Best Steam Irons of 2020
Every household needs a high-quality steam iron. Use our shopping guide and accompanying top picks to find the best steam iron for you.
The Best Steam Irons for Pressing Clothes
It's easy to look and feel great when you've got a closet full of crisp shirts, pressed pants, and other nicely ironed items.
And all you need to achieve that prim and polished look is a steam iron.
A steam iron is the perfect tool for removing wrinkles from clothing. But figuring out which steam iron would best fit your lifestyle can be a time-consuming hassle.
At BestReviews, we're here to help. Through extensive product research and data analysis, we identified the top three steam irons on the market and laid them out for you in our product recommendation matrix above. We never accept free test items from manufacturers, because we want to be the honest and bias-free information source you turn to again and again.
We culled the knowledge we gained during research to create the shopping guide that follows. If you'd like to learn more about steam irons and what constitutes a great one, you've come to the right place.
Types of Steam Irons
Although most steam irons look similar, you'll notice some key differences upon closer inspection. Consider the following steam iron types and their characteristics.
Corded Steam Irons
Corded irons are the most common type of residential steam iron.
- Handle on top
- Easy, one-handed operation
- Soleplate with curved edges
- Controls located near the handle
- Requires connection with a standard electrical outlet
Cordless Steam Irons
A cordless steam iron looks almost identical to a corded steam iron, but, as the name suggests, it has no cord.
- Runs on rechargeable battery power
- Rests in charging dock when not in use
- Often smaller in size
- Suitable for travel
Other Types of Steam Irons
Steam Ironing System
A steam ironing system is two to three times bigger than a traditional iron. The base is a large water tank; a handheld iron attaches to the tank via a hose. Pressure pushes heated steam through the hose to the handheld iron and soleplate.
- Larger and more powerful than a traditional iron
- Irons multiple fabric layers at once
- More popular in Europe than the U.S.
A garment steamer looks a bit like a vacuum cleaner. Water sits in a heating tank at the bottom. As the water boils, steam rises through an attached hose. You then use the nozzle to blow steam across hanging clothing.
- Steam is applied directly to the clothing
- Great for simple wrinkles
- Not suitable for stubborn wrinkles
In spite of the other options, most people prefer to stick with a lower-priced steam iron, either corded or cordless. As such, the remainder of this shopping guide focuses on corded and cordless steam irons.
Best Steam Iron Features
When comparing steam irons, look for these key features. Each does its part to make your time spent ironing safer and more efficient.
- Automatic Shut-Off: This is a valuable feature for any household item that generates heat. You wouldn't want an unattended iron touching flammable material for a long period of time. When the iron detects that it has not moved from an upright position for several minutes, it turns itself off. Similarly, if the iron remains unmoved in a horizontal position, auto shut-off usually kicks in after 20 to 40 seconds.
- Handle: Most steam irons can be easily held with one hand. The handle is typically made of plastic to keep the iron's weight down. There may be a steam burst button on the handle, but most of the other controls are located elsewhere.
- Steam Burst: As previously mentioned, some steam irons include a button that allows you to add extra steam to the mix for a couple of seconds. This feature proves handy when you're working on a tough wrinkle.
- Tank: The tank, also called the water reservoir, is the compartment in the iron that holds water. Most corded iron tanks hold between 4 and 12 ounces of liquid, which is later converted to steam. Travel irons hold only a couple ounces of water.
- Temperature Control: Most steam irons include a temperature control dial that allows you to adjust the heat of the soleplate. This feature, sometimes called the iron's thermostat, is a must-have, as different fabrics require different amounts of heat for best results.
The soleplate is the flat, heated portion of the iron. To ensure best results, it must be made well. You don't want a soleplate that snags or sticks, or you run the risk of scorching your clothing.
Here's a look at common soleplate materials.
- Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is the most common material found in steam iron soleplates. It's the best type of soleplate to use with most fabrics, including cotton, rayon, and silk. Manufacturers coat the stainless-steel soleplate with chromium to protect it from rust. Stainless-steel soleplates are also easier to clean than other types.
- Aluminum: Soleplates made of aluminum are typically coated in ceramic or covered with stainless steel. Aluminum conducts heat evenly across the entire soleplate so you don't get cold spots. You'll rarely find a soleplate made entirely of aluminum; it's usually combined with another material.
- Ceramic: Ceramic is typically paired with aluminum when used on a soleplate. A ceramic-covered aluminum soleplate offers one primary advantage over stainless steel: It resists static electricity. These plates are great for ironing clothing with synthetic fibers.
Temperature Guide for Fabrics
For smooth, wrinkle-free clothing, set your iron's temperature control in accordance with the type of fabric you're ironing.
- Cotton, denim, and linen respond best to a temperature range of 300°F to 400°F. Steam is also beneficial for these types of fabrics.
- Polyester, rayon, and silk fare well when ironed at a temperature range of 225°F to 300°F. Steam ironing is safe for rayon and silk, but do not use steam on polyester.
- Nylon and spandex require low iron temperatures of less than 225°F for best results. Steam is not recommended for these fabrics.
Some irons allow you to set a specific temperature, while others only let you select a general temperature range. And some irons don't offer specific degrees of heat, only allowing you to pick from low, medium, and high settings.
Steam Iron FAQ
Q. What's the best way to iron synthetic fabrics?
A. Clothing made from synthetic fibers is often tough to straighten on the ironing board because of static electricity; the clothing tends to "stick" to itself. Consider a ceramic-coated soleplate if you own lots of synthetics. This type of iron does the best job of minimizing problems with static electricity.
Q. Are there any advantages to cordless irons?
A. Most of the steam irons you'll find on the market are corded models that plug directly into the wall. But there are some cordless, battery-powered units that charge on a docking base. Cordless irons really offer only one advantage: the ability to be carried anywhere. If you need to take an iron in a suitcase for a trip, a cordless unit is small and easy to pack. But corded irons offer more power, faster warm-up times, and longer operational times than cordless units. Corded units often cost a little bit less than cordless irons too.
Q. What's the typical cost of a high-quality, brand-name steam iron?
A. Although you may pay a little more for a steam iron from a big name, the build quality is probably worth it. Some of the top steam iron brands are Black+Decker, Hamilton Beach, Kenmore, Panasonic, Rowenta, Shark, Steamfast, and Sunbeam. You can typically purchase an iron from one of these manufacturers for $40 to $70. And there are some steam irons that perform well in the $25 to $40 range too.
Q. How do I avoid water spots on my clothing with a steam iron?
A. To prevent dribbling and water spots on delicate clothing where steam is not required, we recommend the following:
- Remove all water from the reservoir when not in use. This prevents leakage and lengthens the lifespan of the iron.
- When you begin an ironing session, tackle your delicates first without adding water. After you've finished those items, add water for the remaining clothing.
- If you're ironing at a low temperature, don't use steam. You don't really need it, and this helps avoid unwanted dripping.