Steam generator irons use a powerful stream of continuous steam to make quick work of ironing. People typically use tap water to fill their steam generator irons and this can lead to the buildup of scaly mineral deposits.
This buildup is worse in areas with hard water, a common problem throughout the UK. Cleaning your steam generator iron regularly solves the problem of scale buildup and ensures that the iron can keep doing what it does best.
How to Clean and Descale a Steam Generator Iron
For a good overview of cleaning a steam generator iron, check out this video:
Why you need to clean your steam generator iron
Natural mineral deposits such as calcium and limescale become part of our water supply after rain has run through the landscape and into the reservoirs.
Some counties of the UK such as East Anglia, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands have particularly hard water, a term used to describe a high concentration of mineral deposits.
The soft water of the north and the west usually contains fewer minerals. Limescale appears as a chalky residue and if it’s allowed to build up inside your steam generator iron, it forms a hard coating that is difficult to remove.
It can be particularly troublesome if it attaches itself to the holes where steam is released, resulting in a loss of performance and visible staining on items of clothing when you try to iron.
The overall lifespan of the iron can be shortened if you don’t clean the iron consistently. Regularly de-scaling the iron will ensure that it works at its optimal level of efficiency and that it will last for a very long time.
How often to clean a steam generator iron
How frequently you need to clean the iron depends on how often you use it and how hard your water is. There are a few indicators that will tell you it is time to clean your iron, these include:
- Brown water or white scale coming out of the iron.
- The iron’s indicator light comes on telling you it’s time.
- The steam output is reduced.
Even if you don’t experience any of those indications, it’s a good idea to clean the iron after every ten hours of use or at least monthly.
The beginnings of scale buildup are likely to be present before you actually see anything. Being proactive about your cleaning is wise.
Steam generator iron cleaning tips
It’s not just limescale that’s your iron’s worst enemy, but hazards such as brown stains on the soleplate and green algae flourishing in the water tank.
Here are some useful tips on how to keep your steam generator iron clean and in good working order.
- Prevent green algae – Empty the water tank after use and store the iron out of sunlight, preferably in a cupboard.
- Clean steam vents – Dip a cotton bud in a water and vinegar solution and use it to clean the holes.
- Eliminate brown stains – Mix a paste from equal parts of salt and vinegar, then use it to clean sticky patches from the soleplate.
- Remove accumulated limescale – Half fill the water reservoir with vinegar, then use a medium heat setting until it has evaporated. Rinse thoroughly.
When cleaning might not be necessary for your steam generator iron
If you use de-ionised or de-mineralised water, you likely will not have to clean your steam generator iron very often. The majority of the particles that would otherwise lead to scale have been removed in this special water.
It’s still a good idea to clean the iron occasionally, but it won’t have to occur as frequently as it does when using tap water. Unfortunately, this water is a bit more expensive than tap water, so it’s probably not an ideal solution if you do a lot of ironing.
Steam Generator Iron Cleaning FAQ
Can I use normal tap water in a steam generator iron?
Yes, you can use normal tap water with a steam generator iron.
Why is brown water leaking from the vents of my iron?
It can be through a build-up of rusty iron deposits in the water.
Will using ironing water/perfume water be beneficial to my steam generator iron?
The use of perfumed ironing water or fabric softener in the water tank is not recommended as the chemicals they contain can adhere to the iron and damage it.
Why is the light still flashing after my iron has been descaled?
If it’s issuing another alert, it means the descaling process needs to be repeated.
A steam generator iron is a great help in tackling large piles of crumpled clothes quickly and efficiently. However, an irritating side effect is the accumulation of minerals that can hinder the effectiveness of your iron unless they are regularly removed.
By following our useful tips on descaling, it should be easy to keep your steam generator iron clean, allowing it to provide many years of good service.