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First Aid for Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning

Last updated March 2, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Steam iron cleaners are commercially-available solutions used to clean steam irons that are clogged or coated with hardwater deposits. A homemade preparation consisting of water and vinegar may also be used, for such a cleaning purpose. Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of steam iron cleaning solutions. An exposure can also take place when the compound inadvertently affects the skin or eyes.


What is Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning?

  • Steam iron cleaners are commercially-available solutions used to clean steam irons that are clogged or coated with hardwater deposits. A homemade preparation consisting of water and vinegar may also be used, for such a cleaning purpose
  • Some of the branded (store-purchased) products include CLR, Faultless Hot Iron Cleaner, Lime Away, and Whink Steam Iron Cleaner, among others
  • Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of steam iron cleaning solutions. An exposure can also take place when the compound inadvertently affects the skin or eyes
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning may be also referred to as the following:

  • Chelating Agent Poisoning
  • Mineral Deposit Remover Poisoning
  • Steam Iron Cleaner Toxicity

What are the Causes of Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning?

  • Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning is caused by the ingestion of steam iron cleaning compounds. Exposure of the eye/skin to the substance may cause injury too
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Steam iron cleaners can be a complex mix of chemicals that include acids, such as sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, and hydroxyacetic acid, chelators, dilute sodium hydroxide, and other compounds

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. The signs and symptoms may include:

  • Watering or redness of eyes; eye irritation and burns on contact with the substance
  • Burning pain in the mouth and throat that may be severe
  • Speaking and swallowing difficulties
  • Skin irritation and burns
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Cramping stomach or abdominal pain
  • Sudden decrease in blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Collapse

How is First Aid administered for Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Unless instructed by a healthcare professional, DO NOT induce vomiting in the affected individual
  • Otherwise, following an ingestion of the substance, immediately give milk or water to drink
  • In case of symptoms that indicate difficulty in swallowing including vomiting or decreased alertness, do not give anything by way of mouth
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the substance bottle/container to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer suitable medication to mitigate the effects of the chemical substance
  • Wash skin and eyes repeatedly and thoroughly (irrigation), to eliminate any remaining hazardous compound
  • Following this, a suitable skin or eye ointment may be used to treat the exposure
  • Surgical treatment for skin burns including removal of burnt skin
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning?

First aid for Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms, with appropriate medication and prompt support, the outcome is better
  • Severe poisoning and treatment delays may lead to complications including perforation of the throat or gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding and infection can additionally worsen the prognosis. In some individuals, damage to the internal organs may continue to take place for many weeks
  • Steam iron cleaners can cause severe skin burns or eye injuries. In such cases, the outcome is dependent upon the extent of damage and access to prompt treatment. Eye injuries may result in corneal scars causing blindness

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning be Prevented?

Steam Iron Cleaner Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Always following instructions for usage of any health or cosmetic products
  • Keeping cosmetics, medications, and other healthcare products out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • Be aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of consumption of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 3, 2017
Last updated: March 2, 2018