> ~ Insights by SewCalGal ~

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tips for Quilters on Hot Summer Days

The song "Hot town, summer in the city" by Lovin Spoonful has been playing in my head, as I try to stay cool and stay focused on a quilting project.  This made me start wondering how Quilters manage to get through the Hot summer Days.  I thought I'd share a few of my ideas, and I hope you'll also share yours.

For many years I primarily did hand-applique' and hand quilting.  I'd frequently find that I ended up with the hand quilting, of a given project, in the summertime. With the heat, I quickly learned that big hand quilting projects quickly became UFOs (UnFinished Objects) when hot summer days arrived.  My take away was to not try to work on big, bulky, hot projects in the hot summer days.

Over the years, I've also come to accept that it just isn't worth it to "dress up" to quilt, especially on a hot summer day.  Casual "cool" wardrobes are perfect for quilters in the summertime.

And, today, I was reminded that it definitely isn't a good idea to end up needing to clean your iron on a hot summer day.  Thus, I recommend every quilter to mark their calendar to schedule a cleaning of their iron "before" the hot summer days arrive.  But, as I did need to clean my iron, I thought I'd share some insights on cleaning irons.  And, I hope you'll also share yours!


Working with various adhesives, along with residue on some fabrics that haven't been pre-washed, excess starch and sprays can end up building a residue on your iron.  From time-to-time, you'll need to clean your iron.  And, when you are working with white fabric you definitely want to make sure your iron is clean!  You don't want any marks coming from your iron on that pristine white fabric.

There are a number of ways to clean your iron, but as some irons have a coated soleplate and some do not, SewCalGal strongly urges you to read the instructions that came with your iron before you attempt to clean it.  Also, be aware that if your iron has a teflon/non-stick coating that you want to use a non-abrasive cleaner and you can't use all techniques and cleaners that may work for a non-coated iron.

General Tips for cleaning your iron:

  • Turn your iron on and set it to the hottest possible setting you can use
  • Place some freezer paper, shiny side down, on top of your ironing board.  This will help to protect your cover from any potential residue from the cleaning solvent.
  • Gather supplies:  old t-shirts, old towels, cleaning solvent*, cotton swab, 
  • Cleaning the soleplate:
    • Use a cleaning solvent* where you typically dab the solvent on an old t-shirt/cleaning rag and press your hot iron over it, or rub a cloth with the solvent dabbed on it, on the soleplate of  your iron to wipe away the unwanted residue.  
  • Cleaning  the reservoir of your iron
    • Use a mixture of  50% water and 50% vinegar.  Pour this mixture into the reservoir of your "cold" iron.  Turn the iron on to the highest setting and leave on high for 5-6 minutes.  Steam iron a rag until all the water is consumed in the reservoir.  Repeat this step.  Replace the reservoir with water and steam the towel, on the highest setting, until the reservoir is empty.  Replase the reservoir with 100% water, before you do any  ironing of your projects.
    • Here is a great video tutorial on how to clean the reservoir of your iron:

How to Clean an Iron Reservoir -- powered by www.ehow.co.uk

There are a variety of Options for Cleaning Solvents*:

  • Vinegar is useful for cleaning the water chamber of your iron.  A mix of water & vinegar also makes for a good solution (50-50) to dip a cotton swab in and use the swab to clean the vents on the soleplate. 
  • Coarse salt  - can work well to clean the bottom of your iron by placing it on top of an freezer paper and moving a hot iron across the salt. 
  • Baking soda (only for use on non-coated soleplates) can also be used, like Coarse salt, to clean your soleplate.  Here is a youtube video tutorial that shares insights on using baking soda to clean your iron.

  • How to Clean Irons with Baking Soda: Part 2 -- powered by www.ehow.co.uk
  • Dritz iron-off hot iron cleaner  is a product that is easy to use and  you simply need to dab some of it on a soft cloth, like an old tshirt and rub it on your soleplate, or iron over it.  It may require repeating steps to clean an iron, but it is reasonably priced and comes with easy to follow instructions.   

  • Dryer Sheets are inexpensive and easy to use with a hot iron.  Save used dryer sheets and keep them by your iron/ironing board.  When you are finished ironing your fabrics, lightly iron a dryer sheet and it will remove various residue on your iron.
  • Ironside Iron Cleaner, by Bo-Nash - while I've not used this cleaner, SewCalGal has had a good experience with many other Bo-Nash products.  There is a video for this cleaner on the Bo-Nash site that makes this cleaner look to be one of the easiest and fastest cleaners.  And, it is available at a reasonable price too!
Iron Cleaner

  • Magic Eraser is another product that I've not yet tried, but is supposed to be a great product for cleaning the soleplate on your iron.  Here is a great video by Sharon Schamber, sharing insights on how she uses the Magic Eraser to clean the soleplate on an iron.

  • Metal Polish cleaner (for non-coated soleplates only)
  • Rowenta - easy to use, but may take repeated cleaning to get everything off your soleplate.  One of the most expensive cleaning solutions available, if not 'the most expensive'.  The packaging claims it is appropriate for all types of soleplates. This package does include a  1-ounce tube of soleplate cleaner,  application cloth,  polishing/finishing cloth, and a set of instructions that are easy to follow.

Do avoid use of steel wool, dobie pads, etc, as  you do not want to scratch your soleplate.

For coated, non-stick soleplates, clean them while they are complete cool using mild detergent and a soft cloth.  Definitely avoid abrasive cleaners on coated soleplates!

Ok, time to share any tips you have for keeping your iron soleplate clean, as well as your favorite way to clean the soleplate on your iron.    And, please share any tips you have for Quilters on Hot Summer Days too!

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Thearica said...

I never minded hand quilting in the summer because I didn't use a hoop so it didn't lay in my lap. I quilted from the old time frames my granny used which hung from the ceiling. And dress up??? Are you kidding me... Usually I quilted in my nightgown. lol

But you should have seen how fast I could move if the door bell rang. lol

Thanks for the tips on cleaning the iron..

Connie Kresin Campbell said...

Great post! Our weather finally got a little cooler so it is time to turn on the iron and work on some applique and paper piecing.....before it gets hot again!

Joanna said...

This is a timely post. My iron is in need of cleaning because I sometimes use heavy duty starch, on clothing as well as quilts. But the build up is annoying.
And I just began hand quilting a quilt and was thinking yesterday I must be nuts to be doing it:)

Lynette said...

Waxed paper wadded up is awesome for "scrubbing" residues off a hot iron. It'll take off starch marks as well as fusible glue!

I make a couple good wads of it, lay them on the ironing board, and "iron" them with hard pressure with the iron on its hottest setting. I used to actually hold a big wad in one hand, the iron in the other, and "scrub" the hot iron plate directly - - until I got smarter (luckily by brain power, not bad experience) and put the wads down on the board. What a nasty burn I could have given myself doing my old insane way!

Andrea R said...

I've used the Iron Clean sheets - they work really well.

Quilting Babcia said...

Great, useful info. Off to look at the soleplates on my two old irons ... Happy Monday!

Susan Turney said...

The dryer sheets really work. I've recently started fusing and, of course, have ironed the wrong side! Just run the hot iron over the dryer sheet and it's sparkling clean!

Sally in WA said...

I should check my iron. I don't know the last time it was cleaned! Shame on me.

Ivory Spring said...

Great post, Darlene - I appreciate the in-depth treatment on iron cleaning!!

IHaveANotion ~ Kelly Jackson said...

Excellent information SewCalGal. It is a great suggestion that you made about reading the manual. Ya hate to ruin your iron ...or should I say...I would hate to ruin mine.


Anonymous said...

I've got several other solutions for cleaning fusible off a teflon-coated iron on my blog: http://sandgroper14.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/cleaning-fusible-glue-off-a-teflon-coated-iron/

Currently winter in Australia, so I'm enjoying quilting a lot. Not so much in the Australian summer...

Quiltingranny said...

I keep all my windows closed on a warm day to keep the house cool, plus the minute I open my drapes, the neighbors know I am up and over come they, so staying in my PJ's until I am ready is one. I also quilt in the basement on warm days where it is much cooler!

Gene Black said...

I do use dryer sheets to get fusible web off my iron when I make an "oops" I didn't think about them for regular cleaning though.
I have a Magic Eraser around here somewhere I think, I will have to try that and give my iron a good cleaning.

Jocelyn said...

I have used the Rowenta cleaning cream. But I did buy it at JoAnn's and used my 50% off coupon ;-)