If you’ve got the money and space, steam generator irons can be ideal for racing through towering laundry piles and stubborn creases. Not only can they hold around three times as much water as traditional steam irons, but they tend to be lighter to hold and easier to use. That said, some steam generator irons do not deliver on manufacturer promises and it’s worth noting – as you’ll see from our steam iron guide – that some traditional steam irons are actually more steamy and effective than the poorest performing steam generators. Plus, steam generator irons can take an age to warm up (one we tested took over 10 minutes) and make a lot of noise. So we’ve tested models across all price brackets to find out which ones cut the mustard.
When buying one, always remember that the extra dosh spent on pricier steam generator irons may not be worth it if your needs are pretty basic. So start off by deciding which features you really need. We’ve already mentioned noise and length of warm-up time – which may or may not be important to you. Also consider the length of the cable, the comfort of the handle and how heavy the iron is. Does it have a good limescale resistance (important in hard water areas)? Do you have to regularly clean the iron or change the cartridge? Does it have a thin, tapered soleplate for reaching under buttons and in tight pleats? Is the soleplate scratch resistant? How easy is it to see when the water needs filling up and what about the ease of actually filling it up? Finally, are safety features important to you?
1. Tefal GV6720 Effectis Steam Generator Iron: £92.94, Amazon
Steam generator irons might help you get through your ironing quicker, but let’s face it – they can be eyesores that take up lots of space. Not so with this small version which does a good job on all fabric types and in the tightest nooks and crannies of clothing, with very little pressure needed. And despite its petite size, you still get nearly an hour’s worth of steam from one tank of water. Besides the water level being tricky to see, we can’t fault it.
2. Philips GC9630/20 PerfectCare Elite Steam Generator Iron: £279.99, John Lewis
This super-steamy iron races through crumpled laundry at a rate of knots, providing well over an hour of ironing on one tank of water. It has a one-size-fits-all setting so there’s no need to muck about with the thermostat for different materials and the manoeuvrability is second-to-none. It’s a doddle to clean, well-built and easy to store. The cord is on the short side, though, as well as being quite stiff.
3. Russell Hobbs 20330 Easy Steam Generator Iron: £101, Amazon
This is ideal for hard water areas as it stands up so well against limescale. It’s also good at blitzing through piles of lightly creased laundry and does a decent job of reaching tricky areas thanks to the thin soleplate, which is also very stretch resistant. We found it easy to fill up the water tank, as well as to store it away. On the downside, deep creases can need going over a few times and it doesn’t have an anti-drip function to stop water trickling out on low temperatures.
4. Tefal GV8931 Pro Express Total Auto Steam Generator: £149.99, Amazon
Prepare for impressively big puffs of steam that keep on coming from this beast of an iron. It powers through all but most persistent creases in record time – and the steam boost will sort out the rest. It’s surprisingly lightweight for an iron of this size and unlike many steam generator irons, the water level is easy to see. Limescale doesn’t pose a problem, but you’ll need some patience to wait for it to start steaming (two-and-half minutes) and the cord is quite short.
5. Swan SI9051N Compact Steam Generator: £68.51, Amazon
The two downsides of steam generator irons are that they’re pricey and huge – both issues that this iron tackles by being cheap and compact. For lighter wrinkles, it’s great. Meanwhile, deeper crumples can be tackled with the steam boost, although you might have to go over the same spot more than once. It’s quick to get going – handy if you need that shirt ironed in a hurry – but the soleplate could be thinner and the cord is quite inflexible.
6. Morphy Richards Auto Clean Power Steam Elite Steam Generator Iron: £149.99, Robert Dyas
Whether it’s thick jeans or a delicate silk blouse, this iron’s powerful steam will ensure it comes out super-smooth. And even if you’ve got an ironing pile that seems to reach the ceiling, this one will do you proud as it gives you over an hour of continuous steam before the tank needs filling up again. Best of all, you don’t have to clean it as its patented technology does it for you. But it’s not the lightest or most comfortable to use.
7. Bosch Sensixx Premier Power TDS3562GB: £199, John Lewis
If weight (or lack of it) is top of your list, then this iron fits the bill. It’s by far the lightest iron we tried and it’s also outstanding when it comes to limescale defences. You won’t be disappointed with the steam levels which make short work of lighter creases, although you might need a bit of elbow grease for more stubborn crinkles. The soleplate doesn’t scratch and it’s easy to fill up with water. On the downside, the soleplate could be thinner and you’ll have to wait two minutes for it to get going.
8. Rowenta Silence Steam Extreme Generator Iron: £269.99, Lakeland
If you like watching telly or chatting while you iron, you’ll love this model that’s unusually, with an effortless push over the fabric producing a perfectly smooth finish. It’s easy to keep clean and doesn’t build up with limescale. It’s also very durable, with steam levels staying strong even after months of use. It takes over two minutes to heat up, though, and won’t win any prizes for comfort levels.
9. Braun CareStyle 3 IS3044 Steam Generator Iron: £84.99, Currys PC World
This mid-priced steam generator iron automatically adjusts the temperature according to whether you’re ironing on delicate or thicker fabrics – great for those who don’t like fiddling about with the thermostat. The steam is consistent and, handily, the thin soleplate works in all directions. But it doesn’t have a built-in limescale filter and we had to use the steam boost more often than with other irons.
10. John Lewis Steam Generator Iron: £99.95, John Lewis
Launched last year, this is a great price for such a premium and lightweight model, which eliminates most creases (although you’ll have to push down hard and use the steam boost button for the really obstinate ones). The removable tank is easy to fill, it’s limescale resistant and we also like the fact that it tells you when your boiler needs rinsing out, which helps keep steam levels high. But the soleplate could be thinner – and watch out for zips and buttons scratching it.
The Verdict: Steam generator irons
If the sheer bulkiness of steam generator irons puts you off, consider the Tefal Effectis GV6720 Express Compact Easy – a trim version that is brilliant in every way, except for a hard-to-see water level. And if you want an iron that will blow you away in term of speed and efficiency, our vote goes to Philips GC9630/20 PerfectCare Elite.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing
- More about:
- House and Garden