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How to buy the best iron

Make smoothing out the wrinkles in your wardrobe an easy task by choosing the right iron for your needs.

man ironing his new shirt

It's rarely considered anything other than a chore, but ironing doesn't have to be stressful or time consuming when you've found the best iron for your needs.

Steam station irons are handy for those who do a lot of ironing. If you're after a superior product that produces a lot of steam and gets the job done quickly and with minimal fuss, then one of these could be a worthwhile investment. If that sounds more like what you're after, check out our steam station buying guide.

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The ideal iron

Your iron should be able to:

  • reliably control its temperature to handle different fabrics
  • produce a useful amount of steam without dribbling or sputtering water, and
  • glide effortlessly over your garments.

The importance of automatic shut-off

Automatic shut-off is an important safety feature to look for when buying a steam iron. This feature cuts off the power to the iron if it's been left idle for too long. With our busy lifestyles it doesn't take much to forget to turn off the iron in a rush to get out of the house creating a dangerous safety hazard. With automatic shut-off you can have peace of mind that the iron will turn off if you've forgotten. We've come across irons that not only lack automatic shut-off but also don't have a power-on light. In this case the only way to tell the iron has been left on would be to feel the heat. Most irons we've tested have automatic shut-off and we've made it a necessity when recommending steam irons – we won't recommend an iron without it.

How to clean a steam iron

Most irons we've tested take care of the cleaning for you with self-cleaning functions that remove scale deposits. If your iron doesn't come with a self-cleaning function check the manufacturer's instructions for their recommendations. As a general rule you can clean the exterior with a damp soft cloth and wipe dry. 

How to clean an iron's steam holes

If your iron doesn't have a self-cleaning function, some manufacturers recommend cleaning the steam holes with a cotton wool tip dipped in methylated spirits. Check your instructions first for any specific recommendations.

What to look for in a steam iron

Steam

  • Variable steam allows you to control the amount of steam produced while you iron, so you can turn it up to get creases out of linen, and turn it down for more sensitive fabrics.
  • Vertical steam allows you to iron heavy items such as curtains while they're hanging up.
  • Shot-of-steam functions give you an extra burst of steam at the push of a button to help subdue stubborn wrinkles.

Thermostats

Look for an iron that has reliable and precise control over the soleplate temperature so you can tackle a wide range of fabrics to put your new steam iron to work for the whole family. The controls should also be easy to see and adjust so you can get on with the task at hand.

Weight

A lightweight iron is easy to move but needs more downward pressure when you're using it, while a heavier one needs less pressure but can put a new spin on the term pumping iron.

Soleplate

A non-stick soleplate is usually easier to keep clean than a stainless steel one, but you need to be careful not to scratch it, as this can cause the iron to drag over time. Polished stainless steel can work well, but is also susceptible to scratching and staining.

Drip protection

This prevents water from dripping through the soleplate and potentially staining fabrics, particularly at low temperatures.

Transparent water reservoir

This makes it easier to see the water level in your steam iron when you're filling it up, and when it's getting low.

Self-cleaning

This function allows you to set the iron to remove scale deposits that could clog the steam valve and soleplate holes.

Cord storage

Look for a specially-designed heel to wrap the cord around, and a clip to secure it.

Auto shut-off

This cuts off power to the iron after it's been left immobile for a certain period of time. Most give an audible signal when they shut off, so you'll hear it if you've gone and left the iron on (again).

Power-on light

This safety feature lets you know the iron's on, and therefore hot.

Button groove

A gap between the iron body and the soleplate makes it easier to navigate around buttons, and helps novices to avoid melting them. Always a good thing.

 Cost

Steam irons range in price from $7.50 to $199.