Ironing is one of the household chores I don’t actually mind doing. I usually like to put on some music and then I can work my way through my ironing pile pretty easily. The job is all the more rewarding if my iron is working at its best.
Generally, if the soleplate is clean and I have picked the correct ironing temperature it will glide over everything and I can get my ironing done in no time.
But that isn’t always the case …
If your iron is sticking to your clothes the first thing to check is the temperature of the iron. Make sure it isn’t too hot. Secondly, check the soleplate. If it has black stuff on it, it is very probably melted fabric. You can clean off black residue by ironing over some newspaper. If you have more dirt to clean off try wiping it over with a paste of baking soda mixed with water. Toothpaste or a paracetamol tablet can work very well too.
I sometimes use affiliate links. When you click these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission. It won’t cost you anything but it helps me to run this site.
Read on to find out how to clean your iron’s soleplate to make it glide effortless over your clothing and make your ironing chore a breeze again.
Why does your iron keep sticking to your clothing?
Three issues can cause your iron to stick to your clothing. The good news is that in most cases they are all fixable. There is no need to buy a new iron unless the soleplate is badly scratched.
Let’s look at each possible problem and how to fix it easily.
1. Your iron is sticking to your clothing due to sticky residue on the soleplate
If your iron is sticking to your clothes there could be a buildup of sticky residue on the soleplate of the iron. This residue creates friction and stops your iron from gliding over surfaces.
What is the sticky residue on the bottom of the iron?
The residue on the bottom of your iron can be made of several things and it all depends on what you regularly iron.
- Burnt-on fabrics. Man-made fabrics such as polyester and acrylics are the easiest to melt when you set the iron to the wrong temperature.
- Starch. If you are in the habit of starching your clothing it can build up on the bottom of your iron.
How to fix:
Clean your iron’s soleplate. Check here for directions.
2. Your iron is sticking to your clothing because the temperature is too high
Generally, man-made fabrics such as polyester and acrylic require lower ironing temperatures. When you use too much heat on synthetics you risk melting the fabric onto the bottom of the iron. Not only will you damage your clothing but you will also have to clean your iron too!
How to fix:
Always use the correct heat for the item you are ironing. Check your iron’s instruction manual for the correct setting.
Irons tend to heat up much quicker than they cool down. I find it best to iron the items that require the lowest temperature first and then I can safely turn up the temperature when it’s time to iron the cotton items.
3. Your iron is sticking to your clothing because of starching
I have to say that I have never starched anything in my life! But if you have items such as uniforms and collars to iron you might be in the habit of using spray starch to make the fabric stiffer. Sometimes the starch solution can create friction when it gets onto the bottom of your iron.
How to fix:
To stop starch from making your iron sticky, make sure you spray it on the reverse side of the fabric so that the starch solution doesn’t come into direct contact with the soleplate.
4. Your iron is sticking to your clothing because of scratches on the soleplate
When your iron’s soleplate is no longer smooth it won’t glide very well. You can avoid scratches by taking care not to iron over metal zippers and buttons or anything that could damage the bottom of your iron. Be especially careful if the base of your iron is covered in Teflon. Teflon helps the iron to glide better but it is more easily damaged.
How to fix:
- Make sure it is cleaned of any black residue (check below for advice).
- Sprinkle the surface with some baby powder.
If your scratched iron is still not gliding very well after you have cleaned it. The only option left, unfortunately, is to buy another iron.
How to stop your iron from sticking to clothing as you iron
Your iron should glide effortlessly over fabrics when you use it. If it isn’t doing that, here is a checklist of things to do to get it back into tip-top condition.
- Check the soleplate for sticky residue. Check below to find out how to easily clean your iron and get it back to the condition you bought it in.
- Lower the ironing temperature. If you set the temperature too high, your iron will appear to stick to the fabric and you run the risk of melting it. Reduce the temperature and you should find that the iron moves better.
- Use the baby powder technique to help it glide better. Cool your iron and then sprinkle some baby powder over the soleplate. Wipe off the baby powder with a clean cloth. Use your iron as normal. You should find it glides over fabrics more easily.
This useful video shows how to use the baby powder technique to make your iron less sticky:
How to clean the bottom of your iron to prevent it from sticking to clothing
If you are wanting to know how to clean the gunk off the base of your iron, let’s start with some dos and don’ts:
- Don’t use abrasive cleaners or scrubbers especially if the base of your iron is coated in Teflon.
- Do make sure the iron is unplugged before you start to clean. It’s fine to clean your iron when it is warm or hot but always unplug it before cleaning. If your iron is hot when you clean it, take care to avoid burning your skin.
- Do check your manual for advice on cleaning your particular make of iron.
- Do start with the gentlest method then move on to more intensive methods if they don’t work.
Here are some methods for cleaning the soleplate of your iron starting with the simplest and gentlest options:
1. How to clean an iron soleplate with newspaper
The easiest way to clean a sticky iron is with some simple newspaper.
- Heat your iron.
- Iron over some clean newspaper until the dirt on the bottom of your iron is gone.
- For extra cleaning power, sprinkle some sea salt over the newspaper. (Don’t do this if your iron soleplate has a Teflon surface)
2. How to clean an iron soleplate with a paracetamol tablet
This option is a great solution if you are wondering how to get the black stuff off the iron. The black stuff is very probably melted fabric as a result of setting the iron’s heat too high.
I had no idea you could use a paracetamol tablet to clean the iron soleplate until I saw this video and I was astounded! The lady’s iron had loads of black residue on the base and it came off effortlessly by rubbing it with just a paracetamol tablet.
Here is how to clean your iron soleplate with a paracetamol tablet:
Make sure you use a plain uncoated paracetamol tablet. Some makes have an outer gel coating that will burn off and cause smelly fumes.
- Heat the iron to the hottest setting.
- Unplug the iron.
- Hold one paracetamol tablet with some tweezers.
- Rub the tablet over the surface of the soleplate. Any black residue should come away as you rub.
- Wipe with a clean cloth.
Be very careful not to burn your fingers! Make sure you use tweezers to hold the paracetamol tablet.
3. How to clean an iron soleplate with toothpaste
Who knew that you could clean your iron with toothpaste? Toothpaste has lots of tiny scrubbing particles in it for getting your teeth clean without scratching. This makes it great for gentle cleaning jobs without the risk of causing damage.
For this, it’s best to use the white kind of toothpaste rather than a gel.
Here’s how to clean your iron’s soleplate with toothpaste:
- Take some plain white toothpaste and rub it over the soleplate of your iron.
- Take care not to let the toothpaste get into the holes.
- Wipe it off with a clean cloth.
4. How to clean an iron soleplate with baking soda
Here’s how to clean your iron’s soleplate with baking soda:
- Make up a paste of baking soda and water.
- Using a microfibre cloth, wipe the paste onto the soleplate.
- Gently rub.
- Wipe away.
Frequently asked questions
How to clean a burnt Teflon iron
Teflon is a special non-stick coating that is most often used in cookware, but you can also find it on the bottom of your iron. The important thing with Teflon coated irons is not to scratch them, otherwise the Teflon surface will be damaged, and it will lose its non-stick properties.
If you have burnt fabric on the bottom of your Teflon iron, you can get it off in several ways.
Here are some things to try:
- Vinegar – Wet a paper towel with white distilled vinegar. Lay your iron on the paper towel and leave it overnight. The next day, wipe the surface clean.
- Toothpaste – Gently rub some toothpaste over the base of the iron. Be careful not to get to the toothpaste in the holes.
- Dryer sheets – Turn the iron on to low heat. Gently rub a scrunched up dryer sheet over the base of the iron.
- Dish soap – Mix a small bowl of warm water with some dish soap. Gently rub over the base of the iron.