How to Clean a Clothes Steamer

Clothes steamers are intended to simplify your life. If used appropriately, your clothing steamer shouldn’t require a lot of maintenance.

We can’t stress enough the importance of using distilled water in your clothing steamer. Even if your clothing steamer manufacturer states you can use tap water in your garment steamer, we still recommend using distilled water. You will not need to clean your clothing steamer as much (if at all) by using distilled water.

As an owner of both a home use steamer and a commercial clothing steamer for the last 3 years, I have never needed to clean these steamers, as I have only ever used distilled water. They do not spit or have any deposit build up.

I also don’t empty the water out of the clothing steamer after use. I simply leave it there for next time, and they’re still going strong. Please note it is not recommended to leave the water in your steamer, and if you’re storing your steamer for some time definitely empty it. I use mine regularly, so the water remains fresh.

If you do need to clean your clothing steamer, you can easily do so with a simple solution of white vinegar and distilled water. Alternatively, pre-made solutions are available for purchase that are designed to descale your steamer.

Cleaning a Clothes Steamer Using Vinegar

1. Empty out the Water Chamber

Empty out the water tank of your clothing steamer. Depending on your steamer design, your water chamber may lift off the steamer, or there may be a drain at the base of the garment steamer to empty the water out. Close the valve or drain when empty, as we will be refilling the water tank.

2. Use a White Vinegar and Distilled Water Mix

cleaning a clothes steamer
Use a mix of white vinegar and distilled water to clean your clothes steamer

Fill your steamer tank two thirds (2/3) full with distilled water.

Fill the remaining one third (1/3) with white vinegar.

This is a ratio of 2 parts distilled water to 1 part vinegar. Close the cap of your water tank and insert back into your steamer (if required).

Turn on your steamer and allow the vinegar and distilled water mix to steam. Do not steam the entire tank.

Allow your steamer to run until approximately half of your tank of water/vinegar mix has steamed.

Turn off your steamer and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes to allow the water to cool down.

Tip out the remaining water and rinse the water tank. We recommend pouring the leftover water in your garden, particularly if you have plants that love acidic soils such as rhododendrons, gardenias, or azaleas.

If you have been using tap water in your steamer and it has been some time since it was cleaned, you may need to repeat this vinegar and water solution several times.

If your steamer is clogged, spitting water or not pumping out steam effectively, try cleaning again with the above solution.

Cleaning a Clothes Steamer Using a Descaling Product

Jiffy makes a solution specifically for garment steamers. You can find it on Amazon here and also in the links below. It is most cost effective to purchase in a pack of 3 (you get one bottle free in comparison to purchasing individually).

Unlike the vinegar and water solution, the Jiffy Liquid Cleaner is not intended for use whilst the garment steamer is running.

To use the Jiffy Liquid Cleaner, empty the water tank of your steamer. Using gloves to protect your hands, pour in the entire bottle of the liquid cleaner and swish around your water tank. This is for full sized clothing steamers.

For portable, handheld or travel steamers, use half a bottle or less, depending on the size of your water tank.

Allow the solution to sit in your steamer water tank for 2 to 3 hours (all sized steamers). Again, do not turn on your steamer and run it during this time.

After 2-3 hours have passed, tip out the solution. Rinse out your water tank thoroughly.

If the hose attachment of your steamer is blocked with sediment or build up, use a garden hose to rinse this thoroughly. The Jiffy Liquid Cleaner is not intended for use inside the steamer hose or head.

The reasons your clothing steamer may need cleaning is if you use tap water in your steamer. If you are in a hard water area you may need to clean your steamer more often. Calcium and other minerals in tap water cause build up inside your steamer and may cause problems such as ineffective heating, blockages, spitting water and reduce the life of your clothing steamer.

At $15 per bottle for the Jiffy Liquid Cleaner (which Jiffy recommends you use every 3-6 months), I’d rather put that money towards the purchase of distilled water and know that I’m extending the life of my clothing steamer rather than shortening it.

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