How To Descale An Iron With Vinegar

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Is limescale making its mark on your freshly laundered clothes? Here is how to naturally descale an iron with white vinegar.

It’s official. Ironing is the least-liked chore in the UK. More than 50% of us despise ironing. And I have to say I’m in that camp too.

But do you know what I hate more than ironing? When my iron starts to cover my freshly laundered clothes in white chalky marks.

When your iron starts to make its mark on your clothing then it’s time to descale your iron. Rather than buying plastic bottles of iron descaler, let me show you how to naturally descale your iron using vinegar.

What Is Limescale?

Before we get on to descaling your iron, it’s first good to understand a little more about limescale.

Limescale is a harmless chalky white residue that accumulates in appliances that use water. These include kettles, coffee machines, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Limescale is particularly prevalent in hard water areas. In this mineral-rich water, higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium dissolve in water. This leaves limescale deposits as they evaporate.

Limescale won’t damage your clothes. What it can do though is shorten the lifespan of your iron. This is because a build-up of limescale can corrode the heating element. Eventually, these deposits will break it costing you money in iron replacements.

Limescale deposits also negatively impact the energy efficiency of your iron. This means it takes longer, and uses more energy and thus money, to heat the water.

How To Naturally Descale An Iron

An iron on an ironing board, with a blue text box that reads how to descale an iron naturally using white vinegar.

It’s best to tackle limescale regularly. Doing so will prolong the life of your appliances and save energy, particularly if you live in a hard water area.

If you want to avoid white marks on your laundry, then most manufacturers recommend doing a thorough descale every one to four months. These figures vary depending on how frequently you use your iron, and how hard the water is in your local area. To avoid guesswork, some newer irons will handily tell you when it’s time to descale them.

However often you find you need to descale your iron, here’s how to do the job with vinegar:

How To Descale An Iron With White Vinegar

Whilst I prefer to descale my kettle with citric acid, I turn to white vinegar when I want to descale my iron.

Citric acid is a wonderful natural descaler. It combines with limescale and mineral deposits, removing them in minutes. But, when it comes to your iron, citric acid isn’t so great.

This is because citric acid can clog the steam outlets. This isn’t a problem when it comes to your kettle, as the opening is so wide. With an iron, the outlets are so small, so you need to take a different approach.

Instead, white vinegar is ideal. It descales effectively, without clogging the iron’s pipework.

To use, pour white vinegar and water – in a 50:50 ratio – into a measuring jug. Then pour this mix into the water chamber of your iron, until it’s around a third full.

Next, place your iron on a medium heat setting, and let it steam for around 5 to 10 minutes, or until all the vinegar solution has evaporated.

Once evaporated, turn off your iron and fill the chamber about one-third of the way up with fresh water. Now turn the iron on again, letting it steam to flush through any vinegar or mineral deposits.

Once done, turn off your iron and leave it to cool. You can then wipe the base of the iron and steam vents with a cloth to remove any lingering deposits.

Use The Self-Cleaning Programme

It’s important to note that you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions first before using vinegar.

Some iron manufacturers advise against using vinegar to descale. This is because they say the acidic nature of vinegar can damage components inside your iron.

Personally, I am always wary of these warnings. Particularly so if the manufacturers sell their own descaling solution at a vastly inflated price. I haven’t damaged an appliance yet using vinegar, and I use vinegar a lot. Many proprietary descalers are also very acidic by nature.

Whilst I am a rebel when it comes to using vinegar, if you have bought a new iron then do read the instruction manual carefully. Descaling your iron with vinegar may void your guarantee.

If you want to maintain your warranty or guarantee, then stay away from the vinegar! Many steam irons have a self-cleaning setting that you can use. Others might have an anti-scale or anti-calc system. It is best to use these regularly following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Limescale Prevention Tips

Prevention is always better than cure.

To help reduce limescale from building up in your iron, it’s best to always remove any excess water from your iron. Empty the chamber when you’ve finished ironing, and this will help reduce limescale deposits.

Using filtered tap water in your iron can also help reduce limescale deposits.

Whether these descaling tips can make us all fall in love with ironing, I’m not so sure. But it certainly helps to avoid the frustration of marking clean clothes.

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