What is the Best Water to Use in a Steam Iron or Garment Steamer?

What is the Best Water to Use in a Steam Iron or Garment Steamer

It’s a common question, and one with multiple answers. What is the best water to use in a steam iron? There have been many theories, people claiming that being able to use (and not being able to use) tap water is a myth. There are many truth and half-truths on the internet surrounding this topic, which is why I have put this guide together. In this guide, we briefly look at what steam iron and garment steamers are, before moving on to the type of water that can be used inside them. Detailed and factually correct, this is the guide you are looking for.

What is a Steam Iron or Garment Steamer?

A steam iron is used for ironing your clothes, typically with an ironing board. It is an electric iron with a series of holes on the soleplate for the release of steam. This ensures that clothing is freshly pressed and the creases are removed. Many households own one, and they are a commonly found appliance.

A garment steamer (also known as a clothes steamer) works in a similar way, and its function is also to remove the creases and wrinkles from clothing. However, it is generally faster and also not used as commonly as a traditional iron. It also has a steam nozzle instead of a soleplate, causing the overall shape to be completely different.​

Your Steam Iron/Garment Steamer and Water

Tap Water

All modern steam irons, generators, and clothes steamers are able to use tap water. Of course, this can also depend on the type of tap water that is being used. By this, we mean the hardness of the water – something which varies across the UK (very soft to very hard) depending on the region. Below, we will take a look at this and the effects that hard water can have.

Hard Water

Hard water typically contains a higher concentration of minerals, like calcium, which causes a build-up of limescale in steam irons over time (as well as kettles and other appliances). Over time, this reduces their overall efficiency. In the UK, around 60% of the country is classed as having hard water, and if you live in such an area, then it is advised that you remember to follow calc-clean procedures while using the tap water normally.

Water Hardness by Region


South East, Central, East Anglia, East Yorkshire: hard to very hard

South West: soft

North-East, North-West, Lakes: soft to slightly hard


Mostly soft to moderately soft


Moderately Hard - except coastal areas where it is soft

Northern Ireland

Varies from soft in the north and east, to hard in the south and west

Distilled Water (Pure Water, De-Ionised Water)

Many people on the web suggest using distilled water for steam irons and garment steamers as the impurities and minerals have been removed from this. However, they are wrong, and you should not be using it. In fact, most steam iron companies are clearly stating this in the instruction manuals as well as on their websites. This is because it can cause the iron to split and leak. So if you plan on using distilled water, you must at least mix it 50/50 with tap water.


Most steam irons now feature a calc-clean function, which requires you to rinse out the boiler area and flush the calcium deposits away. Some of the cheaper models will use special cartridges instead which will need to be replaced regularly. Regardless of the method that your iron uses, you should follow the cleaning instructions at regular intervals, or whenever the alert light comes on.

Home Water Softeners

If you have a water softener installed in your home, then you should never use this water by itself. Although the risk of limescale is greatly reduced, there are other materials within it that could eventually clog your iron and cause splitting, as well as brown stains. You should only ever use water from a drinking tap, such as your kitchen, to keep your iron efficient and healthy.

Bottled and other Water

The mineral content found in bottled water can increase over time and end up reducing the efficiency of your iron. You should also avoid ever using vinegar, perfumed water, or any liquid that contains chemicals as this can cause damage that results in clogged steam nozzles, as well as brown water spots and reduced performance overall.

Best Steam Irons for Hard Water

If you are looking for a steam iron, garment steamer, or steam generator iron that can really handle hard water (better than others at least), then you need to look for the ones that contain a full anti-calc or calc-clean system. This will usually involve a permanent cartridge system that keeps the calcium deposits in the water tank, as long as you rinse it out on a regular basis.

To Conclude

Hopefully, this guide has answered your questions about which water is best to use in your steam iron or garment steamer. With the internet filled with so many conflicting ideas about what you can and cannot use, it is important to have all the facts in one concise location. Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to leave a message for us in the comments, we love hearing from you and always appreciate your feedback.