How to descale an iron
Image by RitaE from Pixabay

How to Descale an Iron

Is your iron causing you trouble? Are you tired of leaks, hindered performance, and worst of all, finding stains on your freshly laundered clothes? 

The solution is simple — it’s time for you to descale your iron. You can do this with items found in most homes in just a few minutes! 

Why should I descale my iron?

Most irons use a water reservoir to provide liquid for its steam function and a crease removing spray. After repeated use, these parts can build up limescale deposits in crucial areas. Steam vents may clog, the reservoir could leak, or brown musty water could collect ready to run out onto your newly cleaned clothes.

A lot of people don’t ever descale their irons just because no one has ever told them that they should. As a result, when limescale builds up, they incorrectly assume that the iron is broken or unfixable. 

Limescale is a common occurrence. Over time, most irons build up some limescale, particularly if you live in a hard water area. Limescale build-up is especially prevalent in the UK, as around 60% of homes are said to have hard or very hard water. 

The tell-tale signs of limescale on an iron are:

  • Brown stains on your clothes
  • Brown water
  • Leaks
  • Clogged holes in the soleplate (the metal or ceramic underside)
  • Inefficient ironing

Looking sharp is the main reason why you should descale your iron regularly. However, that’s not all there is to it.

If left alone, limescale will continue to clog the ducts, eventually causing blockages in the tank and the steam vents. After this goes on for some time, your iron will likely break completely. On the upside, a well-maintained iron made by a decent brand can last you for years.

Do all irons need descaling?

Only irons that use water need to be descaled. Just like in a kettle, any tool that is regularly filled with water is susceptible to limescale build-up.

Some modern irons now come with features to self-clean or reduce limescale residue:

The most common anti-limescale systems are:

  • Cleaning programs. Some steam irons have the option to clean themselves — all you have to do is press a button.
  • Scale collector. These are small, removable containers that collect all the built-up limescale. You can take them out and clean them before they ever damage your iron.
  • Anti-limescale cartridge. This is a system that descales the water while it’s still inside the tank. It’s removable and needs to be replaced once around every three months.

How often should I descale my iron?

This varies from brand to brand, but it generally depends on the hardness of the water in your area. According to experts from Philips, “We recommend descaling your iron every 1-2 months. By cleaning your iron regularly, all calcium particles will be removed, and the lifetime of your appliance will be longer.”

Can I prevent the build-up of limescale?

It’s good to take a hands-on approach and prevent the issues before they ever appear. Let’s talk about the various ways you can stop limescale from ever damaging your iron.

Use the correct type of water

Perfumed water may smell nice, but it’s not the perfect option for your iron. We recommend using tap water or demineralised water, with the latter being the best option. It’s already purified and thus lime-free.

Use the right temperature

Remember to adjust the temperature based on what you’re ironing. If your iron is too hot, you risk that tiny bits of your garments may melt off and clog the soleplate. Keep an extra eye out for ironing prints — synthetic materials have a higher risk of melting. Anything clogging machine may collect calcium deposits and clog your machine faster.

Clean and empty your iron

You don’t need to descale all that often, but these two things should be done after each ironing session:

  • Empty & rinse the water tank
  • Wipe down the sole-plate with a sponge (only once the iron has cooled down!)

How to descale a steam ironHomemade cleaning products

Before you begin, unplug your iron and make sure that it has adequately cooled down.

What you will need

Prepare the following:

  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Cotton buds
  • A dishcloth or a hand towel
  • A small bowl
  • Ironing board

Step one: Prepare a solution

Grab a small bowl, then take 50mls white vinegar and mix it with around 150mls of water. White vinegar makes for an excellent disinfectant, and it also removes the odours that build up in your iron over time.

Step two: Fill the reservoir

Fill your iron’s tank with the solution, then plug the iron back in and turn it on. Set it to the highest possible setting. Give it plenty of time to heat up.

Step three: Use the solution

Once your iron has heated up, grab a hand towel or a dishcloth and set it down on the board. Press your iron down into the cloth while holding the steam button. We recommend doing this in 20-30 second intervals for a total of 1-2 minutes.

Step four: Empty the reservoir

Empty the reservoir down the sink and flush it under the tap. Lastly, fill it again with fresh water and repeat the previous step for the same amount of time.

Step five: Prepare your second solution

It’s time to mix again — this time, take your white vinegar and salt and mix them thoroughly in equal parts. This will create a solution that will smooth the soleplate of your iron and remove any remaining scale.

Step six: Clean the soleplate

Make sure that your iron has properly cooled down. Once that’s done, apply the solution to the soleplate, distributing it as evenly as you can. Afterwards, use a soft cloth to wipe it all down. You may need to repeat this step — don’t stop until you’re satisfied with the results.

Step seven: Clean the ducts

The final step is to clean the ducts on the soleplate, as this is where most limescale builds up. Take a cotton bud and gently clean the ducts one by one. You can dip it in the solution of white vinegar and water first.

Final thoughts

Descaling an iron is a fast and easy process that can be done at home with the help of white vinegar, salt and water. Regular maintenance will ensure that limescale never builds up in the first place. 

We recommend repeating the above steps once every three months at the most. With just a little bit of regularity, your iron is going to serve you well for years!