A good steam iron makes a tedious chore go more
Sadly, the advent of permanent
press fabrics has not done away with the need to occasionally haul out the
ironing board and iron to crisp up a favorite blouse or re-crease those dress
pants. And for sewers, quilters and other fabric hobbyists, a great iron is a
must. The good news is that the right steam iron can help reduce the time,
frustration and elbow grease needed to knock out those wrinkles.
Types of Steam Irons
Traditional Steam Irons
Traditional, corded steam irons can cost anywhere from $20 to $150. These days, even basic steam irons have features once limited to high-end models: variable steam settings, a "burst of steam" button to tackle the toughest wrinkles, and a vertical steam feature for steaming wrinkles out of hanging clothes or curtains. You can also expect a steam iron to have an 8-foot (or longer) cord, a UL or ETL safety certification, an auto-shutoff feature, and a one-year warranty. However, paying extra for a deluxe model can get you still fancier features, such as digital displays, specially shaped soleplates, retractable cords, and self-cleaning cycles to remove mineral deposits.
Cordless irons are a bit of a throwback to the very earliest irons, which were made of solid metal and heated on a stove or over a fire. Instead of heating up the soleplate (the steel base of the iron) through a cord that tethers the iron to a wall socket, modern cordless irons sit on a power base that heats up. Once the iron comes up to temperature, you can pick it up and use it with no cord to trip or entangle you. However, despite the convenience of this design, cordless irons don't get nearly as many reviews as traditional ones. The price range of available models is similar to that of a basic steam iron — usually between $50 and $130.
For travelers who don't trust the irons in hotels, a small travel iron comes in handy for quick touch-ups. They're also popular with quilters and sewers for toting to classes or conventions. Travel irons are compact and lightweight enough to stash in a suitcase, and some have folding handles to make them even smaller. Travel irons are cheaper than their full-sized brethren, with prices between $10 and $40, yet often have the same features you'd find on a basic steam iron. However, these mini irons aren't widely covered in professional reviews, and users generally don't rate them as highly as the best steam irons.
Every good iron deserves a good ironing board. The best ones are sturdy, so they don't wobble, and easy to unfold and refold for storage. Other nice features include adjustable-height legs to accommodate users of different heights and an iron rest to keep the iron out of your way while you reposition clothes. Ironing boards can cost anywhere from $30 to $200, but the cheapest models tend to be flimsy. If you're short on space, a roll-up ironing mat is a good alternative to a board. These cost as little as $10 and can make any flat surface – a desk, a counter, or the top of your washing machine – suitable for ironing.
Finding The Best Steam Irons
"The Best Clothes Iron"
"The Best Ironing Board"
The best steam irons have to
provide quick, even heat, loads of steam, and useful safety and convenience
features. They should also be easy to use, with clearly labeled controls and
indicators. We analyzed a handful of professional roundups, as well as hundreds
of owner reviews from retail sites such as Amazon.com and BedBathandBeyond.com,
to find the best steam irons for everyone from passionate pressers to reluctant
Best steam irons
If you're the kind of person
who wants to look freshly pressed every single day, a high-quality steam iron
is a worthwhile investment. The (Est. $100) is pricey, but according to our
sources, it's simply the best all-around performer there is. It heats up fast, provides abundant steam, and is
packed with handy features. And, while nearly every steam iron on the market
has some durability problems, this Panasonic iron appears to hold up much
better than most others – even high-end competitors like the (Est. $125).
The Panasonic NI-W950A has a wealth of useful features. Its anodized-aluminum soleplate has steam holes
distributed around the entire edge to spread a large volume of steam evenly
across a garment. To keep up with all this steam production, it has an
extra-large 10-oz. water tank. The temperature-setting dial, located below the
handle, is large and clearly labeled with the various fabric settings: Acrylic,
Silk, Wool, Cotton, and Linen. Its auto shutoff activates in 10 minutes when
the iron is propped upright, but in only 1 minute if it's lying flat or tipped
over. The vertical steaming feature removes wrinkles from curtains and hanging
garments, and the anti-calc system clears away
mineral deposits. It also features an extra-long, 10-foot cord and adjustable
However, the most notable feature on this iron is the shape
of the soleplate. Instead of having a point at one end and a wide base at the
other, the Panasonic's soleplate is pointed at both ends, like a football. Most
users say this design really saves time when ironing, especially with shirts,
because you don't have to keep repositioning the iron to slide it between
buttons. The downside of the double-pointed plate is that there's no flat base
to rest the iron on when you set it down. Instead, it sits on a sort of tripod
formed by the handle and two narrow fins that stick out from the body of the
iron. Some users feel this design makes the iron unstable, and others complain
that the legs tend to catch on their clothes when they pull the iron backward.
Both professional testers and home users agree that this
iron is a powerful wrinkle-fighter. It heats up quickly, produces loads of
steam, and glides smoothly over fabric. It also isn't plagued by the leakage
and spitting found with many cheaper irons. Some owners find the 4.4-pound iron
too heavy, but others say that added heft is useful for pressing out tough
wrinkles. Its real Achilles heel, according to many users, is the built-in
water tank. Although it has a generous 10-ounce capacity and is easy to fill,
many users complain that it's nearly impossible to view the water level through
the iron's dark-tinted window.
want good performance but who aren't willing to invest $100 in an iron, the (Est. $35) offers solid
performance at a much lower price. In tests at TheSweethome.com, this
inexpensive iron is second only to the pricey Rowenta Steamforce for steam production and wrinkle-busting
power. Testers also say it heats quickly and its stainless-steel soleplate
glides smoothly over fabrics. They also like its lighter, 3.1-pound weight, its
comfort-grip handle, and its lengthy 2-year warranty – twice as long as
Despite all these benefits,
TheSweethome.com does not recommend the Black & Decker Allure. The site
named the Allure as its top pick in October 2016, but it withdrew the
recommendation in November when its test model suddenly died after a year of
use. It now recommends the (Est. $45) as
the best iron for buyers on a budget.
However, after looking at user reviews for both these irons,
we still think the Allure is the better choice of the two. Most users at
Amazon.com and Walmart.com like this Black & Decker iron, saying it heats
fast, produces ample steam, and knocks wrinkles out fast. There are some
negative reviews, but most of them have nothing to do with the iron's
durability; users are more likely to complain that it's difficult to read the
control dial or judge the water level on the 6.7-ounce water tank. Complaints
about breakdowns pop up now and then, but the Allure actually has fewer than
most irons in this price range, including the Shark Ultimate Professional. Plus,
the two-year warranty is a good protection against product failure. And even if
the iron eventually breaks, at $35, many can easily afford to replace it.