This morning my iron threw globby black crud onto one of my favorite shirts. I had noticed the black stuff on day one here, and I had tried the iron out first on an old towel to see if the stuff would come off. For the first two weeks none did. All seemed well. But today I had to take action.
Probably I should have just called my mother and asked her what to do, but I'm in Russia so the idea didn't cross my mind till too late. I tried Google. Lots of different pieces of advice, and the most common ones seemed to center around white vinegar and salt, the latter presumably for its abrasive qualities. On my shelf there are two bottles of acetic acid, which we all know and love in salads as vinegar. 70% strength. Cool!
I pulled out two shot glasses. Poured the vinegar in one. Poured salt in the other. (That's right: my apartment came equipped with shot glasses. I'll save that for another entry.) I placed the whole assembly on a big plastic plate. I pulled out a spare toothbrush and began to scrub the bottom of the iron, alternating vinegar with vinegar salt. After ten minutes of rubbing it look like this.
That actually looked like an improvement, but it was taking way too long, so I pulled out a couple of sponges with nylon scrubbing surfaces and used them instead. It was immediately obvious that something was blackening the liquid, but the results were very, very slow. After an hour's scrubbing it looked like this.
Now that's a drastic improvement.
But let me tell you some of the things on the way that I had sort of not thought about. First off, the smell was nearly overwhelming. If you have ever run a bottle of vinegar through a coffee maker to de-lime it and been foolish enough to do it inside the house, you know what I'm talking about. Second, I have no idea whether the vinegar actually helped. Stuff sort of came off slowly when I used water as well, but of course the sponges still had leftover vinegar in them, so who knows. And did the salt particularly help? I have no idea.
And then something else should have crossed my mind. Normally when you buy vinegar—and I did not realize this when I started—the acetic acid concentration is 5-8%. This stuff was ten times as strong, which means I now have minor acid burns on my fingers, and the black stuff under my fingernails looks as if I have tried to dig myself barehanded out of an untimely burial. I even pulled out that dopey nail scrubber from my dopp kitt to decontaminate my fingers.