From gardening to gaming, the internet is never short of advice. Ironing is no different, with an increasing number of bizarre social media cleaning hacks claiming to show you how to get the most out of iron.
But many of these are ridiculous, and some are downright dangerous.
Read on to find out which to avoid and how to take proper care of your steam iron.
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1. Adding Zoflora to ironing water
Some Instagram influencers would have you believe that Zoflora is the solution to all your cleaning problems. But while scented disinfectant has its uses, there are some places it should never go and inside your iron is one.
According to the Zoflora website, it’s unsuitable for use in electrical appliances, such as steam cleaners, vacuums, electrical diffusers and steam irons.
The manufacturer also cautions against adding the disinfectant to boiling water, as it doesn’t make the product any more effective and it could have an adverse effect on the ingredients within Zoflora and the vapour they release.
Ignoring this advice could invalidate your warranty, leaving you to cover the costs of repairing or replacing your iron if it breaks.
2. Descaling your iron with vinegar
Vinegar is back in fashion, with bloggers and cleaning gurus hailing its natural, non-toxic cleaning power. But while it’s useful for cleaning some household appliances, the kitchen staple could cause irreparable damage to others – including your iron.
Its acidity means vinegar cuts through limescale with ease, but it can eat away at other things while it’s at it, such as protective coatings and metal parts inside your iron.
Instead of using condiments to descale your iron, stick to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most newer models come with self-cleaning functions; you only have to add water to get started.
Find out what else you really shouldn’t clean with vinegar.
3. Cleaning your iron on maximum heat
According to some internet experts, the key to cleaning a mucky soleplate is to strike while the iron’s hot…literally.
Some recommend turning the temperature dial to maximum and scrubbing with a paracetamol pill, while others suggest doing the same, but with toothpaste.
But heating your iron unnecessarily high can cause dust and other fine particles – such as those in toothpaste and paracetamol pills – to melt into the steam ducts, allowing limescale to form.
Instead, you should clean the bottom of your iron by turning the temperature to low and wiping it with a damp cloth.
To clean in and around the steam ducts use a cotton bud or reusable swab. For tougher stains, turn the temperature to medium and pass the iron over a dampened tea towel.
4. Cooking food on your iron
Believe it or not, this is a genuine TikTok trend. It began when Jago Randles, a 23 year-old Cornish chef, filmed himself using hotel room appliances to prepare gourmet meals while quarantining in Canada.
Since then, the platform has been awash with videos of people using household appliances to cook food – even Gordon Ramsey has got in on the act. In one video, a man prepares an entire chicken curry using only a kettle, a curling iron and a travel iron.
But while this trend may seem like harmless fun, it could damage the internal parts of your iron and do even worse to your own insides, according to Which? senior scientist Dr Steph Kipling.
‘While an iron may be hot enough to cook – or burn – the outside of a chicken breast, it may struggle to cook it through completely and kill off the harmful germs that cause food poisoning,’ Dr Kipling explains.
‘There’s also the potential for food to get stuck in the iron and damage it – or worse still, for cooking juices to ooze over your clothes the next time you use the iron.’
Before buying your next steam iron, check out our iron reviews to find one that’s easy to clean and limescale resistant.
5. Replacing your iron with hair straighteners
Although this social media tip won’t damage your iron, it certainly could wreck your clothes (not to mention your straighteners).
Some social media tipsters recommend getting rid of your iron and instead using hair straighteners to tackle the entire laundry pile.
However, they aren’t designed for use on fabric, and so hair straighteners may melt cotton fibres and burn straight through more delicate materials.
It’s also possible that sticky deposits from hair products are transferred to your clothes, leaving them permanently stained.
How to look after your iron
Now that you know what not to do with your iron, here are some ironing tips that actually work:
Empty the water tank regularly
It may be the last thing you want to do after tackling a mountain of laundry, but emptying the water tank prevents stagnant water, which causes lime deposits to form as it evaporates.
Ideally, you should empty the water tank after every use and refill as needed.
Iron at a sensible temperature
Hotter isn’t always better – if the thermostat on your iron is set too high, dust particles can melt on the soleplate, blocking the steam ducts and allowing limescale to form.
Ironing with too much heat can also lead to a scorched soleplate, and may even burn holes through your clothes.
Let your iron clean itself
If you own a newer iron, you probably don’t need to do all that much to keep it in top condition – most come with self-cleaning functions that do the work for you, without exposing the iron to corrosive solutions.
So put the vinegar away, select the correct cleaning programme, and let the iron take care of the rest.
For more top tips, check out our guide on how to clean your iron.