Four Myths Regarding Iron Water

1 Myth Tap Water

Four Myths Regarding Iron Water

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By Emily Jansson, Nancy’s Notions guest blogger

This year, I demonstrated irons at Quilt Expo 2015, and I realized just how much conflicting information there is surrounding iron maintenance. I wanted to clear up a few things on the subject—for the sake of irons everywhere, and their owners’ peace of mind.

A few things to be aware of:

1 Myth Tap WaterMyth #1:  “Fill your iron with regular tap water.”

This is false. Most high-quality iron manufacturers state that you can use regular tap water in your iron. However, most iron manufacturers have never lived in the Midwestern United States. They cannot possibly fathom the levels of limescale and sediment in our water. Don’t do it.

If you don’t believe me, read your iron manuals—you’ll notice some fine print that says extra-hard water will need to be diluted. Just go the safe route and refrain from tap water entirely—especially if you live in the Midwest or have well water.

2 Myth DistilledMyth #2:  “Distilled water is the best water for your iron.”

False… and true. Okay, okay—this is a tough one to explain. Truly distilled water is a perfectly lovely thing to put in your iron’s reservoir—in theory. However, it’s really not a good idea for most irons. Here’s why:

Distilled water has no solid minerals in it. It’s been super-heated and turned into steam and then collected (rather like what a dehumidifier does in your house). Distilled water is pure water. Unfortunately, pure water molecules are hungry to get their atomic hands on carbon dioxide from their environment, making the water mildly acidic and prone to corroding metals. Irons are made of metal. Savvy?

The true part comes in for some irons that specifically state in the manual that you CAN use distilled water. These irons contain innards that are made of specific anti-corrosive materials.

If you don’t have a manual that says you can use distilled water, I’d suggest you stay away. It’s best to stay on the safe side.

3 Myth DeionizedMyth #3: Deionized water is the best water for your iron.”

False. Deionized water is cheaper than distilled, and is defined as water that has had ions removed. Therefore, it is desperate for positively-charged ions. Putting water that’s starved for ions in anything electronic is a bad idea.

You’ve got alternating current flowing through your iron, and a bunch of working metal parts. Add deionized water to that, and you’ll have a temperamental beast in no time.

4 Myth Spring WaterMyth #4: “Spring water is best.”

Nope. Often, spring waters are full of minerals, which are great for your health, but not so much for your iron. Minerals are solids that can gunk up your reservoir and steam vents.

“So what kind of water am I supposed to use?”

Easy. Use filtered tap water. Water that’s been filtered through something like a Brita has most of the solid particles filtered out of it. If you have a refrigerator with an icemaker and water dispenser, this is even better, as most refrigerator filters will even filter out the sodium that’s present from water softeners.

5 TruthSpitting, leaking from the soleplate:

When someone tells me their iron spits or dribbles from the soleplate, the first thing I ask them is whether they’re filling it with tap water (the answer to this question is very often, “yes.”).

What’s probably happening here: sediments and limescale are accumulating on the gaskets controlling your steam vents, preventing a proper seal—and causing leakage.

The fix? You can improve the situation by filling the reservoir with clean, filtered water, turning the iron onto high, and pumping the manual steam button.

As you do this, use your other hand to move the steam control lever back and forth from no-steam to full-steam, and back again. This raises and lowers the steam gaskets, and will hopefully dislodge some of the sediment on the gaskets as they rise and sink in the steam vents.

The final word…

Please don’t use vinegar in your iron unless the manual specifically says you can. Vinegar can react with some rubbers and plastics (like gaskets and the reservoir itself), wreaking havoc on your iron’s innards. I learned this the hard way on my steamer.

Try and be diligent with emptying your iron of water when you’re finished. Empty the reservoir while the iron is still hot, and leave the lid open to help any stray droplets evaporate.

Proper iron maintenance can really improve the life expectancy of a unit. Sometimes irons simply conk out on us. Things happen. Make sure the iron has a good warrantee. Better yet, purchase from Nancy’s Notions. Nancy’s promise, made more than 30 years ago, still stands today—at Nancy’s Notions, your 100% satisfaction is guaranteed. If for any reason, any product does not meet your expectations, simply return it for an exchange, refund, or credit of the purchase price.

PIN Water for Iron 4 MythsThanks to Emily Jansson and the Nancy’s Notions Team for debunking these myths!

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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  • Jen in Oz
    October 27, 2015

    I’m SO glad you mentioned that these rules apply to you in the midwest USA. The rules may differ depending on yor location. I grew up in Perth on Australia’s west coast and knew to use distilled water only in our irons there. However, here in Melbourne, the drinking (tap) water is so pure (and tasty!) that it IS safe to use in irons (and in car batteries, for that matter, too).

    • Emily
      October 27, 2015

      Thank you, Jen!
      I know exactly what you mean–I’m from “Out East,” and I had never seen limescale like this until I moved to Wisconsin. The region I grew up in has some of the best water in the country–I never had to worry about putting it in my iron. Now I’m extra careful. 🙂

  • Beck
    October 27, 2015

    Nancy: Where does ‘reverse osmosis’ water fit in? Is it ok to use in my iron, or does it remove all the minerals and ions as well?

    • Emily
      October 27, 2015

      Hi Beck!
      That is a VERY interesting question, and it was pretty tough for me to track down a concrete answer on that. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I have found a couple points to think about:
      1. Water that’s purified by reverse osmosis is generally clear of any compounds that are larger than a water molecule (salts, fluoride, iron, etc). This does not include ALL impurities, so I would hesitate to say it would have similar effects to distilled water.
      2. HOWEVER, with many sites comparing the finished product (the water, itself) of reverse osmosis to that of distilled water, I’d hesitate to say that it wouldn’t harm your iron.
      In more than one iron manual (from premium brands), it clearly states that distilled water should not be used, in the event that it would cause corrosion. Due to the fact that I have no idea how clean reverse osmosis can filter your water (and that also has to do with your particular water source), I’d just try to avoid it–I’ve always tried to err on the safe side.
      For a neat article on how reverse osmosis works (and a lot of the other water systems I profiled above), check out, here:
      Thanks for asking! -Emily J.

  • Diana Binkowski
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you so much for this information. I was going to need distilled water and now I know I can just use my filtered water from my fridge.

  • Judy
    October 27, 2015

    Wow thank you for this great information!! I usually use bottled drinking water for my irons, sometimes tap water and most of the them spit and leak, including the Illiso iron that I love. I am going to try to help all the irons with the remedy you suggest and have my fingers crossed it works and then it is filtered water from now on!!

  • Margaret Schenk
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you, Nancy, on the primer for iron use. I was also just so confused I just always use a dry iron. Now I know what to do. Thank you for all your blogs. I hope you are well in all your battles. Know that you are an inspiration.

  • Margaret Schenk
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you, Nancy, on the primer for iron use. I was always just so confused I just simply use a dry iron. Now I know what to do. Thank you for all your blogs. I hope you are well and winning all your battles. Know that you are an inspiration.

  • Phyllis
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you! I also live in a place where the water is hard. It’s a bit like your car manual saying you don’t need to let your car sit and idle in the morning to warm it up even in winter. Written from Florida, I imagine!

  • Chris
    October 27, 2015

    Thanks for this information! 45 years ago I was using distilled water because it didn’t contain iron. Then irons started being made that were supposed to be able to use tap water. I assumed it was best to use tap water in those irons. Never knew that wasn’t true for water in Midwest. Guess I never read small print. I will be looking for my iron manuals..

  • Kelly Sasman
    October 27, 2015

    The things I learn from you Nancy are so valuable and cross such a wide area of my sewing needs! Thank you for being in my life.

  • Anneliese Graves
    October 27, 2015

    Thanks, Nancy, I’ll count this info as my “Learn something new every day” list.

  • Diana
    October 27, 2015

    Wow. SO GLAD you did this article! I have always used distilled water. No more, yeah.

  • rita
    October 27, 2015

    What about using melted snow? I figured it was a way to avoid the hard water out of my tap. It also wouldn’t be so pure as to be hard to boil.

  • Emilia
    October 27, 2015

    I would never have guessed! Thanks for the info. It saved an expensive iron. We have very hard water here in Florida – at least where I live.

  • Kim H
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you so much!
    This is of interest to everyone. I really appreciate the information!

  • sara
    October 27, 2015

    How about water from the dehumidifier? Is it safe to use, or is it too much like distilled water?

    • Emily
      October 27, 2015

      Technically the process a dehumidifier uses is distillation (water vapor in the air condenses and collects), although the result is probably not as pure, due to contaminants in the dehumidifier itself. So I’d avoid it, just to be on the safe side… 🙂 -Emily J.

  • Lynda Adair
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you for the research on which water to use in irons. I too, have been confused about this issue. I want to get the best results from my iron and sewing machine to produce the best sewing/quilting projects!

  • Faye
    October 27, 2015

    Emily, Nancy and the Notions Team: Thank you!!!!! Bless your hearts for this wonderful information!

  • cindy
    October 27, 2015

    thank you that was good information

  • Sallie
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you for an informative and detailed review. I will follow this for irons, steamers and clap machines

  • Susan Blair
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you thank you thank you! Mom always said to use the distilled water..but she was raised in the midwest and had well water so now it makes sense. Emptying that iron upon completion of your task is soo important..husband learned that the hard way when he had deposits on his white dress shirt !!! We have a filter in the garage,a filter at the kitchen sink and a filter at the refrigerator so now I’m thrilled I can use that filtered water!

  • Winnie
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you SO much for this info. Many years of frustration resolved in one stop! There has been no place to go to get these questions answered! You are a blessing to us all, Nancy, and I hope you are doing well.

  • Joan J
    October 27, 2015

    WHO KNEW!!??? Thank you so much for this very extensive commentary on how to care for one of our most basic and important sewing tools!! I always thought using distilled water was the BEST thing I could do to maintain my iron…as well as emptying it every time while still hot. Now I know better!

  • Mary B
    October 27, 2015

    What wonderful information! I’ve been using filtered water in my iron for years, but didn’t realize how important it was to do that. Guess I just got lucky.

  • Andrea Sidare
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you! I just bought a new iron that I haven’t used yet do to my not remembering to get the distilled water , Yup western NY has hard water also. I use filtered water for drinking and in my tea kettle and coffee pot. And now will be using it for my iron. Thank you again for this great information.

  • Brenda Ackerman
    October 27, 2015

    It amazes me the great information I learn on your site all of the time! This is a fascinating article with information I had never thought about. Thank you for sharing. I know I will be taking a couple containers over to my parents house and using their filtered water for my iron from now on! Have a wonderful creative day!

  • Barb H
    October 27, 2015

    Thanks so much. We are on a well so I used distilled water but have filtered water at our taps! Always learn something new no matter how old we are! Appreciate all of you.

  • Susane
    October 27, 2015

    I have been living in a fool’s paradise! I have filtered water, but have been buying gallons of distilled water for years! Thanks, Nancy for setting me straight!

  • Francie Larrabee
    October 27, 2015

    Thank you for this information! I have been using distilled water for years. Now I know the truth! Thank you!

  • RMK
    October 28, 2015

    Thank You so much! I recently bought an EXPENSIVE iron and just noticed when using the steam button it was leaving”white spots” on my fabric. I referred to the manual and it stated clearly to use tap water. I thought I was following all the directions so carefully!!
    I was going to email the company this weekend to ask what was wrong. Now I know and hopefully I can fix at least some of the damage and stop any further damage.

  • Eileen Friend
    October 28, 2015

    “Savvy” is an adjective.

    Just use a dry iron and spray the fabric with water.

    • Emily
      October 28, 2015

      It’s a noun and a verb, too! 🙂 A dry iron with a spray bottle is a good way to get around the whole conundrum. Great idea!

  • Debora
    October 28, 2015

    This is timely since I just bought a new iron and plenty of distiller water. My manual says to use distilled water. Does this mean to go against what the manufacturer says re: the iron? Not disputing your research, just want to make sure.

    Thx for all your great work!

    • Emily
      October 28, 2015

      Hi Debora!
      Nope, I’d say it’s okay to use distilled in your iron–certain models are okay to use distilled in but only if it’s specified.
      Since your manual says it’s okay, the internal parts of your iron must be made (or coated) with special anti-corrosive materials.
      🙂 Thanks for asking! -Emily

  • Chris
    October 28, 2015

    I greatly appreciate this blog, for I have to replace my 3 year old Rowenta iron, not only because of it beginning to spit and leak, but because of the cord has to be moved around to get it to work. We have soft water, and my manual said not to use it with soft water, or distilled, so I bought water(not spring) just for my iron, since we had soft water. I also have regularly cleaned it. So I was finding frustration. However as I have been doing some research on irons, it seems all brands have had problems with leaking or spitting. my first iron lasted over 20 years, then the next two, about 7 and 5 years. This one maybe 3 years. I wonder if our tap water has changed also because of government regulation and what is put into our water, and I wondered if it is also problems with the type of steel being used in the iron and the country the iron is made in. I know that a garage door company specialist said springs use to last 20 years, then it went down to 10 to 12 years, and now is down to 5 to 7 years. Same is true now of water heaters. Emily, I would love t hear your thoughts on this also. Finally I would love to have a discussion on irons themselves. I am really finding myself not knowing what iron to go with. Thanks again. We are praying for Nancy and her healing and strength.

    • Emily
      October 28, 2015

      Hi Chris,
      I’ve found similar trends in most consumer goods, and I think a lot of it has to do with several things. First off, most of the stuff we buy is a lot more sophisticated (ie: more moving parts, etc) than it was even 25 years ago. This means that more money goes into development and multiple features… but it may also just mean more opportunities for wearing out.
      Second, people don’t want to pay more for all the new features, so costs have to come down in other areas.
      As for our water, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that our water changes all the time. We have so many pollutants that make it into our water table, it only makes sense that contaminants would fluctuate over time. My friend is a biologist and her job involves testing our city water–it’s amazing the fluctuations that can happen in bacteria and other contaminants.
      As for irons, it’s all about personal preference (I’m a Rowenta girl, myself). Make sure that any you buy comes with a guarantee! 🙂

  • Deb Wallace
    October 28, 2015

    Excellent information. I appreciate this being posted.

  • brenda
    October 28, 2015

    thanks. it has all been said by others. just wanted to express gratitude

  • Kathy
    October 28, 2015

    Thanks for this info. I love my iron and want to keep it running smoothly. I did have the spitting issue and now can clear that up for good.

  • Lisa
    November 3, 2015

    Great Information… Thanks

  • Susan
    November 3, 2015

    Our well water contains a lot of calcium and is the world’s best for drinking, but I have always used distilled water in my iron. When I read the myth about using distilled water, my first thought was that maybe I should rethink that. My second thought was about the fact that my iron is 46 years old, so why worry about it now?! I have replaced the cord on it twice, but otherwise it is working as well as it did when we were married!

  • northwind
    November 16, 2015

    Just before a year was up on my Rowenta, it started leaking very badly. I wrote to Rowenta and they reminded me to use unfiltered tap water. That is when I remembered we had installed a whole-house water filter. Now my husband brings me water from work which is unfiltered–it is harder than our well water in Minnesota was. A week or two after the switch, the iron quit leaking. Bottom line–remember to read your manual when something goes wrong with any appliance. AND be sure to clean your iron following the manual’s directions. Sorry to say, cheaper materials abounds. Take light fixtures–the metal used in lighting for where you screw in the light bulb–not what it used to be.

  • JAcquie
    November 16, 2015

    Are you saying that I can melt the ice fro the refrigerato and use that? It does not dispense water.

  • Jane
    November 17, 2015

    After reading this article, MOST of it makes sense to me, but not all. As a chemist, I have a decent understanding of what is in our water. I totally agree with not using tap water, spring water, deionized water and distilled water (unless recommended by the manufacturer), however, I disagree with the recommendation to use “filtered” water for similar reasons that you gave for the previous types. While filtered water DOES remove most particulates in your water (depending on the size of the pores in your filter medium), there are still dissolved minerals in your water that will, when heated as the water becomes steam, deposit themselves on the interior parts of your iron and can still cause spitting and dripping as the gaskets and steam vents pick up the accumulating minerals. The recommendations that you have given however for cleaning out these deposits are right on though! In short, there is no perfect water for our irons, but some are definitely better than others, and you pointed this out very well.
    I have had a Reliable brand iron for some time now, and I couldn’t love it any more. It was not inexpensive, but I haven’t had a lick of trouble with it. I’ve always used distilled water in it, and it’s always worked great. If this iron should break for any reason, I’d purchase another in a heartbeat!

    • Emily
      November 17, 2015

      Hey Jane! Thanks for commenting–I was excited to read one from a chemist.
      I always thought it was strange that a notable number of iron manuals state specifically not to use distilled water–this is partly what led me to research the whole “iron water” thing in the first place. I thought, “why in the world wouldn’t distilled water be okay? And only in some irons?”
      I’m glad to hear your Reliable does so well with it–I’ve heard that from more than one customer about their irons, too.
      I definitely agree that there is no “perfect” water for an iron. Most water the average bear can get their hands on will have some sort of impurity in it–and the most important thing is to keep the water (and your iron!) as clean as possible.
      Thanks again! 🙂

  • Carlean Fisher
    December 11, 2016

    What if the water supply is sourced from a lake with 5 ppm hardness? Is this close enough to distilled to be used as if distilled?

    • Emily J.
      December 13, 2016

      5 ppm? I’d say that’s probably better than any at-home filter could give you. Wow, that’s some clean lake water! 🙂
      I would be comfortable using it, yes.

  • Richard Robertson
    January 21, 2018

    Thanks for the info I saw all the images iron clear your directions Excellent article

  • Perth Electricians
    March 28, 2018

    Thank you so much for this information. I was going to need distilled water and now I know I can just use my filtered water from my fridge. Now I know what to do. Thank you for all your blogs.

  • Nancy
    July 28, 2018

    I live in the southern midwest, use our tap water in my iron and if it begins to even act like it wants to spit I fill it with white vinegar and steam and steam and then rinse well with tap water and I have used the same CHEAP iron for YEARS so I guess it just means everyone has to do what works for them.

    November 10, 2018

    Great post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Kate Panthera
    January 31, 2019

    Really good article ! Was wondering if the same is true for garment steamers. I have one that’s a portable hand-held unit that looks to be all plastic – no metal soleplate like on the iron.
    So, is spring water or distilled ok for what I have, or should i stick with the filtered water?
    Kate Panthera

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