One of the biggest hassles about ironing is the cord. If it's not getting in your way as you move the iron, it's dangling down where you can trip over it. Pets and small children can sneak up and grab it, possibly pulling the iron down … and the ironing board with it. And when you're done ironing, you have to find some way to coil it up for storage.
Cordless irons do away with all these problems. Instead of a cord, they have a separate power base that heats up and transfers heat to the iron. But while this sounds like a great idea in theory, cordless irons don't actually get many positive reviews. ConsumerReports.org doesn't rate them anymore, saying their performance has generally been "unimpressive." Most other sites, including Good Housekeeping and TheSweethome.com, don't cover them either. Thus, our picks in this category are based chiefly on user reviews from Amazon.com and HSN.com.
The top-rated iron at these sites is the Panasonic Cordless NI-L70SRW (Est. $95), with 4.5-star overall ratings from more than 1,000 users. They say that unlike many cordless irons, this one actually gets hot and stays hot long enough to get you through ironing a garment. Between garments, it reheats quickly on its charging stand. The iron also produces plenty of steam, and its removable 5.1-ounce water tank makes refilling easy. When you're done ironing, the cord on the charging base retracts neatly into the stand, and the entire unit tucks into a heat-resistant carrying case a feature particularly beloved by quilters.
The NI-L70SRW has all the features you'd expect to see on a high-end steam iron. There are three heat settings, adjustable steam, and buttons for a burst of steam or spray mist, all conveniently located right on the iron handle. The iron can also steam garments vertically. An automatic shutoff cuts the power if you leave the iron sitting in its charging base for 10 minutes. The iron and base are covered by Panasonic's standard one-year warranty.
We were a bit puzzled to see that most users describe this iron as lightweight, even though Panasonic lists it at a hefty 5 pounds. We can only assume that this is the weight of the entire unit, including the charging base and carrying case. Unfortunately, there's no information about how much the iron weighs by itself.
The main complaints users have about this iron are that it takes too long to heat up and it needs to be returned to its charging base frequently to keep it hot. However, most owners say that's not really a problem; as long as you simply pop the iron back on its stand every time you pause to reposition a garment, it stays hot throughout the whole ironing process.
The other cordless iron that fares well in reviews is the Panasonic Cordless 360° Freestyle NI-WL600 (Est. $85). In addition to being cordless, this model has a special twist: instead of having a traditional triangular shape, it's pointed at both ends, similar to our Best Reviewed corded iron, the Panasonic 360° Quick NI-W950A (Est. $100). That means that there's no wide base to prop the iron upright, but it doesn't really need one, since you just pop it back on its power base whenever you're not using it. Owners say this "freestyle" design takes a little time to get used to, but once you get past the learning curve, it's a great time-saver. Because the double-pointed iron slides in both directions, you can make multiple passes over a garment without having to reposition either the iron or your clothing.
Aside from the unique freestyle design, the NI-WL600 has most of the same features found on the NI-L70SRW. It has variable and vertical steaming functions, burst of steam and spray mist, auto shutoff, electronic temperature controls, self-cleaning vents, an anti-drip system, and a detachable water tank. It also includes a heat-resistant carrying case.
The NI-WL600 has more than 400 reviews at Amazon.com and HSN.com, most of them positive. Users —particularly men — love its unique design and say it actually makes ironing fun. Although most owners say this cordless iron heats up quickly, some of them say it doesn't get hot enough, or else doesn't retain its heat long enough. We saw some complaints from users who say it takes forever to get through a batch of laundry because the iron needs to be recharged so often. Some note that the tiny water tank holds only 4 ounces — about half as much as most steam irons.