid tablet) over it using tweezers
  • You can repeat this process with another tablet if black marks are proving stubborn before wiping away with a clean cloth
  • Then turn your iron off. Take extra care to ensure you don't get burnt

How to clean an iron with white vinegar and baking soda

Ironing board with iron next to chair and console table

(Image credit: Vileda)

Still seeing stubborn brown marks clinging to your iron's soleplate? The ultimate combo for breaking down tough stains, white vinegar and baking soda should do the trick.

These powerful ingredients are recommended for how to clean an oven and hobs, but they'll work wonders on your iron too.

  • Mix a tbsp of baking soda with a tbsp of white vinegar in a large bowl until it forms into a white paste
  • Use a clean cloth and spread the solution on the soleplate part of the iron – make sure to cover the whole area of the soleplate to ensure it gets cleaned fully
  • Let the solution rest on the soleplate for about 10 minutes, and then use the cloth to scrub it clean
  • Rinse clean with a different cloth, removing all the solution from the soleplate


Do I need to use an iron cleaner?

'While you can use a traditional iron cleaner to clean your iron plates, it may not be necessary as there are equally effective methods that involve items that can be found around the house,' says Thea White from

To save yourself some money, try cleaning your iron with the items suggested in our methods before you go purchasing a specialist iron cleaner. If none of these work, it might be time to try a product on the market formulated specifically for the job, such as the Faultless Hot Iron Soleplate Cleaner Cream. A cream cleaner like this is guaranteed to get your iron's soleplate gleaming, and will break down any brown stuff without damaging the surface.

Blue ironing next to care and maintenance supplies

(Image credit: Haier Europe)

How do I get the brown stuff off my iron?

'Tough brown marks found on your iron can be stubborn to remove, however by mixing two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of water into a paste you have a cleaner that is sure to banish them away,' says Thea. 'Simply rub the mixture around the soleplate of the iron, making sure to avoid the steam holes and then wipe away any residue with a damp cloth.'

If baking soda doesn't work, you can try rubbing paracetamol over the brown marks. This tried and tested cleaning hack has been proven to break down the burnt remnants that build up on an iron's soleplate.

How do you clean a burnt iron with toothpaste?

'If you’ve tried cleaning your iron with soapy water and it’s, you can try the toothpaste method,' says Sarah Dempsey, cleaning expert for MyJobQuote. 'Simply apply a small drop of toothpaste to the plate and rub it all over the surface with a clean, dry cloth. Then, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the toothpaste away.'

Toothpaste is ideal for learning how to clean an iron because it contains mildly abrasive substances that will break down the burnt stains clinging to the soleplate. Though it's important not to use anything too harsh to clean your iron.

'It's important to never use anything harsh that could scratch the soleplate as this will result in rusting or staining which is irreversible to the iron,' says Lara Brittain, kitchen expert, Currys.

Toothpaste, as well as other household items like salt, paracetamol, white vinegar and baking soda, are all fine to use on your iron's soleplate.

If you're in a pinch and notice your iron needs a clean, simply check which of these items you have to hand and give the method a go!

With contributions from