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Updated: March 2018

Water for Steam Irons and Steam Generator Irons

Water for steam ironsWater, water everywhere! It is all the same isn't it? Actually no, from the tap there's hard or soft water and you can purchase a myriad of other water types such as distilled, perfumed, de-ionised etc.

A common confusion is which type of water to use in a steam iron and we are always being asked questions like "Can I use tap water in my iron?" and "What type of water is suitable for steam irons?"

So here is our ultimate guide that will hopefully banish any doubts you might have about the correct water to use. In this article, you'll learn:

  • How to prolong the life of your steam iron
  • What is hard water anyway?
  • Does my area have hard water or soft water?
  • The best water to use in a steam iron
  • Best steam irons for hard water

QUICK ANSWER:
In hard water areas, most manufacturer's recommend mixing 50% tap water with 50% distilled water and performing the 'calc-clean' process regularly to maximise the longevity of your iron and keep it in tip-top condition.


If you are looking for a new steam iron, make sure it has a good "calc-clean" or "anti-calc" system (a method of de-scaling the iron). Click here for our Top 10 Steam Irons.

Tap Water

All modern steam irons and steam generators can use tap water. In the UK, tap water can vary in its 'hardness' as detailed below, from soft to very hard.

Hard Water

Hard water contains higher concentrations of minerals such as calcium which causes limescale build up in steam irons reducing their efficiency over time. Limescale can also fur up your kettle, hot water cylinder and even your shower head!

About 60% of the UK is classed as having hard water. If you live in such an area then the general advice is to simply use the tap water normally and remember to follow the calc-clean procedures.

Ironing Bored? Iron smarter not harder with these useful ironing accessories

Water Hardness by UK Region


England
South East, Central, East Anglia, East Yorkshire: HARD to very HARD
South West: SOFT
North-East, North West, Lakes: SOFT to slightly HARD

Scotland
SOFT to moderately SOFT

Wales
Moderately HARD; coastal areas SOFT

Northern Ireland
Varies from SOFT in the North & East, to HARD in the South & West

Source: British Water (PDF download)


Distilled Water (Pure Water, De-Ionised Water)

You might think that distilled water would be best for use in a steam iron as all of the impurities and minerals have been removed. However, most steam iron manufacturers now recommend not using only distilled water as it can cause the iron to spit and leak, but instead use a 50/50 mix with normal tap water.

Calc-Clean

Most steam irons these days will have a calc-clean function which requires you rinse out the inside of the iron to flush these deposits away. Some models will use special cartridges which need to be replaced at regular intervals. Whatever method your iron uses, it is advisable to follow the cleaning procedure at the recommended intervals or whenever the "calc clean" light comes on.

Some of the more expensive irons and steam generator irons can come with a 'calc collector' which collects all the limescale deposits in one place making the de-scaling process much less hassle.

Home Water Softeners

If you have a water softener in your house then you should not use this water alone - although limescale is reduced, other materials are added which could eventually clog your iron and cause spitting and brown stains. You should use only the water from a drinking water tap (often installed as part of a full water filter system).

Bottled and other Water

The mineral content can build up over time and reduce the efficiency of your iron. You should also not use vinegar, perfumed water or any other water containing additives or chemicals as they can cause damage resulting in clogged steam nozzles, brown water spits and reduced performance.

Best Steam Irons for Hard Water

The best irons and steam generator irons for hard water areas are those which have a full anti-calc or calc-clean system. This often involves a permanent cartridge system which keeps the calcium deposits in the water tank - you just need to rinse it out periodically.

Steam Iron Descalers

There are a number of products on the market that claim to descale your steam iron in the same way they can your kettle. Unlike a kettle however, a steam has filters and other delicate mechanisms that the water (and descaling solution) passes through before being emitted as steam. It's vital that you check your instruction booklet before using such descaling solutions.

If you are in any doubt about which water to use, then we recommend you contact your steam iron manufacturer for definitive advice. You can find a link to download iron instruction manuals here.