Cleaning calcium or other mineral deposits in a steamer varies according to the manufacturer's directions. While a simple vinegar-and-water solution works for some garment steamers, others have anti-calcification cartridges or require the use of a specific descaling product. Whether using a homemade solution or a commercial product, clean the unit regularly to keep the steam flowing and prevent white streaks on dark clothing.
Take Precautions First
Before you begin to clean your garment steamer, unplug the unit and allow it to cool. Review the owner's manual for cleaning instructions; some units have anti-calcification cartridges that require removal and replacement and others may require use of a specific product to maintain the warranty on the product.
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In addition, if the steamer runs dry, allow it to cool before adding fresh water to the tank. If the unit doesn't turn on, try pressing the reset button; the internal breaker may have tripped.
Remove Mineral Deposits in a Steamer
Begin by draining any water inside the steamer. It may require removing the tank and/or removing the drain plug. Pour the water into the sink.
Refill the tank with the recommended cleaner or equal parts water and vinegar. Close the drain plug and replace the tank on the cleaner. Allow to soak for 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the severity of the mineral deposits and the manufacturer's instructions. Remove and open the tank, then rinse thoroughly, at least two to three times to remove all of the cleaning solution.
Alternately, fill the tank with the vinegar solution, plug the garment steamer in and, when hot, press the steam button, pointing it away from yourself, other humans or pets, clothing, countertops and appliances. When it produces a strong flow of steam, turn it off, let it cool, drain and refill with distilled water. Repeat the process with clean distilled water to remove any lingering residue of the vinegar solution.
Remove and Replace the Cartridge
Some combination iron and garment steamers have an anti-calcification cartridge and do not require a cleaner or vinegar and water solution. A warning light will flash when the cartridge need replacement. Allow the unit to cool, then remove the iron, steam unit and water tank. Turn the steam unit over and open the bottom to remove the cartridge.
Remove the stoppers on the new cartridge and insert it into the steam unit, making sure to lock it in place. Turn the unit right side up and reattach it and the iron to the base. Refill and reinstall the water tank. Plug in the steamer and wait 45 seconds, then press the button or trigger until steam appears, in approximately 90 seconds.
Clean the Attachments
To clean the non-electrical parts of garment steamers, remove them from the unit. The items vary according to the manufacturer and type of steamer. For example, hand-held Conair steamer attachments may include a brush, soft cushion brush and a creaser, while upright units include a steam nozzle, hanger with pant clips, a removable insulated hose and a telescoping pole that allows for easy storage.
If the attachments have mineral buildup, rinse under running water. Fill a sink or laundry tub with water and soak the attachments for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse and scrub lightly with a soft brush to remove calcium or other deposits. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry before reinstalling on the garment steamer.
Avoid Mineral Deposits
Unless the manufacturer says otherwise, always fill your garment steamer with distilled water. Distilled water has had the minerals removed, so it prevents buildup inside the unit. Steamers that incorporate a anti-calcification cartridge may require tap water or a mixture of equal parts tap water and distilled water to work properly.
In addition, never use additives, such as salt, perfumes and dyes. These can damage the internal parts of the steamer as well as damage your clothing. After using the unit, let it cool and empty the tank to avoid mineral deposits in the steamer while it is being stored.