If the bottom of your iron is starting to look less than fresh—or flat-out burnt—you’re probably wondering how to clean an iron without burning your fingers in the process. It’s totally doable.
With the right approach, you can restore the bottom of your iron and, in turn, keep it working as effectively as the first day you got it. Read on to discover 11 tips for how to clean an iron—no fancy cleaning products required.
1. Dissolve Tylenol Into a Hot Iron Soleplate
One of the best hacks for cleaning an iron with burnt residue is rather unexpected: Tylenol. It doesn’t have to be a name brand—any acetaminophen tablet will do. Turn the iron on to the highest setting.
Once it’s hot, press the pill directly onto the burnt area. The pill will melt and turn into a gel that dissolves the burnt spot. Use a damp cloth or paper towel to clean the soleplate, and repeat as necessary until the char is completely removed.
2. Create an Iron Cleaning Paste With Baking Soda
Baking soda is a miracle worker that cleans everything from ovens to dishwashers. It can also clean your iron. Create a stain-fighting paste with just two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of water. Carefully rub it around on the iron plate, but try not to get baking soda in the steam holes. If you do get the paste in the steam holes, make sure to clean them out … which brings me to my next iron-cleaning tip.
3. Use a Cotton Swab to Clean Out the Steam Holes
Cotton swabs are the perfect tool to really get inside the steam holes and clean them out. Dip them in distilled white vinegar before inserting them to level up the grime-fighting power.
4. Soak a Towel in Vinegar
Another way to use vinegar to clean along the iron plate is to soak a towel in vinegar and then set the iron onto the towel with the iron plate facing down. Let it sit for 30 minutes and wipe it down. Good as new! This method is particularly useful if your iron has corrosion.
5. Add Vinegar to the Water Reservoir
If you have a steam iron, another way to clean out the iron steam vents is to fill the water reservoir with a mixture of half distilled white vinegar and half water. Then grab an old cloth or towel, and iron and steam it. As you steam, residue will come out of the vents along with the vinegar.
6. Make Magic With a Magic Eraser
A magic eraser can work wonders on an iron, especially if your iron is spotted with hard water. Get your magic eraser wet, and then rub your cool iron along the sponge until the stains come off. Re-wet the sponge as needed.
7. Iron Over a Newspaper and Salt
Believe it or not, salt and newspaper can also get the job done. Flip your iron to the hottest setting and lay out a newspaper on your ironing board. Sprinkle a good amount of salt over the newspaper, and iron the salty newspaper in circles until it’s clean. If you don’t have a newspaper handy, you can use a brown paper bag—it works just as well.
8. Use Ice Cubes and a Plastic Knife to Remove Melted Plastic
If your iron comes into contact with something plastic, you’ll have a bit of a mess to deal with—but it’s simple enough to get off. As soon as your iron comes into contact with plastic, unplug it and let it cool.
Fill a metal bowl or pan with ice cubes and place the iron plate onto the ice to harden the plastic quickly (you can skip this step if the plastic is already hardened on a cool iron). Now take a plastic knife and scrape away the plastic, then wipe down the surface with vinegar spray or a damp rag. It’s critical to get off any plastic before you use the iron again—otherwise the plastic will end up melting into your clothes.
9. Turn the Iron to Low Heat and Scrub With Dryer Sheets
This is as simple as it gets: Rub the soleplate with dryer sheets while the iron is on its lowest setting. As soon as a dryer sheet gets too hot, toss it and reach for another. Repeat until the iron is clean.
10. Break Out a Brillo Pad
If your iron has stuck-on glue from a craft project like adhering a patch, a Brillo pad can be effective at getting rid of all the remnants without scratching your iron plate.
11. Use Nail Polish Remover to Break Down Residue
One last tip for how to clean an iron: Use nail polish remover! Grab a cotton ball and dip it into acetone nail polish remover. Using an oven mitt or a heat-protecting glove, swipe the cotton ball along the surface of the hot iron.
It will dissolve residue in no time. If you’re going to use this iron-cleaning method, you should do it outside so that you (or your family or pets) don’t breathe in the chemical fumes.