There aren’t many people who truly love tackling the dreaded ironing pile. Yet choose the right appliance for the job and you’ll be able to smooth away creases with minimal effort, even if you still don’t exactly enjoy it.
The best iron should be fairly lightweight, have a high wattage and a decent water tank capacity so you’re not running to the tap every few minutes. Other features to look for include anti-calcium functions to keep the iron working well, a tapered soleplate, auto switch-off for safety and a vertical steam feature. Look for a long power cable for maximum versatility or consider a cordless iron, although these are usually not as powerful as corded models.
To power through the laundry pile as quickly as possible, check the steam output. The higher it is, the better the iron will work and anything over 50g per minute is very high.
A steam shot is often included for tough creases, although if you regularly plough through a mountain of heavy-duty ironing and have space to spare, it may be worth considering a bulkier steam generator iron instead.
However for most households, a steam iron will be more than enough to keep the whole family crease-free. After working our way through a range of creased items including bedding, trousers and crumpled cotton shirts; we chose these as our favourite smooth operators.
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The best steam irons for 2021 are:
- Best overall– Tower ceraglide 2800w steam iron black and gold: £39.99, Towerhousewares.co.uk
- Best smart iron– Philips azurelite steam iron: £160, Philips.co.uk
- Best for larger households– The Funky Appliance Company grey funky iron: £79.99, Robertdyas.co.uk
- Best for speed–Beldray BEL0820RG ultra ceramic steam iron in rose gold: £34.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for hard water: Tefal ultimate pure steam iron FV9830: £99.99, Very.co.uk
- Best cordless option: Morphy Richards easycharge 360 cordless iron: £39.99, Amazon.co
- Best for vertical steaming: Breville diamondxpress VIN401: £42, Ao.com
- Best bargain: Wilko steam iron 2200w: £10, Wilko.com
Tower ceraglide 2800w steam iron black and gold
Tank capacity: 350ml
Steam output: 50g/min
Steam shot: 150g/min
If you want the best of both worlds, this iron really delivers. It can be used cordless and returned to the base for regular charging, which is ideal for left and right-handed use or if there are children nearby who could trip over a wire. When you need more power, it can also be used corded to deal with deep creases and we found this was essential when wading through a mountain of bedding.
There’s a vertical steam option, anti-drip and anti-calc features and a great self-clean button for hassle-free maintenance, useful if you live in a hard water area. It also has a vertical steam option though we found the steam shot a little weedy on the toughest creases. It heats up in less than 30 seconds and we were especially impressed by the thin, tapered tip which worked well around detail and was brilliant on shirt collars and cuffs. For this price, it’s an excellent all-rounder to suit most everyday needs.
Philips azurelite steam iron
Best: Smart iron
Tank capacity: 350ml
Steam output: 75g/min
Steam shot: 260g/min
This sleek, futuristic iron is the next best thing to someone else doing the ironing for you (the dream!) It has no temperature settings as OptimalTemp technology means one temperature is suitable for everything so the iron even comes with a no burn guarantee on all ironable fabric. This makes it super simple for even a beginner to use straight from the box without worrying about causing damage. Amazingly you can even rest it face down without burning a hole in the ironing board and trust us, we tried it to check.
The steam settings are equally clever, automatically releasing the right amount of steam according to the speed you iron. Go slower on tough creases and it will deliver more steam to help. If you need a little more oomph, there’s also a maximum setting and an extra steam shot but we found crease removal consistently good without this. There’s a scratch-resistant sole-plate, auto-shut off and a long three-metre cable while the Quick Calc release collects scale and reminds you to empty it. Surprisingly, this is quicker and more useful than a self-clean function in hard water areas. The downside? It’s bulky and seriously pricey, but your ironing will never be easier.
The Funky Appliance Company grey funky iron
Best for: Larger households
Tank capacity: 450ml
Steam rate: 45g/min
Steam shot: N/A
We can’t say we’ve ever given much thought to how irons look but this one certainly has style. It comes in a pale blue, rose gold and our favourite, a space-age grey, and its hip retro appeal certainly brightens up the drudgery of ironing.
Apart from its good looks, this iron’s generous water tank is its biggest selling point. It has the largest capacity of any we tested which means less refilling when working through a mammoth laundry load. We also loved the fact the steam output gets slightly louder when the water level is low to take away the guesswork.
It takes longer to warm up than many but once it’s hot, we found the best results came once the dial was turned to the three-dot setting to release steam. It can also be used as a dry iron and there are vertical steam and self-clean settings. The double ceramic soleplate tackled most creases well and there’s a water spray function when you need extra muscle so we didn’t miss not having an extra shot of steam. A water jug and heat-resistant silicone pad to rest the iron on are included in the price.
Beldray BEL0820RG ultra ceramic steam iron in rose gold
Best for: Speed
Tank capacity: 300ml
Steam output: 25g/min
Steam shot: 200g/min
This is the answer to your prayers if you always discover your shirt needs ironing as you’re racing out the door. It’s super-powerful at 3100W so gets hot in a flash and has a variable steam control so you can adjust the output to suit different fabrics. It was a whizz on our stubborn creases thanks to the hefty steam shot and water spray function while anti-calc and anti-drip functions meant it didn’t leak all over our best shirts.
It couldn’t be easier to use. The iron is fairly lightweight and has an easy-grip handle for simple manoeuvring. There’s also a large water tank and a long three-metre lead so you can set yourself up wherever suits, rather than being stuck near a socket. It’s rose gold base makes it as attractive as an iron gets too. It’s a little difficult to see the water level to know when to refill, but the premium features for a great price make it hard to grumble.
Tefal ultimate pure steam iron FV9830
Best for: Hard water
Tank capacity: 350ml
Steam output: 55g/min
Steam shot: 240g/min
No need to fear stains on your best clothes with this super-powerful iron that makes light work of keeping much-loathed limescale at bay. It’s fitted with a patented MicroScale filter that captures the smallest of scale particles and delivers 100 per cent filtered steam for pristine results. Just be warned: the filter does need cleaning regularly to keep it tip-top.
It irons like a dream too. It heats up very quickly and has an excellent vertical function for hanging garments and curtains while the “durilium airglide” soleplate means hardly any pressure is needed on the toughest crease. We found even thick cotton shirts looked pristine with barely any effort. We also loved the speedy auto-off function, which turns the iron off after 30 seconds when horizontal and eight minutes when upright. It’s a little on the heavy side though, which means it might be best avoided if you have weak wrists.
Morphy Richards easycharge 360 cordless iron
Best: Cordless option
Tank capacity: 350ml
Steam output: 30g/min
Steam shot: 130g/min
For hands-down convenience, this model was the best entirely cordless model we tested and is also Morphy Richards’s best-selling iron. It’s great for those worried about pets or children running around or for anyone who can’t iron near an electrical socket. Just lift it off the 360-degree charging base and you’re ready to go, without a wire to slow you down. When it needs recharging, place it back on the base in any direction and it takes less than 30 seconds to reheat.
On full power, it’s a doddle to use with a clearly labelled temperature-controlled steam dial, a large water tank and a good vertical steam function. Self-clean, auto switch-off and anti-drip features make it worry-free too. However, the temperature does start to drop after a couple of items so if you always have a towering laundry pile, a corded model might be a better option.
Breville diamondXpress VIN401
Best for: Vertical steaming
Tank capacity: 400ml
Steam output: 70g/min
Steam shot: 200g/min
An iron with added bling, this ostentatious white and rose gold machine has a multi-directional soleplate enforced with crushed diamonds no less. It’s not just for showing off, but actually helps the iron glide smoothly and we felt it was noticeably efficient. The soleplate is packed with steam holes too, making it ideal for vertical steaming and it smoothed our crumpled curtains a treat.
It has a long, three-metre lead, anti-scale and anti-drip technology plus the all-important auto shut off. It’s also easy to fill and has a self-clean function so you don’t need to spend any more time with your iron than is strictly necessary. But it’s on the heavy side and could become difficult to manoeuvre when using for long periods.
Wilko steam iron 2200w
Tank capacity: 300ml
Steam output: 10–20g/min
Steam shot: 0.4–0.8g/min
If the idea of spending serious cash on an iron makes you weep, this budget model does almost everything you will ever need for just £10. It has a water spray, variable steam control, self-clean function and a decent antic-calc, anti-drip feature, plus it can also be used for vertical steaming. We were especially impressed by the variable steam control which helped tackle most ordinary creases with ease. The steam output and steam shot are much less powerful than on more expensive irons so some of the worst creases did need going over a second time with a bit more pressure. However for occasional ironing, this is a bargain no-brainer.
Steam iron FAQs
Steam irons vs steam generator irons
Steam irons are usually cheaper than steam generator irons and they take up less space too. Good ones should easily cope with all your basic ironing needs and some are advanced enough to deal with a lot more besides.
Steam generator irons tend to be more expensive and are a lot bigger and bulkier. That’s because they pump out continuous steam which can make them quicker, more effortless and give a more professional finish. Some models have additional features too – vertically cleaning steam curtains or clothes on hangers, for instance.
Top features to look for in a steam iron
This goes hand in hand with the ergonomics of the handle in ensuring you don’t get tired arms and wrists, and is especially important if you have mammoth piles of clothes to get through.
Auto shut off is the main feature to consider here as it means the iron turns itself off if it remains unused for a certain period or is knocked over.
This means you can iron anywhere, rather than being tied down to your nearest plug socket. But be warned they can cool down quicker, meaning you may have to put it back in its base more often than you’d like.
Water tank capacity
Nobody wants to be running to and from the tap every few minutes, so the bigger the better, especially if you iron a lot. The usual range is around 0.2-0.4 litres. You may also want to make sure there’s a decent size opening for refilling and that you can see the water level clearly.
Most irons claim to have this, but we found only some genuinely help prevent and collect limescale so you can iron with ease in harder water areas.
Continuous steam pressure
The higher the steam output, the quicker you get your ironing out of the way. Anything over 50g/minute should do you proud.
This feature is a godsend for stubborn creases. We wouldn’t be without it.
The verdict: Steam irons
The Tower ceraglide 2800w steam iron is an unbeatable all-rounder for its great price, decent steam output and option to work both with or without the cord. If you’re willing to part with a lot more cash, the Philips azurelite steam iron wowed us with its intuitive settings, classy good looks and astonishing non-burn guarantee.
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