Iron Buying Guide

If you're looking for a new iron, you will probably be looking at a steam iron - most modern irons are steam irons. There are a number of options and features which can help save you time and effort, helping you create a perfect, crease-free finish every time.

Steam Irons

Modern steam irons use variable temperatures and steam to smooth out creases in any kind of fabric, making ironing much less of a chore than a few decades ago.

Steam iron power is determined by a number of factors, notably the wattage, which denotes how much heat the iron can generate. The design of the iron can also have an impact on the iron's effectiveness, so it is possible to have a lower wattage iron with more power than a higher wattage iron, depending on how it is made and which other features it may have.

Modern steam irons are quick to heat up and even the most basic model is suitable for a small family.

Steam Iron Features

  • Variable Steam Control - Most steam irons have variable steam control to allow you to precisely control the amount of heat and steam produced, allowing you to adjust the settings according to the fabric being ironed.
  • Steam Burst - A steam burst feature allows you to deliver a powerful burst of additional steam just when you need it most, good for dealing with stubborn creases, and for creating sharp creases where desirable, for example on trousers.
  • Continuous Steam - Continuous steam is a feature that is designed to make easy work of textiles and gives a steady flow of steam while in use.
  • Vertical Steam - A vertical steam feature allows you to de-crease curtains and hanging items. This feature is especially useful for smoothing delicate garments such as dresses or suits, and means the iron is held a few centimetres away from the fabric during use. There is no need for the iron to make contact with the fabric in order to effectively de-crease.
  • Water Capacity - - A larger water tank means less refilling during ironing, however this also means a heavier iron.
  • Cord Length - A longer cord will make ironing easier, as you have more flexibility and room to manoeuvre - it also means you have more choice of where to do your ironing. Look for a pivoting cord for maximum flexibility.
  • Non-Stick Sole Plate - This is the part of the iron that makes contact with the fabric when ironing. Look for a non-stick coating or polished stainless steel plate for easier ironing. A better quality soleplate will add to the durability of the iron.
  • Auto Shut Off - A safety feature which automatically switches the iron off if it is not used for a few minutes and after a shorter time if the iron is left horizontally.
  • Misting Spray - This allows you to spray a fine mist of water onto an area of fabric prior to ironing it, which can help to remove deep-set creases.
  • Anti-Drip - Designed to prevent leakage of water, which can sometimes occur and can stain the fabric.
  • Removable Water Tank - Makes refilling easier and less messy.
  • Self-Cleaning Systems - An integral feature on some irons, designed to reduce limescale build-up and prolong the life of your iron.
  • Narrow Tip - The narrower the front tip of your iron is, the easier you will be able to iron small, awkward areas of clothing such as sleeves, collars and cuffs. Most irons also have a button groove as standard - this is a small gap or groove around the edge of the iron plate, which allows you to easily iron the area around buttons on shirts.
  • Cord Storage - This is a safety feature. Some irons have built-in area for storing the power cord after use, to help prevent accidents.

Steam Generator Irons

Steam generator irons consist of a traditional style iron connected to a water tank/steam generator. They're designed to help people quickly and effortlessly get through large loafs or ironing. Many manufacturers state that steam generator irons can cut your ironing time by as much as 50%.

Significantly more steam is produced by a steam generator iron that a traditional iron, making them much more powerful. Both sides of a garment can be ironed at the same time, which is the main contributing factor for the reduced ironing time with steam generators.

The large separate water tanks found with steam generator irons bring a host of benefits. They can hold much more water than traditional irons, meaning the iron needs topping up with water less frequently. The fact that the tank is separate makes the iron lighter, resulting in a more pleasurable ironing experience that won't put excess strain on your wrist or arm. This is ideal for large loads.

Sole Plates

The sole plate is the part of the iron that makes contact with the fabric when ironing. Ideally, you should purchase an iron with a non-stick sole plate as it won't become 'sticky' over time and is less likely to put wrinkles in your clothes. There are 4 main types of sole plate:

  • Aluminium
    Generally speaking, aluminium sole plates are NOT non-stick, meaning they can become 'sticky' over time and are much more difficult to iron with. They are also harder to clean and scratch easily.
  • Ceramic
    Ceramic sole plates are the highest quality sole plates available. They distribute heat and steam evenly, and glide smoothly over fabrics, making ironing quick and simple. They're also non-stick and highly durable, meaning they'll last longer than other sole plates.
  • Non-Stick Coated
    Typically, non-stick-coated sole plates are durable and scratch resistant, meaning they'll last for a decent amount of time. They glide smoothly over fabrics and don't pull or wrinkle the material.
  • Stainless Steel
    Stainless steel sole plates distribute heat evenly and glide well over fabrics. However, if proper care isn't taken, they can scratch easily and become difficult to use.

Ironing Boards

The essential partner to any iron is an ironing board. As with most things, there is a wide selection available and most are similar in shape and function. Ironing boards always feature a wide, padded surface to lay fabrics on, most with a vented steel interior to allow steam to pass through. All ironing boards fold away flat when not in use. The main considerations when choosing an ironing board are:

  • Size - Some ironing boards are larger than others, with cheaper models tending to be smaller. A smaller ironing board means you need to move fabrics around more in order to de-crease them, so if you need to iron lots of large clothing or linen, a larger board is recommended. For a small family or one-person household, a smaller ironing board may be sufficient. Smaller ironing boards are easier to fold, move and store.
  • Height Adjustable - Look for this if your ironing board will be used by more than one person, as different heights will be more comfortable for people of different heights. Most ironing boards, including cheaper models, have this as standard. Depending on how much adjustability your ironing board has, you may be able to lower the ironing surface to a height suitable for ironing whilst sitting down on the sofa.