There is nothing quite like the frustration of ironing something you shouldn’t (or ironing nylon on the hottest setting possible — what? I’ve never done that). One minute you’re totally in the zone, and the next your sewing vibe grinds to an expletive-laced halt. Ugh. I do this all the time with interfacing — either I forget to use a pressing cloth, or I catch the side of my iron on that gunk, and there goes the next 20 minutes.
So what can you do when the surface of your iron looks like a tragic marshmallow-roasting accident? There all sorts of purported solutions to this SNAFU; most of them are crap. A quick review:
Salt: Let’s be honest. This will not remove a single smudge from your iron, but it will bring out the umami flavor of charred chemicals on metal. Bon appetit!
Vinegar: Vinegar is good for a lot of things, including very minor iron dirt. For the most part, though, it’s a lot more effective in salads and science volcanoes.
Brillo Pad: A Brillo pad by itself is no match for hardened glue on the iron. I’ve managed to scrub a bit off with it, along with vinegar, but it’s not super effective.
Baking soda: Again, an okay option, particularly when used with vinegar for the effervescent cleaning action, but the baking soda tends to crud up your steam holes and stain your fabric. You’ll trade a brown, crusty iron for brown, crusty junk coming out of your iron. Blegh.
Iron Cleaner: This stuff is sold in the grocery and home stores, and is some sort of chemical concoction specifically marketed for iron cleaning. I’ve seen mixed reviews, and it can be quite expensive for the amount needed. And apparently it releases fumes that will also peel off the first few layers of your lungs.
So these are the major options we’ve all heard of: middling at best. Which is why my jaw dropped to the floor the other day when I witnessed Mr. RST cleaning our iron with — wait for it — TYLENOL. Apparently he found this on YouTube and it is a widely used practice in the UK. While it took about 10-15 minutes, this method actually got our iron the cleanest it’s ever been. Here’s what you do:
1. Crank your iron up to 11; no steam.
2. Collect a small amount of Tylenol pills (the white, uncoated ones). Our nice-sized scorch required about eight of these puppies.
3. Hold a Tylenol in some tweezers, then gently rub it over the scorch. The pill will start to dissolve in the heat, turning into a gel on the iron plate. This is good.
4. Once a decent amount has dissolved, wipe the iron across a piece of paper towel. Behold: the char begins to come off! (Note: I’d imagine that the gunk might dissolve even faster if the paper towel was wet. I might be wrong, and I didn’t want to disturb the master at work.) If you experiment, please let me know!
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat until the buildup is gone. It takes a few minutes, so be patient!
I often joke with my husband that he’s a vicarious crafter. He’s a great amateur artist and he always has suggestions for my quilts. I didn’t expect that he would be the one to discover an iron-cleaning trick that actually works, but I guess it’s really not super surprising after all. Tylenol: turns out it’s what the doctor ordered!