How To Descale A Steam Generator Iron? (How To Unblock Your Iron)

Limescale is the greatest enemy of home appliances. Clogging up vents, breaking things down, there is no end to the chaos it can cause. Where there is tap water, there is limescale, so knowing how to deal with the culprit is absolutely essential. 

To descale a steam generator iron, all you need is a white vinegar and water solution. Fill the tank up with it, leave it on max power for four minutes, and burst that steam so that you can clear the air. It’s simple as that and makes maintenance easy. 

For the detailed step-by-step as well as how to clean the vents and clean the gunk off your soleplate, make sure you stay tuned and steam (hehe) through our detailed guide. 

Signs Your Steam Generator Iron Needs Descaling

Not sure if your steam generator iron actually needs a good descaling session? Here are four signs that you might need to get started:

  • Your iron is spitting white minerals all over your lovely fresh clothes
  • There’s a sticky residue all over the soleplate (I’m resisting so many jokes right now)
  • The iron has started to drag instead of glide 
  • Your iron is leaving marks and stains behind

If you are experiencing any of this then you’re going to need to use the tips and tricks below to get it back to pristine condition so that your clothes no longer suffer from nasty limescale stains. 

Manually Descaling Your Steam Generator Iron

If your steam iron generator doesn’t come with an automatic limescale removal system, you’re going to have to go in manually *glove snap*. In total, you shouldn’t have to spend more than 45 minutes on this, which makes it fairly quick and simple. 

What You Will Need:
  • An old dishcloth (clean)
  • Filtered water 
  • White vinegar

Step One: Empty the water tank and then rinse it under the tap. Make sure you rinse it well, removing any minerals that might be left in the tank. 

Step Two: Fill the water tank with filtered water and a few spoons of white vinegar, making sure it reaches the MAX line. 

Step Three: Grab the iron and put it on the highest setting for four minutes. While it is sitting on the highest setting, press the steam button a few times to release hot and cleansing bursts. 

Step Four: Switch off the iron and allow the solution to sit in the tank for 30 minutes. The heat and water combined will loosen and dissolve the limescale. 

Step Five: Empty the water tank, rinse it, and make sure it is completely clean. If there are any limescale deposits remaining make sure you repeat steps 2-5 until there is no limescale left. 

Step Six: Fill the tank with clean water (filtered is the best option) and then use it to iron the old dishcloth. Make sure the steaming function is turned on and use the iron on the cloth for three minutes. If there are any minerals being spat out, clean the iron once more. 

How Do You Unblock a Steam Generator Iron?

If your steam generator iron is blocked, this means that the soleplate vents have become clogged with our dear friend limescale. Lucky for you, the unblocking process is pretty simple. 

What You Will Need:
  • Cotton buds (the ones you’re not meant to put in your ears but it feels amazing)
  • Water
  • White vinegar 

Step One: Mix the water and white vinegar together. It should be a cup of white vinegar to two cups of water. 

Step Two: Take the cotton buds and dip them in the solution so that they are damp (but not soaked). Next, dab the holes on the soleplate to clear the holes – the white vinegar will dissolve the limescale and mineral deposits. 

Step Three: Turn the steam generator iron on and to its highest setting. Use the steam burst several times to clear out the vents and ensure any remaining deposits are removed. If the vents are still partially blocked, repeat the process. 

Getting Rid of Soleplate Gunk

While you’re focusing on the soleplate, let’s talk about all that GUNK. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, and now we’re here to help you get rid of it. 


A classic microfibre cloth is a great way to get the soleplate clean and remove any gunk and grime that has accumulated on it. All you need to do is dampen the cloth slightly beforehand and put a little elbow grease in (depending on how bad the gunk is).

Some spare dryer sheets can also be a highly effective method to use. If you put the iron onto a low setting and gently run it over the dryer sheets for a few minutes you should find the soleplate is nice and clean in no time. 

Never use any abrasive cleaners on the soleplate. This is because they are likely to remove the protective coating, thus increasing the risk of burns and damage to the clothing. 

Can You Prevent Limescale? 

Prevention is the key to success, and there are a few things you can do in order to avoid limescale in the future. Of course, having a steam generator iron with automatic descaling is the favourite option as it means a lot less maintenance for you. 

Make sure you empty the water tank after every session. This reduces the risk of limescale build-up in the tank as well as mould and mildew. Similarly, you should never put the iron away if there is still moisture inside it. 

Check out this distilled water perfect for your iron, its cheap to use and will keep your iron clean from any limescale, mould or mildew. 

You should always use filtered water in your steam generator iron. This is because it is gentler on the appliance than tap water and will not cause limescale and mineral buildups. Usually, tap water is hard water in the UK, which is what causes mineral deposits. 

What About Anti-Limescale Systems?

If you’re looking for an upgrade, it’s worth checking out the different types of anti-limescale systems that are available to you. Lucky for you, we’ve created a quick rundown that highlights each of them perfectly. 

#1 Cleaning Programmes

This is quite self-explanatory in that when your steam generator iron has a cleaning programme it will clean itself as soon as you select the right programme. Usually, it is a button on the control panel that activates the cleaning process so that it can clear itself of minerals. 

Some models will have different types of cleaning programmes to choose from – depending on the severity of the limescale – and others will be automatic. It’s best to check the instructions before you get started. 

#2 Cartridges

The cartridge is able to descale the tank regularly by just sitting there while you do your ironing. Most cartridges last around three months before they need to be replaced, and it’s pretty easy to do so. Your steam iron generator manual will have detailed instructions on how to do it. 

#3 Collectors 

This is a container or a rod that is installed in your steam iron generator and its primary function is absorbing that nasty limescale. All you need to do is rinse the collector every three months to ensure it is free from limescale and you’re good to go. 

However, if you live in a very hard water area or you find yourself ironing more than three times a week, you will need to rinse the collector every month. This keeps it working efficiently and helps to keep the limescale levels low.

Read Here: Why Does My Steam Iron Spit Out Brown Water? (How To Clean Your Iron) 

Final Thoughts

Descaling can seem like a laborious and tiresome task, but the reality is that it takes hardly any time at all and there’s the minimal effort needed. Plus, descaling regularly is a great way to boost the longevity and reliability of your steam iron generator – keeping things steamy for longer. 

Want to pick up a steam generator iron of your own, or fancy learning more about maintaining and caring for your home appliances? Our series of guides covers every aspect of appliance care, DIY, and general maintenance – all written by experts to make life easier for you.

Last Updated on August 23, 2021 by Gemma Tyler

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