Gone are the days of sweating over a mangle, skinning our knuckles on washboards, and lugging heavy charcoal irons back and forth across shirt collars and cuffs — and thank goodness, too. Thanks to innovations like the steam iron, things are a darn sight easier these days, but with relentless re-invention and hundreds of brands on the scene all offering their tools up for scrutiny, we face a new problem: choice. That’s where we come in — we’ve already collated a list of the best irons for particular needs and specific jobs, so that you don’t have to. Ahh, the best-of list, yet another marvel of the modern age. So what is the best iron? The best steam iron? The best iron for stubborn creases? Read on...
A few details to iron out first, though. There are decent steam irons for every budget, so for smaller households with smaller laundry loads, and no special requirements, you don’t have to spend a lot. However, for helpful features that’ll make short work of that tall pile of clothes, such as a tapered nose-plate to fit between buttons and pleats, a transparent water meter for easy filling, or auto shut-off for peace of mind, it’s often worth spending a bit extra. If you frequently use your tumble dryer (opens in new tab) to dry garments, you may notice some really stubborn creases in fabrics such as cotton, in which case opting for a high wattage iron that can power some serious steam and heat through your clothing may well be your best bet.
To see how the soleplate (that’s the bit that comes into contact with the fabric) fares before you buy, the material it’s made of is usually quite telling. All of our picks have ceramic or stainless steel soleplates, both of which glide easily on all fabrics and are durable and scratch-resistant, although steel has the slight edge when it comes to hardiness.
Finally, there’s the type. While all irons essentially do the same thing (albeit with some doing it better than others), there are some slightly off-the-wall iterations in our list to meet specific needs: there’s a huge, but affordable steam generator iron for cutting through very large loads; a travel iron for taking on work trips and cruises; even a cordless iron for outdoors or socket-less spots.
This Braun steam iron is supremely quick to heat to temperature and cut through creases, making it perfect if you’re often having to press things at short notice. To the chronically late: this one’s for you. The precision tip and water spray function are ideal for small creases and the fiddly bits around yokes, collars, cuffs and buttons, and the steam shot performs very well, so if you’re after a flawless finish in the blink of an eye, this is an excellent buy.
If you’re sick of being hampered by short cords or hard-to-reach power sockets, this cordless iron by Philips is a freeing solution. Just charge it from the accompanying base, and it’s ready in under 6 seconds, so you’ll be cutting through that pile in no time. If you like to iron outside, or anywhere that doesn’t have a socket, it’s great — however, if you’re a speedy steamer, the fact that it needs re-charging every 30 seconds or so is likely to irk you. Try the Braun TexStyle instead.
This Breville steam iron is a fantastic all-round performer at a very competitive price, making it our best all-rounder. It’s quick to heat and glides across fabric, while its multi-directional ceramic soleplate attacks creases from all angles, and its detail tip makes it great for button plackets and directing steam into tricky-to-reach places, and your hand won’t get tired from the comfortable grip. When you’re done, it shuts off automatically for safety. If you’re a first time buyer and you’re not sure which iron to go for, go for this one.
The impressive 2600W output of this Russell Hobbs iron makes it a powerful ally in the fight against creases, but its most impressive feature is its 45g of continuous steam output, which puts more pressure on textile fibres to whip them into shape, and breezes through large loads of ironing. It’s also self-cleaning to fight limescale, and has auto-shut off to banish panics after leaving the house. A high-powered buy that’s perfect for users in large households with lots of washing.
The only steam generator iron on our list is budget friendly and way more heavy-duty than its statistics would suggest, making it a great affordable introduction to the next generation of home steam irons. The layout of the controls and cable is a little annoying, but it’s fully functional — as well as offering handy features like vertical steaming, it’s powerful enough to cut your ironing time in half. If you do a lot of washing, and can afford the extra pounds, this is a great, albeit much bulkier alternative to the Russell Hobbs Steamglide.
For overnight formal events and business trips where you have to look polished and put together, a travel iron is a great buy, and this Russell Hobbs version is our pick of them all. Its stainless steel soleplate can take a bashing in transit, and it’s compact and lightweight for popping into a suitcase or holdall. Surprisingly fully featured and powerful for a miniature iron, its water spray and variable steam functions get even travel-worn creases out.
Noticing missing buttons, holes and loose hems when you're ironing? Check out our guide to the best sewing machines for beginners (opens in new tab) and activate your inner sewing bee.
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