When you want to achieve a professional-press look at home, nothing quite matches the effect like a steam iron. A dose of steam lightly saturates the fibers in your clothes, making them easier to press. Steaming also helps the longevity of your clothes, producing a thin buffer between cloth and hot metal. This reduces the wear produced by intense heat.
However, steam irons require water, and not all water is the same. Here are some things to consider when choosing the water you add to your steam iron.
Why is Water Choice So Important for a Steam Iron?
Pretty much all water has something in it: organisms, additives, minerals, or just plain old sediment. When an iron heats water into steam, this additional material stays behind. This is how limescale forms, which can cause problems for your steam iron.
This is why you need to regularly clean the “de-calc” or “anti-calc” valve on your iron. If you don’t have such a feature, then you may have to manually descale your steam iron if limescale becomes visible. This is also why you might notice sedimentary or calcium deposits around the steam-holes in your iron’s soleplate.
Over time, the buildup of these deposits can lead to deterioration in your iron’s performance. So, you need to think carefully about that water you put in. Understanding the hardness and cleanliness of your various options will help you to choose the best water, or combination of waters.
Can I Just Use Tap Water?
Certainly, the easiest and least expensive water option for your steam iron is tap water. Depending on where you live, the water coming out of your tap may be loaded with additional material. Purification plants may not catch every impurity, or the water might pick up sediment in aging pipes.
Regardless of the reason, you should expect some sort of buildup on your steam iron if you fill it with tap water. Some internet research of your area’s water quality will give you a sense of how much buildup to expect. It’s also a good idea to know your neighborhood water’s cleanliness, in general.
Is Distilled Water the Best Option?
If you want water with virtually no mineral or organic deposits, then you can go with distilled water. When water is boiled and the condensation collected, this is the result. Distillation leads to a liquid mostly devoid of impurities.
Distilled water is the cleanest option for a steam iron water tank.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s the best option.
See, distilled water boils at a slightly higher temperature than tap water, and most manufacturers develop steam irons with tap water in mind. Consequently, distilled water has a tendency to leak when heating, leaving water-marks on fabric.
How About Bottled Water?
Advertisers sell bottled water to consumers on the promise of purity and cleanness. So, it must be perfect for steaming, right?
Well, what’s good for the body is not necessarily good for the iron. Most bottled waters contain gobs of minerals and additives. These are often beneficial to humans, but they lead to a significantly harder liquid. You’re probably better off just using your local tap water than buying a case of Dasani.
Should I Use Water Softeners?
There are a plethora of systems on the market that promise to soften your tap water. Unfortunately, the water produced by these systems is often unsuitable for steam irons.
Water softeners reduce the mineral content of tap water, but they impart something more harmful. Many of these products use salt and other caustic additives to soften water. If you use softened tap water by itself in an iron, you risk rust or other corrosion.
What About a Water Purifier?
Here’s an interesting paradox. If you’re living in an area with low-quality tap water, you might already have a good steam iron option in your house.
Popular water purifiers like Britta remove the largest, most disruptive particulates from tap water. What you’re left with is a pretty-clean, pretty-soft water that is heavier than distilled water. As long as you keep your purifier filters up-to-date, this water will do well in your steam iron.
It’s also worth noting that most refrigerator ice dispensers are equipped with purifiers. Water left from melting the ice they produce will work well in an iron.
Finally, many fancy new steam iron models even have water filters built-in! So, if you’re in the market for a new iron, keep an eye out for this feature.
Should I Spring for High-End Iron Waters?
These days, there’s a high-end company for every product. If you want to spend fifty dollars on a razor or a toothbrush, a product is out there for you.
The same is true of steam iron water. Plenty of boutique companies market water they state was specifically developed for use in a steam iron. Sadly, these waters are also normally scented. As a result, they can wreak havoc on your iron, leaving behind whatever substance was added to create that charming lavender aroma.
If you still want that luxurious spring-day-fresh scent while ironing, these same companies normally sell finishing spays, which you can spritz directly on your fabric before going over it with an iron.
Is There an Ideal Water Combination?
As stated above, tap water run through a quality filter will work well in your steam iron.
However, if you don’t have such a filter, then the consensus is that a fifty-fifty mixture of tap water and distilled is best. This combination will balance a low hardness with a normal steam-temperature.
Still, no matter how carefully you balance the water input for your steam iron, you should stay on top of its regular maintenance. Always empty unused water after ironing. Clean all filters and “anti-calc” valves, and pay attention to wear on the sole-plate.
With all this in mind, you can enjoy professional-looking pressed clothes and a resilient, functional iron.