What type of fabrics do you iron? If you press fabrics with difficult-to-remove wrinkles, such as linen, denim or cotton, make sure your iron has burst-of-steam and spray-mist features.
How much weight can you wrangle? Most irons weigh between 2 and 4 pounds. If you have any condition that makes it tiring to heft that much weight, you need to buy the lightest iron that will do the job. You may even want to consider a compact travel iron or vertical steamer; for the latter, see our report on clothes steamers. Weight is also important if you plan to take the iron with you on the go, either for travel or to craft shows and meetings.
Can you see the controls easily? Irons have different types of controls, including dials, buttons and digital screens. Make sure you can read them easily. The same goes for the marker that indicates the water reservoir is full.
Do you need additional features? Features such as burst of steam, spray mist, vertical steaming, and auto shutoff are pretty standard these days. However, some irons have extra features that can come in handy. A self-cleaning system, for instance, clears mineral deposits from the steam vents as you iron, though ConsumerReports.org warns that these systems don't always work with hard water or prolonged use. Retractable cords pull the cord out of the way for storage, while cordless irons do away with it entirely so it can't get in your way as you work. A relatively new feature is the self-lifting iron, which automatically props itself up when not in use — a nice feature for those who tend to burn clothing by forgetting to stand the iron upright.
Even the best iron can't do its job if you don't treat it right. Jackie Reeve's report at TheSweethome.com notes that many reviewers on retail sites complain that irons designed for use with tap water "went kaput" after being filled with distilled water. Distilled water, Reeve explains, "strips essential minerals from internal bits designed for hard water." By contrast, using hard water with an iron meant for soft or distilled water leaves calcium deposits on valves and other materials.
So how can you tell which type of water is right for your iron? The obvious answer is to read the manual. Pat Slaven, an engineer for ConsumerReports.org interviewed by TheSweethome.com, claims that failure to do this is the main reason for spitting, dripping, and premature breakdowns. Here are some other tips ConsumerReports.org offers for maintaining your iron: