It's rarely considered anything other than a chore, but ironing doesn't have to be stressful or time consuming. The right iron can help smooth out your frown lines as easily as it does your frocks. Preferably not in the same way, though.

Steam station irons are quickly gaining in popularity. 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.

Keep it simple

Technology has come a long way since irons were made of, well, iron, but the traditional design still dominates the market. These models are economical and get the job done fast, helping you to increase your spare time so that you can spend it on more important things.

What to look for

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.

If you're in the market for an iron, here are a few key things to consider.

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 $40 to $160.