steam iron makes a tedious chore go more smoothly
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 a 7-foot (or longer) cord, an auto-shutoff feature, and a one-year warranty. Paying extra for a deluxe model can get you still fancier features, such as digital displays, specially shaped soleplates, retractable cords, and self-cleaning systems 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 $5 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, you can opt for a tabletop ironing board or a roll-up ironing mat. 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"
"These "Best of the Test" Steam Irons Are a Wrinkle's Worst Enemy"
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. To find the steam irons that did the best job of fulfilling those requirements, we analyzed a handful of professional roundups from respected resources such as Wirecutter and Good Housekeeping. Consumer Reports notes that it is not currently testing steam irons, but its earlier round of testing includes lots of current models and so it remains helpful.
We also looked at thousands of owner reviews posted at retail sites such
as Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Best Buy and elsewhere. The result
of our research is a consensus of what experts and users say are the best steam
irons for anyone from passionate pressers to reluctant wrinkle wranglers.
high-end and basic steam irons perform well
For people who do a lot of ironing – such as quilters and anyone who
wants to look freshly pressed every single day – a high-quality steam
iron is a worthwhile investment. The (Est. $110) is
pricey, but according to professional testers, it's simply the best all-around
performer there is. It beats every other iron in tests at Consumer Reports,
with top marks for steaming rate, ironing performance, and ease of use. It's
also recommended as an "upgrade pick" at Wirecutter,
with editor Jackie Reeve saying its powerful heat and steam "beat every wrinkle
we threw at it."
Reviews say the Steamforce lives
up to its name. Its stainless-steel soleplate has 400 tiny "microsteam" holes to spread a large volume of steam evenly
across a garment. The holes are especially concentrated at the tip, allowing
for a concentrated blast of steam to flatten tough wrinkles. On top of this,
it's equipped with a built-in electronic steam pump designed to force up to 30%
more steam into the fabric. Rowenta says it can
deliver up to 35 grams per minute of continuous steam, and its steam boost
feature puts out a whopping 210 grams in one shot. To keep up with all this
steam production, the Steamforce has an extra-large
11.8-ounce water tank with a wide-mouthed filling hole.
This 1,800-watt iron is packed with other features, as well. It has five
fabric settings and automatically adjusts both the heat and steam level based
on the fabric selected. A three-way automatic shutoff powers the iron down
after 8 minutes if it's sitting upright, 30 seconds if it's left flat or tipped
over. It includes an anti-drip system to prevent leaking and spitting at low
temperatures and an anti-calcification system to clear out mineral deposits.
There's also a spray button, vertical steaming, and an LED display that shows
when the iron is up to temperature. Only a couple of features on this iron are
disappointing: The power cord is only 7 feet long, for instance, and it comes
with just a standard 1-year warranty.
We found more than 1,400 reviews for the Rowenta Steamforce
at retail sites, including Amazon, Walmart, and Bed Bath and Beyond. Overall,
owners are pleased with the iron, but their reviews are less glowing than we
would have expected for an iron this pricey. Reviewers are impressed
with the Rowenta's quick heating and steaming power, and
they say the stainless-steel soleplate glides smoothly over fabric. And though
the 3.7-pound iron is heavy, most users find it comfortable to use.
However, owners have a few grips about this iron's design. They say the
position of the control dial (right below the handle) makes it easy to bump by
accident, and the dark-blue cover on the water tank makes it hard to see the
fill line. Also, many users complain that the iron leaks or spits, despite its
Most troubling of all, this pricey iron appears to suffer from some
durability issues. Several owners say their irons stopped heating within a few
years, or even a few months, after purchase. Other weak points include the
steam button, which stopped working on some irons within a few months, and the
cover to the water tank, which often breaks or falls off after just a few uses.
Even Reeve encountered this problem with the first Rowenta she used for her test – and while she says Rowenta promptly sent a replacement, other users haven't been so lucky. Owners who
sought repairs complain that they had trouble getting through to customer
service, and once they did, they were required to pay for the cost of shipping
the iron to Utah and wait several weeks for a replacement.
Another strong performer, and a close contender for our Best Reviewed
slot, is the (Est. $95). At Consumer Reports, this 1,700-watt iron comes in a close second
to the Rowenta, matching its steaming and
wrinkle-fighting abilities but falling slightly behind on ease of use. And
while it doesn't receive as large a volume of feedback from owners as the Rowenta, its overall ratings are at least slightly higher.
The Panasonic has many of the same features
found on the pricier Rowenta – and a few it
lacks. It has the same five fabric settings, but unlike the Rowenta,
it also has adjustable steam so you can control the steam and temperature
independently. It also has the same steam burst and spray buttons, vertical
steaming, an anti-calcification system, and a 3-way auto shutoff. (It activates
in 10 minutes when the iron is propped upright, but in only 1 minute if it's
lying flat or tipped over.) Its soleplate is anodized aluminum rather than
stainless steel, with steam holes distributed around the entire edge to spread
a large volume of steam evenly across a garment. Another nice perk is the
extra-long, 10-foot cord.
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 a few 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. We also saw a few durability complaints about
this iron, though not as many as for the Rowenta;
that said, keep in mind that the Rowenta has a lot
more user feedback overall..
For those want good performance but who aren't willing to spend around $100
on an iron, the (Est. $35) offers solid performance at a much lower price. In
tests at Wirecutter, this inexpensive iron produces
more powerful steam than some Rowenta models costing
more than twice as much. Reeve says it heats quickly, as well, and its
stainless-steel soleplate glides smoothly over fabrics. She also likes its
lighter, 3.1-pound weight, its comfort-grip handle, and its lengthy 2-year
warranty – twice as long as either Rowenta's or
Despite all these benefits, Wirecutter relegates
the Black & Decker Allure to runner up status over reliability issues --
their test unit stopped working after one year. The good news is that Black
& Decker stood behind its two-year warranty and exchanged the iron for a
Most users at Amazon and Walmart like this Black &
Decker iron, saying it heats fast, produces ample steam, and knocks wrinkles
out fast. Although there are some complaints about durability, they're no more
common for this cheap iron than for much pricier irons, such as the Rowenta. Actually, users are much more apt to complain that
it's difficult to read the control dial or judge the water level on the water
tank. Plus, as Reeve found out, the two-year warranty is a good protection
against product failure. And even if the iron eventually breaks, at $30, replacing
it after a year to two won't hurt as much as having to replace an iron that cost
three times (or more) as much.