We're guessing cleaning your iron isn't your top priority right now, but it might be once your iron gets too dirty and leaves a nasty brown stain on your favorite shirt! So we're here to help you avoid this problem from ever happening in the first place.
Good news: A homemade iron cleaner is pretty easy to make. All you need is 1/4 cup white vinegar and 3/4 cup distilled water. According to the Home Depot, it's good to start from the inside, so when your iron is cool and unplugged, open the back where you usually put in the water and then pour the mixture into the steam vents. Once you put the iron back together and close it, plug it in and turn the steam feature on. Allow the iron to heat up for about five minutes, then press on the steam button until steam is released. Repeat about four to six times before you it turn off. Use a clean cotton swab to clean out any remaining buildup from the vents, then let your iron cool a bit more before pouring out whatever's left of the mixture.
You should keep a close eye on your iron's soleplate (aka the metal plate at the base of the iron) whenever you use your iron. If it looks dirty, it is dirty, and you need to clean it. Luckily, when it comes to sprucing up the soleplate, you have a few options. If you notice the soleplate has a lot of oil, wiping the entire surface with a cloth dipped in white vinegar should do the trick, according to TODAY. Just be sure you rinse it with a clean damp cloth afterward and let it dry before you use it again. But if you notice visible stains on the soleplate, you're better off applying a paste of water and baking soda and simply scrubbing with a damp cloth before wiping the whole thing clean with a wet cloth.
If you see some icky stickiness on your iron's soleplate a newspaper — of all things! — might be your best bet. According to Handy, all you have to do is heat the iron up to its highest setting (without steaming), then with oven mitts protecting your hands, scrunch up the newspaper and use it to "scrub" the soleplate. Alternatively, you can also run the iron across the newspaper until it's clean if you don't want to bother with oven mitts. If the stickiness is stubborn, just add a tablespoon of salt on top of the newspaper. Finally, run the iron over a damp, clean towel after it cools to get rid of any last remaining residue.
How often you clean your iron varies on how often you use it, but according to Molly Maid, you should be cleaning the inside of your iron whenever it appears to be losing steam (literally), a sign of mineral deposit buildup. So always run your steam before you start ironing anything — that'll tell you whether you need to clean the vents before you smooth out your clothes. It's also a good rule of thumb to take a good hard look at your soleplate to spot any trouble areas and clean them accordingly before ironing, rather than ruining your blouse or dress. Iron your clothes super often? It's best to aim for a monthly cleaning even if you think your iron isn't dirty.
To keep your iron tidy in general, it's best to use distilled water rather than tap water when ironing, according to Home Depot. (Tap water is more likely to cause mineral buildup.) It's also a good idea to completely empty out your iron after every use. Finally, always store your it upright to protect it from water leakage or any unsightly damage on the soleplate.