We get asked by readers can you use a steam iron without water? Yes you can use your steam iron as a dry iron as long as you remove all the water from the tank, and put the iron temperature control to a dry heat setting or no steam setting. Most good quality steam irons will have some form of dry ironing option, but check before buying if this is important to you.
The reason that most people use a steam iron is because steam makes it faster and easier to remove wrinkles and creases from materials. That works well on the vast majority of fabrics that are used to make clothes and other household items like bedding, towels etc.
Steam works well because it alters the shape of the fabric and makes it easier to iron. The slight disadvantage is that on some fabrics, and mainly on delicate fabrics, this can result in damage to those. With some of those delicate fabrics steam can also break down the dye that was used to colour them.
Many dress makers use a dry iron to iron hems for example. If you are adding patches to clothing or transfers, then these should only be done using a dry iron. some people prefer to dry iron and use a water spray bottle when needed. Overall though a steam iron works best for faster ironing and that is why they are so popular.
The good news is that the vast majority of steam irons will have a dry setting or a no steam setting, and once you have found out where that is, then you are good to go, as long as you completely empty the water tank.
Below we have outlined a step by step process on how to use a steam iron without water.
List of Steps
Wash and Dry Fully
You should of course wash any garment before it is ironed to remove any dirt or oil from it. Then make sure it is fully dried before ironing. The reason the material needs to be cleaned is to stop any risk of dirt or oil sticking to the hot soleplate of the iron. The reason it needs to be fully dried is you don't want any moisture in the material. Often when we take clothes off the washing line, they may still contain a little moisture. Air the material first and just be sure it is dry.
If your steam iron doesn't have a dry setting
Most steam irons will have a dry setting or a no steam setting. Some older models and some very cheap models may not have this setting. If that is the case, empty the water tank completely. It is also a good idea to check the soleplate and make sure there are no water drips on that. If there are, then wipe those off with a soft cloth.
Now set your iron to the "MIN" temperature. If this is not obvious, we would advise you to check your manual for that setting. Most irons come with instructions and you can also get the manual from the manufacturer's website.
If your steam iron does have a dry or no steam setting
Most good steam irons will have a dry setting. They may call this different things like no steam and it is worth checking your manual just to be sure. Some manufacturers will have an "OFF" button which turns the steam off. Some of those manufacturers also use symbols, and you may have to try and figure out which one is applicable.
Preheat the steam iron
Once you have all the water removed, or selected a dry setting, then select the fabric selector and switch the iron on and allow it to get to the correct temperature for that fabric.
Getting your fabric/material ready
Lay your fabric, material or piece of clothing on an ironing board. We would always recommend when dry ironing for the first time to try it out on something like an old tea towel. That way you can be sure there will be no leftover water splashes and that the soleplate glides easily.
Time to iron
Once the temperature is correct, usually indicated by a light on the iron, it is time to iron. It is the same process of moving back and forth over the material. If there are wrinkles that may take a few passes until they disappear. For anything like patches or transfers, it is really important to follow the individual instructions that come with those.
Patches, transfers can be made slightly differently and it is really important that you follow those individual iron on instructions.
Once finished unplug your iron and allow to cool before storing it away.
if you plan on using the iron to steam the next time, then just remember that you have it on a dry setting. Don't forget to change back to that, when you next fill up your iron and switch it back on. Steam irons should never be stored with water in them, as it allows limescale to accumulate. Just be sure to remember to change it back to steam and fill it with water if you are steam ironing the next time.
We have also done an article on dry ironing vs steam ironing which may interest you. Our strong advise if you are going to use a steam iron without water is to check your manual or instructions for the appropriate setting. Most irons will have one though it may be hard to find. Don't have a steam setting on with no water in the iron though as that will damage it.