Tips on how to find the best steam iron for your needs
Steam removes wrinkles quickly and effectively from fabric, so professional
reviewers tend to focus on how well irons can steam. In addition to steam
settings, many irons have a burst-of-steam feature, which lets you shoot
a quick puff of extra steam into fabric. Most steam irons also have a mist/spray
nozzle so you can dampen fabric, which sometimes helps smooth set-in wrinkles.
According to About.com guide to laundry Mary Marlowe Leverette, the best
irons also have adjustable settings to handle everything from delicate silks
to synthetics and natural cotton fabrics, an auto shutoff and option for
steam or heat only. Many irons offer a self-cleaning feature to clear clogs
and residue on the soleplate, which also helps prevent those pesky droplets
that sometimes show up on fabrics after ironing.
Leverette says a nonstick soleplate is like a nonstick surface in cookware
-- it's decidedly the easiest to clean. Stainless steel and aluminum transfer
heat quickly, but need more cleaning to remove built-up starch and residue.
Also, be aware that sometimes the best steam-producing irons are also the
heaviest. Leverette says heavier irons are better for heavy-duty pressing,
or for ironers who need meticulously set creases and folds in their fabrics,
but lightweight irons are fine if you don't need to press clothes that often.
(Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial
Here are more things to consider when looking for the iron that will best
suit your needs:
- Choose a soleplate material based
on your ironing style. Experts say a ceramic or stainless-steel soleplate
glides more smoothly. If you iron with starch, however, a nonstick coating
may be easier to clean.
- Variable steam automatically adjusts
the amount of steam and ensures you don't get high steam on delicate
shutoff is a must for most. A three-way shutoff works when the iron
falls forward onto the soleplate, tips onto its side or is left unattended
after a certain number of minutes. However, quilters and others who constantly
go back and forth to the iron may prefer one without an auto-shutoff
self-cleaning setting allows you to expel boiling water through the
steam vents to clear mineral buildup.
- If you're concerned about the cord
dragging across the fabric and causing wrinkles, get an iron with a
pivoting or retractable cord or try a cordless model.
- Unless you live in an area
with very hard water, tap water works fine for most irons. This is
because most of today's steam irons also have an anti-calcium valve or
resin filter. Likewise, distilled water may cause some irons to malfunction,
so check the owner's manual.
- If you use starch, clean the soleplate
periodically to get rid of residue.
- To minimize dribbles and leaking,
press fabrics requiring a low temperature first, before
adding water. Later, after using the steam feature, empty the water chamber -- this reduces
droplets as well as residue and deposits on the soleplate.
- If you iron a lot
of natural fibers or heavy fabrics such as denim, get an iron with
burst-of-steam and spray features to better permeate the fabric.