With all irons designed to do the same thing, many people wonder what the point is in paying top dollar when you can pick one up for a fraction of the price. But the reality is that steam generator irons – which tend to be the priciest – generally make much quicker and easier work of ironing. The science is simple – steam is the best wrinkle remover and steam generators tend to have at least twice as much steam as traditional irons.
That said, we found that many cheaper-end steam generators aren’t much cop. And even if you fork out on an expensive one, you’ll need to check out specific features, like protection from limescale build-up. After all, if your iron scales up quickly and isn’t easy to descale, it won’t work properly and could stain your fabrics.
Regular irons have their place too, particularly for households where ironing is kept to a minimum or where there’s a lack of storage space. They’re also better for those without deep pockets. If you go for this option, be sure to choose one with a decent water capacity so that you don’t have to run to the tap to refill it every few minutes.
Then there are irons that don’t fit either mould, like the Morphy Richards Redefine Atomist, which use entirely new technology – more on that below.
Whatever type you go for, make sure the weight, balance and handle feel right – you don’t want to wind up with shoulder ache or rubbing on your hand, for instance. Preferably, the soleplate should be scratch-resistant to help it glide, as well as thin and tapered if you iron a lot of clothes with buttons and/or tight pleats.
The best irons have a water tank that’s easy to fill, with a wide hole and clearly marked maximum fillings, and a steam burst for stubborn creases. Auto shut-off may also be useful, especially if you’re the kind of person who gets on the train and worries all day that you left the iron on.
Some people like a lot of settings, while others might prefer a more intuitive machine. And ask yourself if you’ll want to use the iron vertically – for suits and curtains, perhaps. Finally, do you tend to iron near a plug socket? If you don’t, cord length should be a priority.
1. Tefal FV9630 Ultimate Anti-Calc, £57, amazon
This produces lots of steam and it’s relatively quiet. Provided you remove and clean the calcium collector and anti-calc valve three times a year, and the self-clean function once a year, it should last ages. There are plenty of settings and it’s ergonomic, though you’ll need to refill it more often than some as it gets through water quickly.
2. Philips Perfectcare Silence GC9550/02, £200, John Lewis
This pricey steam generator iron will give you comprehensively pressed clothes. It gets steamy fast and glides over all clothes with ease – despite there being a one-size-fits-all setting. You get around 35 minutes’ steam time from one tank. Two small gripes: it’s not great at sliding under buttons and is weighty.
3. Russell Hobbs Plug and Wind, £25, amazon
This great-value iron is quick to heat, simple to use, and effective on deep creases. There’s a decent size tank, adjustable settings and a 2.5m power cord. It’s a doddle to descale – which helps maintain steam levels – but it does spit out lots of scale when you’ve finished.
4. Morphy Richards Redefine Atomist, £220, amazon
This looks and works different to most irons, with the patented vapour mist technology keeping it limescale-free and using 75 per cent less energy than steam irons do. The temperature controls are precise and we found it never dripped. You can see the creases disappear through the glass soleplate, too.
5. Bosch Pro-Hygienic Steam Generator, £300, John Lewis
One for the hygiene-obsessed here, as this steam generator iron removes 99.9 per cent of all common microbes and bacteria. All nine ironing programmes are effective and it’s really comfortable to hold.
6. Braun TS355A, £30, amazon
This decent budget buy has precise and accurate temperature controls, is adept at resisting limescale build-up and produces good levels of steam. Be careful when you’re filling up the water tank as it’s easy to spill and the cable isn’t as long as some.
7. Philips GC382980 Azur Performer, £38, John Lewis
This no-frills iron produces so much steam–even without pressing the boost button–that you may only need to iron one side. The cord is long and the soleplate, with its pointed tip, is excellent with hard-to-reach spots. Downsides are that the design isn’t as ergonomic as some and it can drip on lower temperatures.
8. Tefal Pro Express Total X-pert Steam Gen, £200, Lakeland
With its five different settings, this is fast and effective. There’s an ultra-fine mist for stubborn creases, a tapered soleplate that is great for tight pleats and sliding under buttons, and it has a vertical steam function for curtains and suits.
9. Lakeland Easy Fill Iron, £40, Lakeland
With a good capacity water tank, which has a wide opening, this lightweight iron lasts over 15 minutes before it needs refilling. There’s a three-metre cable and it’s prone to a little dripping sometimes.
10. Rowenta Steam Force DW9230, £77, amazon
Excellent at resisting limescale, this has a very powerful steam boost. Because steam levels adjust according to temperature, you automatically get more for thicker clothes, which saves time. The tank doesn’t last long, though, and it’s not light.
If you’ve got deep pockets, we think your money is best spent on Philips Perfectcare Silence GC9550/02. But if you’re on a budget or don’t want a steam generator, we’d suggest Russell Hobbs Plug and Wind.
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