We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Modern steam irons take your clothes from crumpled to crisp in short order.
Big shots of steam help smooth creases, and safety features like automatic shutoff prevent your clothes — and your house — from going up in flames.
For the best results, an iron must hold its temperature evenly and spit uniform amounts of steam throughout the entire ironing process. Poor-performing irons can exhibit wild temperature swings, and they sometimes leak water from their steam holes, leaving you with a puddle on your favorite shirt.
In the BestReviews lab, we tested five of the most popular steam irons available.
When evaluating a steam iron, our top performance consideration was temperature. How quickly does the iron reach the proper temp? Will the iron hold that temp for as long as needed?
To test temperature integrity, we stretched a piece of black linen across each iron's soleplate. Using an infrared laser thermometer, we then recorded the time it took to reach 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (Infrared laser thermometers can't obtain realistic readings from the shiny metal found on a soleplate, which is why we used the linen.)
We also checked temperature settings for "wool," "cotton," and "linen" on each iron. The accepted temperatures for these fabrics are 300, 400, and 445 degrees, respectively.
To evaluate soleplate evenness, we left each iron on for 10 minutes (occasionally jiggling it to prevent it from automatically switching off) and took infrared images using a FLIR One camera attached to an iPhone.
For those concerned with the power usage, we measured the wattage each iron consumed while being heated to its highest temperature using an Onset “Hobo” plug load logger.
All products share similar basic features:
Some of the irons on our list also have digital displays.
Through testing we found that a few of the steam irons didn't stand up to their manufacturer's claims, while others surpassed them.
Most of our test products featured dial-operated temperature controls, but two of them had higher-tech digital displays. Four of the five included an automatic shutoff function that cuts the heat if the iron hasn't moved for a certain period of time. We evaluated these features during testing.
We also filled and measured the capacity of each reservoir, noting whether there were leaks from any part of the iron.
With the help of some extremely wrinkled shirts, we checked each product's steam and spritz functions and evaluated their suitability as a vertical steamer. We also noted how “balanced” each iron felt in the hand.
We compared our test results with what owners had to say about each product. We then considered the price (at time of publication) to determine the overall value of each steam iron.
The Good: Plenty of steam holes and lots of consistent steam. Bottle nose tip enhances precision.
The Bad: Expensive. Reservoir fill tube is at an awkward angle.
The Bottom Line: Though pricey, this hefty iron is a dependable laundry room staple, especially for those with lots of ironing to do.
Quick to reach its highest temperature setting, the Rowenta DW5080 also draws the most electricity of any product on our list.
At the linen setting, the soleplate temperature measured 415 degrees Fahrenheit. The wool setting registered 295 degrees. Both of these temperatures were acceptable for their corresponding fabric types.
This iron produces steam prodigiously, and it has plenty of stamina. The vertical steaming function shoots six or seven strong jets of steam before needing to heat up again. The 14-ounce reservoir can chug along for quite a while before requiring a refill, which is a good thing since the fill tube is positioned at a clumsy angle.
Many steam irons offer a “burst of steam” option for extra wrinkle removal. This function works best when there are a lot of steam vents distributed in a wide pattern across the heater plate.
Owners say the iron glides effortlessly across clothes and that the bursts of steam come out evenly on every pass. The Rowenta's multitude of steam holes (400) is viewed by most owners as a good thing.
We like the bottle nose shape of the iron tip because it allows easy access the area between buttons and other tight spaces.
As Rowenta is a German manufacturer, the iron is branded with “Made in Germany” in large, proud letters. Style-wise, it combines an old-school rotary temperature dial with a modern profile. It’s a nice-looking piece of equipment with a sturdy feel.
Though the $64 Rowenta is one of the pricier models in our review, many owners say it’s worth it. We tend to agree.
If you start off by ironing garments needing the lowest heat and work your way up to those needing the most, you will be heating the iron gradually without having to fiddle with the temperature controls.
The Good: Comfortable grip. Low price. Sophisticated digital display.
The Bad: Prone to leakage.
The Bottom Line: A low-cost package with plenty of user-friendly features. The best deal for the money.
The Black+Decker D2030 Auto-Off Digital Advance Iron heats up quickly, though it loses the temperature race to the Rowenta by a few seconds.
The reservoir fill tube aims the water straight down into the iron. The reservoir itself can hold 13 ounces of water, which is almost as much as the Rowenta.
Its digital display and controls are the most sophisticated on our shortlist. To choose a temperature setting, you push a small button on the handle. Because the iron defaults to its lowest heat setting (“1”), users must push the button several times if a higher temperature is desired.
Once the iron reaches the chosen temp, it emits a soft beep, and the LCD display reads “Ready.” We like this feature because, unlike dial models, there's no guessing about whether the iron is ready to get to work.
If your steam irons gets dirty or rusted, you can clean it with a lemon or steel wool.
In use, the Black+Decker produced a nice cloud of steam in our lab, though it needed to heat up more frequently than the Rowenta.
At the linen setting, the soleplate registered 390 degrees Fahrenheit in our test. The wool setting registered 290 degrees. These figures are adequate for their corresponding fabrics.
Our biggest concern about this iron was that it leaked after it was turned off—a characteristic that's especially problematic if the unit is set on its soleplate. We recommend draining the reservoir between uses.
Owners are generally satisfied with the Black+Decker's easy grip and ability to eradicate wrinkles. And at $39, it costs far less than the Rowenta. We think it's an exceptional value.
The Good: Ceramic plate glides smoothly and doesn't stick. Great spritz button.
The Bad: Slower to heat up than its competitors. Reservoir is small (seven ounces). Small temperature dial may be difficult for some eyes to read.
The Bottom Line: Although some of this iron's features lag slightly behind the competition, its low price still makes it a great value.
The Panasonic NI-W810CS iron has an interesting shape. Rather than being squared off at the base, it's pointed at both ends, thus earning its “multi-directional” moniker. (Outriggers at the tail end of the iron make it possible for it to stand on its heel. Without these, it would topple over.)
This iron reached the highest temperature of the irons we reviewed, hitting 430 degrees Fahrenheit when set to linen. The wool setting measured at 340 degrees. For those who have a lot of linen to iron, this high temperature is ideal.
Setting the iron’s temperature requires turning a small dial, which was slightly difficult to see. Notably, the Panasonic took the longest time of all products reviewed to reach its peak temperature.
You can use your steam iron for all sorts of DIY projects, like adding patches and removing wallpaper.
The spritz button shoots an evenly distributed spray of water rather than a collection of large droplets. This made it easier for BestReviews testers to tackle the stubborn wrinkles on our test shirt.
The reservoir is on the small side, holding just seven ounces. If you plan to use the vertical steam function to iron a stack of shirts or tablecloths, you may need to refill it a time or two.
Owners say the Panasonic's impressive design helps them work easier and faster. BestReviews testers particularly liked the smooth feel of the ceramic as it pressed against the clothes. It never felt like the iron would catch or stick to the garment.
Another positive: because the soleplate is ceramic, it's immune to the calcium buildup that can plague irons with metal soleplates.
In terms of cost and overall value, the $39 hovers in the same price range as the Black+Decker. And, like the Black+Decker, it's also a terrific value.
The Good: Handsome appliance. Straightforward operation.
The Bad: Linen setting may not be hot enough to completely smooth wrinkles on first pass. Some consumer complaints about steam function.
The Bottom Line: A decent appliance with a slightly lower approval rating than some of its competitors.
The Shark Ultimate Professional iron is a beautiful piece of equipment, thanks mostly to its copper accents. Rather than a dial, the Shark has a green LED display to let you know when it's at the correct temperature.
To select a temperature, simply press the orange button on the handle. Lights blink while the iron is heating and beam a steady green when the iron is ready to use.
Conveniently, the Shark's large reservoir opening could be filled from a faucet without spillage. We measured the reservoir capacity at 13 ounces, which is enough to create lots of steam.
Thick fabrics are best ironed from the inside first, and then the outside, so as to ensure they dry completely as well as get a good press.
The highest temperature setting is “Linen/Cotton,” which we measured at just 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Linen items are usually ironed at temps over 400 degrees (and closer to 440), so you might need to put in some extra effort to get wrinkles out of linen with this particular model.
The Shark's vertical steam function generates five good jets of steam before it requires a reheat. Like the Rowenta, it features a bottle nose tip that may be good for collars and other tight spaces, though it's larger and somewhat less precise than the Rowenta's tip.
Shark owners say they like the way the iron glides over fabric, but a common complaint we encountered during our consumer research is the failure of the Shark's steam function. The iron is reasonably priced at $44, but its performance in the hands of some buyers is enough to give us pause.
The Good: Small and light. Suitable for international travel.
The Bad: Tiny water reservoir produces minimal steam. Frequent refills may be needed. Lower heat ceiling may necessitate more elbow grease during ironing.
The Bottom Line: As the name suggests, this is a miniature iron designed for travelers and smaller tasks. Potential buyers should note the specs before making this purchase.
Weighing just one pound, the Steamfast is the lightest iron in our test group. It's meant to be taken on the road; the dual voltage setting makes it suitable for international adventures.
A tiny dial on the top of the handle controls the temperature. The reservoir holds little more than one ounce of water—far less than our other contenders. As such, it can't power a vertical burst of steam.
In the BestReviews test lab, the surface temperature of this iron varied greatly from its tip, where it got the hottest, to its relatively cool heel. It took less than a minute and a half to reach its highest temperature, but that temperature was just 325 degrees Fahrenheit. The Steamfast's lower heat ceiling would be adequate for ironing a relatively smooth cotton garment, but it's not ideal for pressing deep wrinkles.
A common tip given by many is to turn silk or rain garments inside-out before ironing them out, and to make sure woollen items are slightly damp before they are ironed. These steps ensure the materials are not burnt, and retain their shine.
Though it produces some steam, there's no spritz button. For our testers, the handle was a little clumsy to use at first and took some adjusting. We also noticed that the iron leaks a bit after it has been turned off. To avoid this, owners should empty the reservoir before storing the iron.
At $24, the Steamfast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron is great for road trips, international travel, and small ironing jobs at home. Quilters like using the Steamfast for quick pressing tasks. The majority of owners appreciate the Steamfast's overall quality, although potential buyers should take note of its smaller steam capacity and size before making a purchase.
Fast and steamy, the stylish Rowenta DW5080 Focus 1700-Watt Micro Steam Iron will help get your large ironing tasks done quickly. Owners rave about the longevity of the device, so even though it costs more up front — currently $64 — it could save you money over time.
In spite of the fact that it leaks when stored face-down with a full reservoir, the Black & Decker gets the nod here. We like the high-tech interface, which is easy to use and slicker than the old-fashioned dial. To combat the leak problem, we recommend draining the reservoir between uses. But all in all, we enjoyed using this iron, and it delivers an excellent performance for the price — currently $39.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.