Full Disclosure: I seriously considered throwing out my grimy iron and getting a new one.
OK, let's see if I can make iron-maintenance vaguely exciting. Or just not so boring that you don't turn away at this point. Please, hear me out! It's important!
You know, in the interests of not filling the world with unnecessary garbage (though, as I've always said, they're going to make those 8 zillion (insert appliance here) whether I throw mine out or not), I have opted to clean my iron
S, my fitting friend, has a really nice iron with a really clean plate and it works so well, it's been affronting me with its functionality. Throw in the fact that mine has enough fusible interfacing on it to grip over certain fabrics (I USE AN ORGANZA PRESSING CLOTH, so don't get on my case), plus the fact that I'm about to be pressing the shit out of "fine fabric", and I didn't see any way out.
You should know that the first / last time I cleaned my Rowenta Professional (I don't know that this model is made anymore), I opted for the natural approach. Why spend 35 bucks on corrosive cleaners on an appliance that's been cleaned, sans cancer-causing chemicals, since the beginning of time? (In truth, I don't really know how long the world has had irons, but it's got to be hundreds of years, don't you think?)
Lo those many months ago, I cleaned the canister of calcium build-up with white vinegar diluted with water and then I used a paste of baking soda to sparkle-ize the plate. About a zillion hours after I started, everything within a square mile still smelled like chips. Really, for a month, every time I used the fucking thing I could detect the scent of vinegar - which is gross, by the way. I was constantly worried I'd wreck the fabric I pressed, with microscopic (though odorous) droplets of vinegar - but really, I suspect it's the baking soda paste that LODGED itself in the steam holes of the plate that was the greater risk.
Let's talk about baking soda paste, which I have nothing against. It's fun to assemble, not harmful, it's odor-absorbing, it's satisfyingly (but not overly) abrasive. What's not to love? Well, my friends, you will not love picking bits of cooked paste off of your clothes (punched up with the steam button) till the end of all fucking time. Before you assume I did it wrong, I read numerous instructions online. I considered, in advance, that the gunk would lodge itself in the holes and I carefully avoided them. I also had all manner of gizmos to assist in case the holes were impinged upon by paste, accidentally.
The thing is, there's no way to remove the paste from your sole-plate without dragging it and, if you drag for more than a cm, you hit a hole.
You can see why it's been since the last time I made a suit that I've tried to clean this thing. (For more info, see: Just throw the fucking iron out and get a new one.)
This time around, I went full-on chemical. (Yeah, I know everything's a chemical, but you know what I mean. I went "evil chemical".) As of 10 minutes ago, I finished cleaning corrosive gunge off the plate of my iron (coming out of those pores as I infused water and phosphoric acid). I didn't exactly follow the instructions cuz they didn't quite work. If I turned off the iron once it started steaming (as directed) then the steam stopped within a minute and there was no way to get the water out of the canister, via steam (as directed). So, and Lord knows what impact this will have, I stood over the chemical soup, plugging and unplugging the iron intermittently. Yeah, I had the window open but I'm not sure I'm feeling as smart as usual.
The gunge was easily cleaned from the sink but not so easily from the holes (some of which are now blocked with soot-like grossness rather than baking soda grossness). I'm waiting for it to cool at which point I'll work on the remaining gunge.
Tomorrow I'll tackle the sole-plate directly with another chemical - this time a cream! - and truly, I don't know if that's going to stay out of the holes much better than the baking soda did the last time. Probably - this stuff is made by the Rowenta people and it costs enough. That's its own special task involving the ironing board and special cloths.
I suppose it's not rocket science: The key is, natch, to ensure that whatever you've applied to clean your grimy iron is painstakingly removed from it by numerous re-fillings of the canister and steaming/pressing over rags.
Or you could just put the thing out on the curb and wait 10 second for the yard-pickers. And go out and get yourself a new one.