Written by Nadie

Descaling an iron or steam generator

Steam irons and steam generators use water, and water contains limescale. When you're ironing, limescale from your iron can create brown stains on your clothes. These stains can be difficult to get out, so it's important to prevent limescale buildup. In this article, I'll explain why it's important and what you can do about it.

Why is descaling important?

Limescale deposits will block your steam iron's or steam generator's steam holes, leading to rust formation. That could inhibit the flow in the iron or leave brown stains on your laundry. You can prevent this by descaling your iron every 3 months. That way, the steam output remains powerful and your steam iron or steam generator will last longer.

What kind of anti-limescale systems are there?

We can distinguish 4 types of anti-limescale systems: cleaning program, anti-scale cartridge, limescale collector, and no anti-limescale system. I'll explain each system, so you'll know what to do to keep your iron or steam generator free from limescale.

Cleaning program

Iron cleaning programs

A steam iron or steam generator with a cleaning program cleans itself. That means all you have to do is select the right program. Check your iron's manual to read how to start the descaling program and the iron will do the rest.

Anti-limescale cartridge

Limescale cartridges for irons

This type of anti-limescale system descales the water in the tank with the help of a so-called cartridge. The cartridge is part of the iron or steam generator and can be removed. A cartridge lasts about 3 months on average, and you'll need to replace it yourself. Your steam iron or steam generator's manual will tell you how that's done.

Limescale collector

Limescale collectors in irons

A limescale collector is a little container or rod in your steam iron or steam generator that absorbs limescale. You can descale your iron by emptying this container and cleaning it. Rinse the limescale collector and put it back. Do this every 3 months to keep your steam iron or steam generator free of limescale. Do you iron more often than 3 times a week or do you live in an area with hard water (3dH or higher)? Clean the collector more often in that case, for instance every month.

Manually descaling

Manually descaling irons

A steam iron or steam generator without an anti-limescale system has to be descaled manually. It's not difficult, but it's important that you do it. The descaling itself will take you about 15 minutes. Next, you'll have to leave it for about half an hour, so it'll take you about 45 minutes in total. Follow the steps below and continue ironing full steam ahead.

How do I descale my iron manually?

In order to descale your iron, you need a few things and follow a number of steps.

Wat do you need:

  • A bottle of vinegar.
  • A dishcloth that can get dirty.
  • Water. Use filtered water for the best result, as that has no limescale in it. Time 15 minutes + 30 minutes to wait while it's working.

Manually descaling

Step 1 Empty the water tank and rinse the tank under the faucet.
Step 2 Fill the water tank to the maximum fill level with equal parts water and vinegar.
Step 3 Turn the iron to the highest setting for at least 4 minutes. Press the steam button a few times.
Step 4 Switch of the iron and leave the mixture for 30 minutes.
Step 5 Clean the inside of the water tank. Are there still limescale deposits? In that case, repeat step 2 to 5.
Step 6 Take the clean cloth and fill the tank with clean water. Turn on the steaming function and iron the clean cloth for 3 minutes.

Can I prevent limescale buildup?

Prevention is better than cure. That's why it's a good idea to always empty the water tank every time you're done ironing. Don't put your steam iron or steam generator away if there's still water in it. Use a special water pitcher with a water filter and fill it with tap water. You can read more tips on preventing limescale buildup in the advice article.


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