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Can you clean an iron with vinegar? We asked the experts

A woman wipes the surface of an iron with a cotton pad

Is vinegar a good option to keep limescale at bay in your iron? We find out

Everyone loves a budget cleaning solution… until it damages their appliance. Having heard the horror stories of many a TikTok life hack gone wrong (cleaning chrome with lemon juice, for example – it actually strips the surface), you may now be wondering whether using vinegar to clean your best steam iron is as good an idea as you first thought, especially if your model is the pricey steam generator iron.

Frequently recommended for household cleaning for a number of reasons –  it’s cheap, doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals and most of us will already have some in our cupboards – using vinegar to clean an iron seems like a handy tip. However, to avoid the risk of damage, we tracked down a few experts for their opinions on whether it’s safe to use vinegar to clean an iron, putting their instructions into practice to ensure our iron – and our clothes – didn’t come to any harm.

READ NEXT: Steam irons vs garment steamers

Should you clean your iron with vinegar?

We asked three experts, and their answers were mixed.

“Yes, definitely”, says Henry Patterson, digital marketing manager at Housekeep, a London-based cleaning agency. “White distilled vinegar is best for the job. You can use it to clean the plate of your iron, and to descale and clean out the reservoir.”

Hannah Hamer, assistant marketing manager at Russell Hobbs, advises caution: “Vinegar is an incredibly versatile and affordable natural cleaning solution, but it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions first, since placing vinegar on or within the iron’s reservoir may not be advised for your specific model.” She went  on to say, “Here, at Russell Hobbs, we recommend gently scrubbing – whilst being careful not to scratch the soleplate of your iron – with a small amount of distilled vinegar on a cloth.”

However, Komal Sawley, marketing manager at Tefal, had a different view, “Definitely not. For cleaning, you should not use any descaling products or vinegar on the irons or [steam] generators as this causes serious, irreparable internal damage to the irons.”

How to clean an iron with white vinegar

“Before cleaning, ensure that the iron is unplugged and has completely cooled down”, advises Hannah Hamer. “We advise against using a steel wool scrubber as you may risk damaging the iron plate, so opt for a soft cloth instead. It’s also important to note that vinegar can damage wooden and stone surfaces, so make sure to lay down a protective material such as newspaper or a bin liner to avoid ruining any countertops.

Cleaning the soleplate

Henry Patterson shares his suggestions for how to clean an iron with vinegar:

  • Make sure the iron is switched off and cool.
  • Dip a clean cloth in distilled white vinegar. Once saturated, use your cloth to thoroughly clean the base plate of the iron; gentle scrubbing should be enough to remove most marks.
  • Once you’re happy with the plate, wipe off any residual vinegar with another clean cloth, dampened with water. Then dry.

Patterson was also keen to emphasise that you should use a soft cloth – ideally microfibre – or a sponge, and warned against using “a scouring pad or steel wool on the iron plate, since this is likely to scratch”.

Tefal’s Komal Sawley advised against using vinegar to clean an iron, offering alternative instructions for cleaning the soleplate: “The iron soleplate and housing should be wiped regularly with a soft damp cloth to keep fluff, dust and clothes fibres away from the iron”, they told us. “These can be sucked up by the iron when in use and then later spat out of the iron onto clothing, which may look like bits of scale.

“Irons should not be stored in an airing cupboard for the same reason”, they add. “You can also gently vacuum the holes on the soleplate of the iron.”

READ NEXT: How to descale an iron

Cleaning the reservoir

Once you’ve tackled your iron’s soleplate, it’s a good idea to give the water reservoir a clean too:

  • Generally, a solution of equal parts water and vinegar is a good place to start for vinegar-based cleaning.
  • Pour your 50:50 water and vinegar solution directly into the reservoir. Turn on the iron and leave it to heat up and steam for 10-15 minutes.
  • Once warmed up, fire the steam a few times to fully descale the steam holes. Then pour out the mixture.
  • Refill with distilled water and repeat the process.

The final stage is crucial to ensure that any residual vinegar is removed from the iron.

Best-selling author and This Morning’s resident cleaning expert Lynsey Crombie, AKA the Queen of Clean, recommends that you add a drop of white vinegar to your iron’s water tank every time you fill it up: “To prevent limescale in an iron, I use Calstop, a drop of white vinegar and distilled water”, she told us.

What are the pros and cons of cleaning your iron with vinegar?

The upside of cleaning an iron with white (never brown) vinegar is that it’s cheap and readily available. “It’s inexpensive, easy and convenient”, says Patterson. “Lots of people have white vinegar hanging around the house already, so you can get the job done without heading to the shops or ordering anything in.”

But there are a few downsides: “Cleaning with vinegar – even when you’re using white distilled vinegar – can be a little smelly”, admits Patterson. “Also, if you don’t rinse afterwards, you can leave unsightly residue behind. But as long as you re-wipe surfaces with a damp cloth afterwards, it should be fine.”

A woman wipes an iron with a cloth

And, of course, a significant drawback to cleaning an iron with vinegar is that it could void your warranty, especially if – as in the case of Tefal irons – the manufacturer has specifically warned against it. So, checking your iron’s instructions and guarantee before you begin is always a good idea.

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