In this article well explain exactly how to clean the bottom of an iron soleplate as well as inside.
First, assess what the problem is… It could be a sticky melted residue, scorch marks or internal rust. We’ve covered each problem below and how to clean it.
Important note: If your iron is still under warranty, read this section first.
1. How to Clean a Burnt or Scorched Iron Soleplate
A steam iron heats up to around 450°F (230°C ) but the stainless steel soleplate can easily handle temperatures of up to 6 times higher. It’s therefore technically impossible to actually burn the soleplate itself… the burn marks you’re seeing is scorched fabric like silk or polyester that has melted onto the soleplate.
You can use toothpaste, salt, baking soda or an uncoated paracetamol tablet to clean the scorch mark without scratching or damaging the soleplate. You’ll also need a clean, white, 100% cotton terry cloth/towel to help “scrub” the soleplate.
- Fill the iron with water
- Heat it to maximum temperature
- Sprinkle salt or baking soda onto the terry cloth or paper towel and iron over it
- Or, squeeze toothpaste onto the soleplate and scrub out the marks
- For paracetamol, rub the tablet over the marks using a glove or tweezers
- Watch out for burns and keep wiping clean to assess the progress
Scroll further down to see each process in much more detail.
2. How to Remove Rust from an Iron
A stainless steel soleplate itself cannot rust. The rust usually builds up inside the iron as tap water evaporates off the heating elements.
This rust makes its way out of your iron’s steam holes and it might look like your iron is leaking brown water. (It can do irreparable damage to your clothing.)
Vinegar contains around 5% acetic acid which effectively removes rust from an iron. It smells really bad so you’ll need to do this in a well-ventilated area and keep it far away from your ironing board.
- Fill an empty iron with white vinegar
- Heat it up to maximum temperature
- Press the steam burst repeatedly
- Move the iron around as you do this to dislodge any rust
- Iron onto an old cloth to clear off any pieces of rust
- Keep doing this until no more rust comes out of the steam holes
- Empty the vinegar completely and replace it with 50% distilled water
You’ll need to keep the iron steaming for a while to get rid of the vinegar smell completely before you can use it in clothing. We have a more detailed article here.
3. How to Clean an Iron with Toothpaste
The cleaning and abrasive ingredients in toothpaste make it a safe and effective way to clean an iron soleplate. Simply apply a small amount of toothpaste (teeth whitening toothpaste works best) with water and brush it onto the dirty area with an old toothbrush. When you’re done, do some steam bursts with your iron to remove any toothpaste that may have entered the steam holes.
If you need a full explanation as to why this works or how it’s done, check out our article How to Clean an Iron with Toothpaste.
4. How to Clean an Iron with Salt
This cleans a very burnt or rusty soleplate and, due to its abrasiveness, should be left as a last resort to save an older iron.
Sprinkle coarse salt onto a paper towel or a sheet of aluminum foil and iron over it at maximum temperature until the marks diminish. Heavy scorch or burn marks may not disappear completely and only reduce to a cloudy stain, but they will not damage clothing when ironed.
See our full article on How to Clean an Iron with Salt
5. How to Clean an Iron with Vinegar
Vinegar is usually employed to clean the inside of an iron. This includes clearing the elements and heating chamber as well as all the water channels from rust or mineral and limescale build-up.
In a well-ventilated area, pour distilled white vinegar into the water tank and set the iron to maximum heat. Then apply the steam burst while tilting and gently shaking the iron to dislodge any limescale and rust build-up inside the iron. Dirt will eject from the steam holes and must be wiped down continually to asses the progress. Once it’s clean, you’ll need to use distilled water and steam bursts to rinse all the vinegar out of the iron.
See our full article on How to Clean an Iron with Vinegar
6. How to Clean an Iron with Paracetamol
Simply rub the uncoated Paracetamol tablet onto the dirty part of a hot iron soleplate and “rub off” the dirty stains. You will need heat-resistant gloves or something else to grip the melting tablet. This will work best if the dirt is made up of a thick, grimy build-up and won’t really help for heavy rust and scorching. It is one of the safer ways to clean your soleplate without the risk of causing any damage like scratching your steam iron’s soleplate.
See our full article on How to Clean an Iron with Paracetamol
7. How to Clean an Iron with Baking Soda
The alkaline properties of baking soda help clean a steam iron’s dirty soleplate. Simply sprinkle 2 tablespoons of baking soda over a completely wet cloth or towel and iron over it at high heat. If the cloth is too smooth to be effective, you can use a slightly coarser cleaning sponge instead. Just don’t choose one that’s too coarse and might scratch the soleplate. You can also scrub the soleplate directly while holding the sponge in your hand.
See our full article on How to Clean an Iron with Baking Soda
8. How to Clean an Iron Under Warranty?
If you’re still under warranty, the best way to avoid losing it is to clean your iron in the exact way they prescribe in the instruction booklet.
Rowenta, for example clearly states that you should:
- Switch the iron to low heat
- Let it run for some time
- Wipe it down with a damp cloth
- Do not use any household chemicals
- And definitely don’t use a kitchen sponge or steel wool
Unfortunately, this won’t get rid of serious burns or scorch marks!
With a Soleplate Cleaning Kit
If the burn marks are more severe, you’ll need to purchase a soleplate cleaning kit and follow the instructions, to avoid losing your warranty.
The kit is simply two pieces of cloth (one coarse cotton terry cloth and the other softer polishing cloth) and a gel-like cleaning paste.
- Turn the iron to high heat
- Squeeze the solution onto the coarse cloth
- Iron over it in a circular motion until the burn goes away
- Iron over the smoother cloth to clean the excess gel off the soleplate
The problem with soleplate cleaning kits are that they want to protect the soleplate more than they want to clean it.
Perhaps you need to clean your iron urgently and don’t have the time or the money to buy a cleaning kit. Or maybe you’re no longer under warranty and you want to quickly clean your heavily burnt soleplate with things you have laying around the house. If so, the paracetamol, toothpaste and baking soda options above are really safe and work very well.