Steam station irons are becoming more popular and are generally pricier than a more basic, traditional iron. If you do a lot of ironing – or if you're after a superior product that gets the job done quickly, easily and without fuss – then a steam station is a worthwhile investment.
A steam station (also called steam generator) is an appliance that irons your clothes using generous amounts of steam with a lot less manual effort. They're ideal if you do a lot of ironing, and on a range of fabrics.
Our testers carry out the same performance and ease-of-use tests for steam stations as they do for irons. We've found:
- steam stations generally perform better
- the high levels of steam quickly and effortlessly iron out the creases in your clothes.
On the other hand, steam stations:
- are quite bulky and heavy in comparison to traditional irons
- are awkward to store and move
- should be set up permanently
- require an ironing board made specifically for them, which are pricier than standard ones and can take up more room
- can cause water droplets to accumulate under the ironing board due to the amount of steam generated
- require good ventilation, as the room can steam up during prolonged ironing.
If this all sounds like more trouble and expense than your ironing habits can justify, you might be better off with a basic steam iron.
Make sure the iron is comfortable to pick up and hold. A lightweight iron is easy to steer but needs more downward pressure, while a heavier one requires less pressure but more effort to move and lift it.
Check that any knobs, dials or buttons are easy to see and adjust.
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 that can cause the iron to drag over time. Polished stainless steel can work well, but is also prone to scratching and staining.
This is a useful safety feature that cuts off power to the iron after it's been left sitting idle for a while.
It seems obvious, but when the iron's on and therefore hot, it's good to be able to see this at a glance.
Hose and cord length
The power cord is the cord that runs from the steam station to the power outlet, while the hose is the cord that draws water from the tank and connects the water tank to the iron. It's important that both cord and hose are long enough. If you need to place the main tank on a table you'll want the hose to be long enough to reach the ironing board.
Look for a specially designed heel to wrap the cord around and a clip to secure it – this is much neater and easier than flailing power plugs and twisted-up cords.
When you can control the amount of steam coming from the iron, you can turn it up when you're trying to get creases out of linen, and turn it down for more sensitive fabrics.
These turn on when the iron is heating up and off when the preset temperature is reached.
Transparent water reservoir
A clear outer panel on the reservoir makes it easier to see the water level.
A gap between the iron and soleplate makes it easier to iron around buttons.
This handy feature allows you to iron heavy items such as curtains or suit jackets while they're hanging up.
Steam lock mechanism
It's helpful to be able to lock the steam supply trigger in place, so that you don't have to hold it down while you're ironing. This feature can be particularly convenient if you're doing vertical ironing or ironing a large piece of fabric such as a tablecloth.
The steam stations in our most test start at $150 and go all the way up to $1299 for a high-end model.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.