What water should I use in my iron?

You’d be surprised how many times I get asked this question. But, I can completely understand why, given that Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire are, by and large, exceptionally hard water areas – the reason why soft water solutions are so popular and prevalent here.

Above all, it shows that people are clearly thinking about how they should use water responsibly. And, forgive me for sounding a little mischievous, but it also proves that the good old fashioned iron still has its place in this super hi-tech world of ours!

So can you use soft water in your iron?

Anyway, back to the question. Not surprisingly, there have been many theories and a fair amount of hokum spread around on the subject. For example, tap water is dangerous for irons … you should only used distilled water… don’t fill your steam iron with purified water….shock, horror!! A lot of these claims are down to sensationalism and social media chit-chat.
So, to cut through the confusion, we’ve based our summary below on the advice provided by the leading steam iron manufacturers and UK Steam Irons, who have been doing news and reviews on all the best brands since 2010.

Distilled or de-ionised water

Now you might think that simply using distilled or de-ionised water would be the obvious choice, because the water has been separated from all those nasty impurities that can be found in H₂O. But, actually, you shouldn’t use distilled water in your steam iron on its own. This is because it can cause the iron to spit and leak (where you get those annoying water stains disgorging randomly down the shirtsleeves!)

Tap water

At the same time, filling your steam iron with 100% tap water isn’t ideal either. Since neat tap water also contains its fair share of calcium and other minerals, over a period of time, this is likely to cause clogging, which can lead to inferior performance or, in the worst case scenario, the iron going on the blink altogether.

The experts typically recommend adopting a mix and match approach – that’s 50% distilled and 50% straight out of the tap.

Ironing with water softeners or filtered water
The wear and tear that an iron will face from the hardened water of south east England can be greatly reduced with the introduction of a water softener. Nevertheless, the advice from UK Steam Irons is that, if you have a water softener in your home, it is best not to fill your iron with this water alone. Whilst, it will help remove lime scale, other materials the water contains could eventually lead to clogging – and a return to that unpleasant spitting and staining.

Their advice is that you should only use water from the drinking water tap, which may be part of a full water filter system.

Bottled water

Again, bottled water should be used with care, as mineral content can impair an iron’s efficiency. And perfumed water or water containing additives or chemicals are a complete non-starter. Even “ironing water” in the supermarket should be treated with care, as this is basically perfumed water.


Whichever water you select, to ensure long term, tip top ironing performance, it is always worth treating it with regular calc-clean flushes. The advice would be to follow the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning procedures, although the more expensive steam generator irons should come with calc collectors, which mop up all those lime scale deposits.


So, in summary, soft water is completely safe to use as part of your regular ironing activities, but best used in conjunction with distilled water.

The bottom line is to fall back on tried and tested common sense. If you own an expensive, state-of-the-art iron with all the bells and whistles, then you would surely prioritise using the right combination of distilled or de-ionised water together with tap or softened water. If, on the other hand, you are using a sturdy old model that’s been successfully smoothing the creases from pillow cases for decades, on nothing other than liquid coming out of the mains supply, then there is probably no need to make any radical changes.

We hope this helps, but for further information on everything you need to know about irons, including a whole section on what water to use, go to: http://www.uksteamirons.co.uk/water-for-steam-irons