A steam iron is an essential household item, but with so many different steam irons to choose from it can be difficult to ensure you pick the right one for you. Take a look at our guide to choosing steam irons so you can learn everything you need to know in order to purchase the perfect one for your needs.
About Steam Irons
The steam iron has come a long way since it was first invented and there are now hundreds of different models available with various capabilities. Some useful features to look out for include:
Continuous output – this makes ironing easier as there is more pressure placed on material fibres.
Steam burst – this will give you a quick burst of steam to get rid of particularly stubborn creases.
Variable controls – these allow you to vary the steam intensity for different types of fabric.
Vertical steaming – this allows you to steam clothes in a vertical position such as suits.
Each type of iron works well under different circumstances and has its benefits and drawbacks.
This applies steam to clothing as you iron which relaxes and moistens the fabric, making it easier to remove creases. In general, the higher the steam output of your iron the more efficient it will be. This type of iron is ideal for small loads or everyday use.
Steam generator irons
A steam generator iron can produce twice as much steam as a normal steam iron, making it more effective at getting rid of creases easily, especially on thicker fabrics. Ideal for large loads and getting perfect ironing results.
Non-pressurised steam generator iron
This provides 80-100g per minute of steam output. The water is contained in a separate base or tank which makes it easier to use. This type of iron should also come with some anti-lime scale cartridges which should be replaced every couple of months.
Pressurised steam generator iron
This provides 100-120g of steam output per minute but is also able to penetrate fabrics with steam more easily, making ironing quicker and more effective. This type of iron can produce a constant supply of highly pressurised steam and is ideal for large loads and getting perfect results.
The soleplate is the face of the iron (usually metal) which runs over the clothing during ironing. There are five different kinds of soleplate as follows:
a better glide than aluminium but more easily scratched
hard wearing, easy clean and excellent gliding capabilities
durable, hard wearing and easy to use, but can be potentially difficult to clean
a better glide than aluminium but can become scratched more easily
a good heat conductor but can scratch easily and be hard to clean
Other features to look out for on your iron include:
this prevents lime scale from forming if you live in a hard water area
use the dial to tell the iron which fabric you’re ironing so it reaches the correct temperature.
this penetrates the fabric rapidly so that stubborn creases can be removed more easily.
Automatic switch off
this automatically switches your iron off if it’s left unused for a certain period of time when on. This prevents accidents or damage.
this allows you to top up the water without having to turn the iron off.
Steam irons jargon buster
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the jargon surrounding steam irons then take a look at the following table which lists the most common terms and their meaning.
Refers to the amount of power needed to run the iron. Look for a higher wattage to improve performance and generate heat rapidly.
This allows you to use the iron vertically for steaming suits, curtains and so on.
The iron can produce a burst of steam to help tackle tough creases.
The steam output is measured in grams per minute. The higher the output the more effective the iron will be at removing creases.
This is the part of the iron that glides over garments and through which the steam is distributed.
Stainless steel soleplate
One of the cheaper types of sole plate, it glides well and distributes heat evenly but can scratch and wear easily.
Non-stick coated soleplate
Can be cleaned very easily and usually more durable than steel soleplates.
This type of plate is considered very high quality and usually at the more expensive end of the market. Very durable with a non-stick, easy clean surface.
The cord length is usually measured in metres. The longer the cord the easier your iron will be to manoeuvre, but check that the cord can be easily stored.
This means that you can refill the tank as your iron without having to switch the iron off.
This refers to the volume of water the iron can hold. A steam generator iron stores water in a separate tank which means it can hold more than a conventional steam iron.
Auto shut off
This turns off your iron automatically if you accidentally leave it on.
You can buy irons with an in-built anti-scale function or purchase cartridges which need to be replaced every one to two months, depending on how hard the water is where you live.
This helps prevent water spilling or leaking from the iron so you don’t end up with wet patches on your clothes as you iron.
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