Travel irons may not be a necessity -- after all, most hotels have an iron and ironing board in even the tiniest closet -- but they have their uses. Some travelers don't trust hotel irons, and some people prefer these small, lightweight irons for crafts such as sewing and quilting. A travel iron can even be an inexpensive alternative to a full-sized iron for people who very seldom use one and just want something simple for quick touch-ups.
Regardless of your reasons for choosing a travel iron, the Hamilton Beach Travel Iron/Steamer 10092 (Est. $30) is likely to fit your needs. This compact iron measures just 5 by 4 by 8 inches and has a fold-down handle for easy packing. You can use the iron for touch-ups on cuffs and collars, then switch to vertical use to steam wrinkles out of your travel-creased clothing. A dual-voltage converter allows the iron to switch between the 120-volt power common in the United States and the 240 volts used in many foreign countries. It also comes with a fabric brush attachment and a carrying pouch, and it's backed by a 1-year limited warranty.
Mary Marlowe Leverette, the About.com guide to laundry, says this mini iron takes about one minute to build up a head of steam. Reviewers at Amazon.com, where the iron earns a 4.2-star overall rating, agree that the iron heats quickly, but many of them say the steam it produces is weak and uneven. Some users say they don't bother filling the tiny water tank; they just spritz their clothes with water from a spray bottle instead. Crafters find the Hamilton Beach 10092 handy for working on small pieces of fabric, and most say it gets hot enough to melt fusible webbing. However, there are a few complaints that the iron's heat is too weak for regular use, and a couple of owners have problems with leaks.
Though the Hamilton Beach travel iron is handy for touch-ups and craftwork, it lacks many of the features found on full-size irons, such as microsteam holes for even steam distribution and a "burst of steam" button for tough wrinkles. For those who want a small, yet full-featured iron, the Rowenta DA1560 First Class Travel Iron (Est. $35) is the best choice. Like the Hamilton Beach iron, it has dual voltage and vertical steaming capabilities, a folding handle, a travel pouch, and a 1-year warranty. It also advertises a full-range thermostat rather than just a limited number of preset fabric settings. Its 2.4-ounce water tank is transparent for easier fill-ups.
Although reviewers are impressed with the Rowenta's quick heating and steaming power, it's plagued by durability issues. Users at Amazon.com award it only 3.6 stars out of 5, with many complaints that the iron died after anywhere from a few weeks to just over a year. Complaints include problems with heating, steam, leaks and broken handles.
Still, this Rowenta travel iron is very popular with hobbyists, particularly quilters, who say its light weight is easy on the wrists and hands and its compact size makes it great for working in small spaces. The lack of an auto safety switch, a feature on most full-sized irons, is actually a plus for many crafters, who say it makes it easier to power through a large stack of fabric squares without having to reheat the iron.
Travelers sometimes say they don't need an iron when they travel, and they don't like having to hassle with hauling out the hotel's iron and ironing board. Rather, they need a method for steaming suitcase wrinkles out of their clothes that's as quick and easy as possible.
For those weary (but wrinkled) wanderers, we recommend the Jiffy Esteam Travel Steamer. It gets raves from professional and consumer reviewers who say it performs well, heats quickly and produces a steady 15 minutes of steam -- plenty for a couple of suits. For those on a budget, the Conair Travel Smart Garment Steamer (Est. $20) also garners some respect from users. These and other handheld and portable garment steamers are covered more fully in our report on garment steamers.