If you're going to go to the trouble of dragging out the ironing board to press your clothes, you want to make sure you're using a steam iron that's going not only to do the job, but also to make the chore as painless as possible.
But with price tags on irons ranging from as little as $14 through to $210 in our latest iron review, it can be hard to know what's a reasonable price to pay for a good steam iron.
Our testing regularly reveals cheap products that perform as well as, if not better than, pricier ones. So will a cheaper iron do the job just as well – or is it worth forking out more?
'The average iron has improved a lot'
CHOICE expert James Thomson has reviewed dozens of irons in our labs over the years, testing each one on performance and how easy it is to use. He checks how well they steam fabrics such as silk, wool and denim, and assesses factors such as how easy they are to move, to fill the water tank and handle comfortably.
"In the latest review we did find some cheaper models that scored just as well as more expensive models," says James. "We have been testing irons for a long time, and the average iron has improved a lot in that time. How much you want to spend, though, depends on your priorities and how much ironing you do."
What you should look for in an iron
"Almost all irons come with a good ironing surface that moves easily over most fabrics and they have a steam system that produces a lot of steam without too much dripping," says James. "They also usually have a spray function and a 'shot of steam function', which helps a great deal."
"One thing that not all irons have is automatic shut-off," James adds. "Look for one that has an automatic horizontal shut-off of a minute or less and a vertical shut-off of less than 15 minutes. The short horizontal is so you don't burn a hole in clothes (or worse, start a fire!), whilst the vertical shut-off stops power wastage."
If you do a lot of ironing, how easy the appliance is to use is really important, including how easy the iron is to hold and manoeuvre. If it's too heavy, the iron may be difficult to use for people who have dexterity or mobility challenges. Cheaper irons are sometimes lighter than pricier models, so this may also factor in how much you'd like to spend.
Some of the more expensive models in our review receive good scores for ease of use overall, but our testers note that some are quite heavy too.
What are you really getting for your money?
Although there are always exceptions, if you're only spending $14 on an iron, chances are it's not going to last you as long as a model that has had more time and money invested in its design and the quality of its components. A better-quality appliance will generally last longer and is less likely to end up in landfill.
A better-quality appliance will generally last longer and is less likely to end up in landfill
More expensive models may also have more sophisticated features compared with cheaper basic models, or more sophisticated technology that produces more power and steam.
You will also probably pay more for brands that are known for excelling in this product area. The last time we assessed iron brands in 2022, Philips came out on top. These irons have performed well in our labs over this period, and Philips iron owners are very satisfied, according to our appliance reliability survey. Find out which other brands performed well in our iron buying guide.
Price versus performance
While we can't give away all our secrets (these are available for CHOICE members, though), what we can tell you is that of the 56 irons we tested, CHOICE experts recommend 18 models, including seven models that cost less than $100. So there are clearly some bargains to be found that perform well.
To help you understand if you can buy a better iron within your budget, we took all the irons from our June 2022 review and plotted their price against their CHOICE Expert Rating (our overall test score). You can see in the below graph that there are many high-performing irons around the $60–$120 range.
Irons vs steam stations
If you're serious about your ironing and prepared to outlay more cash just to make the job a little easier, you may want to invest in a steam station.
They're pricier, often costing hundreds of dollars or more (the models we reviewed cost from $150 up to $629 for the standard type of steam station), but they score much higher than conventional steam irons in our testing. They're very bulky, though, and too big to be placed on an ironing board, so you'll need to make sure you have space and somewhere to store it.
James explains another advantage of steam stations over irons: "They have a much larger water reservoir so they need less refilling. They produce copious amounts of steam, which is why they perform so well – you'll get through your ironing a lot faster.
"However, when testing, I found they could not get all the wrinkles out of linen because they lack a spray facility."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.