Best Steam Irons

Updated July 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best steam irons

When you want to look sharp, you need crisp, wrinkle-free clothing. The best tool for that job is a steam iron. A steam iron could mean the difference between getting your dream job and just dreaming about getting a job. But only if you purchase a steam iron that has all the features you need to make a positive lasting impression.

You want a steam iron that can hold a consistent temperature and has a sizable tank so you don't have to keep adding water. Non-stick stainless steel is a stalwart option, but ceramic heats well and glides effortlessly across the fabric. You will also want your steam iron to have variable controls and an automatic shutoff.

If you'd like to learn some interesting facts about the history of the steam iron and get insightful tips for the best ironing practices, keep reading. If you are ready to start looking your best, just pick one of the highly-rated options that we've highlighted.


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The first steam irons from the 1800s weighed about 15 pounds. The heaviest on our short list is still under 4 pounds.


Steam power

Steam is steam. It's water boiling at 100°C (212°F). No matter how powerful your steam iron is, you can’t make the steam hotter. So if even the cheapest steam irons make steam, why is power important? A few reasons:

  • A powerful steam iron is ready to use more quickly.

  • A more powerful device keeps the temperature constant at both high and low settings.

  • A powerful iron always has steam on tap, and if you need to refill, it's ready to use again faster.

  • To maintain a high volume of steam, you need a good-sized water tank. Top models hold 10 ounces (300 ml), so you won't have to add water every few minutes.


Once you've got heat and steam, you need to apply it to your fabric. The soleplate is the metal plate at the base of the iron. You want a soleplate that distributes steam effectively and glides smoothly when dry. Soleplates come in several different materials.

Stainless steel

The most popular soleplate material, it’s bright, durable, and easy to clean. Stainless steel is prone to scratching, but all soleplates are, and minor marking won't affect performance.

Anodized aluminum

Lighter than stainless steel, anodized aluminum is a cheaper option that distributes heat well but isn't as durable or easy to clean. Anodized aluminum can get sticky over time.


This type of soleplate is aluminum or plastic that has been coated with PTFE or a similar “non-stick” layer. It’s lightweight and often used for portable models. The coating is effective when in good condition, but it can chip or peel on more inexpensive steam irons.


This is also a coating, but modern ceramics are hard, excellent at heat distribution, easy to clean, and very smooth, so they glide well.

Steam holes

The size and shape of the holes on the soleplate affect how evenly steam is distributed. Some manufacturers use lots of small holes; others use shaped holes.

Because ceramics are naturally more slippery than other soleplate materials, these models usually have fewer holes than their stainless steel and aluminum competitors.


Not many of the items we iron are perfectly square, so soleplates are shaped to make it easier to get into pleats, collars, and cuffs. Many have grooves at the front to get in and around buttons.

Traditionally, the heel (or rear end) of the soleplate is flat so you can stand the iron up when you're not using it. But some manufacturers make both ends pointed, claiming better maneuverability. These irons have “outriggers” as stands.

Steam iron features

Variable controls

Steam irons with variable controls dispense with traditional dials and sliders completely. Instead, they "sense" the fabric and adjust the iron’s settings automatically. They claim to be safe for any ironable garment, which is definitely a plus, but this new technology is expensive.

Whether variable settings are worth the extra money is very much a matter of individual preference.

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Did you know?
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.

Extra steam and a fine spray

A “pulse” of extra steam through the baseplate is a basic necessity, as is a fine spray. All but the very cheapest steam irons have them.

A few models also work upright, allowing you to steam curtains and clothes on hangers.

Corded or cordless

The overwhelming majority of steam irons have a cord. Some are retractable, though feedback tells us they're not always popular, with jamming a frequent problem.

There are also cordless irons available, but they need to be regularly reheated on bases — an unnecessary step for many users.

Automatic shut-off

Automatic shut-off can switch off the iron if it's left alone for a certain period, if it's tipped over, or if the tank runs dry.

How many of these features you get varies from model to model.

Other features

A number of steam irons claim to have non-drip or anti-spitting functions, though effectiveness varies. The same is true of self-cleaning options.

Some also prevent the buildup of calcium, which can eventually block your iron. See-through tanks or water-level windows are useful visual aids.

Steam iron prices

You can find a steam iron for as little as $15. It will get hot, and it will turn water into steam, but in our experience, it won’t do so very effectively or for very long.

A good-quality steam iron can be yours for $25. Models with a digital readout or ceramic soleplate will cost more, but even at the high end, you're unlikely to spend more than $100.

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Did you know?
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.

Steam iron dos and don'ts

  • Always read your steam iron’s manual. Follow any steps suggested before first use.

  • Most steam irons work perfectly well with tap water. In fact, some say not to use distilled water at all — but it's important to check.

  • Avoid ironing over metal fastenings like zippers. Damage to some nonstick steam irons makes them all but unusable.

  • Never use laundry softeners in your iron.

  • Clean or drain your steam iron after use if recommended by the manufacturer.

  • If you use starch, don't allow residue to build up, as it will impair the effectiveness of your iron.

  • Clean following the manufacturer’s instructions. A warm, damp cloth with a dash of detergent is often sufficient. Never use abrasive creams or scouring pads.

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Portable steam irons have low power, small tanks, and not many features — so why would you want one? Well, good ones are surprisingly efficient and very compact. Not only are they indispensable if you travel frequently on business, they're great for vacations.

Facts and figures

  • The first electric steam iron was patented in the U.S. by Swiss inventor Otto Walker in December 1924. It went on sale in 1926 for $10.

  • Modern ironing boards and pads are designed to work with your iron, enhancing its performance. They help control reflected heat, are usually non-stick, and are often anti-static, making the whole process quicker and easier.

  • A wall-mounted ironing-board hanger and steam-iron rest lets you put your iron away while still hot.

  • As you iron, heat is absorbed by the material you're ironing, as well as the ironing board itself.

  • Steam irons are available with up to 3,100 watts of power or more, but some would argue that 1,500 watts is all you need.

  • 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.

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Do People Really use Hotel Irons to Cook Their Food?

We have heard a rumor that some guests use hotel irons to prepare simple meals. Allegedly, it's the convenience, cost savings, and special diets that drive the behavior.

To get to the bottom of this rumor, we took a standard iron and tried to prepare food on it.

We started with a hot dog since the cooking requirements are pretty straightforward. Because most hot dogs use pre-cooked meat, all we needed to do was to heat up the dogs.

We used the cotton (highest) setting and surprisingly, the iron did a fantastic job of heating up our meal quickly and efficiently.
Next, we moved over to slightly a more involved task – cooking a non-readymade cheeseburger. We prepared the iron using the linen setting for 5 minutes and then laid out the ground beef onto the base of the iron. We turned on the cotton setting and watched as the meat slowly turned brown after about 15 minutes. While the iron wasn't able to produce the handsome grill marks that usually come with a barbecued burger, the end product tasted just as juicy as if it were made the old-fashioned way.
But could an iron prepare a more difficult meal? We tried making one of our favorite breakfast meals: an egg omelet sandwich. We put the egg on the base of the iron and watched it fry. It was a bit disgusting to see the yolk seep into the steam holes on the base of the iron and drip off of the edges, but we carried on.

Using the linen setting on the steam iron, the egg cooked quickly, and we turned our efforts to preparing the ham and cheese for the sandwich. All in all, the final product came out quite tasty, although the toast did seem to burn a little bit more than we would have liked. We recommend heating up the toast with the wool setting (300ºF) to prevent burning.
Next, we decided to use the steam iron for a make-shift pizza oven. It seemed like a no-brainer. After all, the base of the steam iron perfectly matched the shape of a pizza slice.

We began by spreading out a triangular shaped piece of dough over the iron and then rolled it back to create a crust edge. We couldn't quite toss the dough like we're used to with a circular pizza, so we had to stretch it out with our hands instead. We then used the cotton setting of the steam iron to pre-bake the crust for 6 minutes so as not to get “doughy crust” that usually kills most homemade pizzas. From there, the rest of the procedure was pretty normal as we spread the sauce and the toppings onto the pizza and watched it bake. It took slightly longer to finish than usual, but the crust began to turn brown after around 16 minutes, and the cheese fully melted around the 20 minute mark. In the end, the pizza came out of the “oven” in tip top shape. We couldn't resist taking a bite!
Steamed broccoli seemed like another logical meal to prepare. After all, we need to put that “burst of steam” button on our iron to the test. We placed an individual broccoli stem onto the iron and switched on the cotton setting. We used the iron's steam button, and the broccoli slowly began to turn bright green. Some irons don't allow the steam function to work if the iron isn't in the proper orientation (pointing down), but the iron we tested managed to have no problem with it upside down, and after several refills of the water tank, the broccoli was ready to go!
Finally, it was time for some dessert. What better way to use the steam iron holes than to have them double as marshmallow stick holders? The holes were actually just deep enough to have the marshmallows close to the base of the iron and get the proper amount of heat from the iron.
From there, making the actual s'mores was a cinch. The highest setting on the iron was a good substitute for an open bonfire, and within 10 minutes, the melted Hershey's milk chocolate was beginning to seep into the base of the iron.
We don't know how common hotel-iron-cooking is, but it certainly is feasible. With some ingenuity and a few creative uses of the iron's settings, you can re-create pretty much any homemade kitchen meal.

So think twice next time you use your hotel's steam iron. The last thing you want is to show up to your morning business meeting with pizza sauce all over your dress shirt!
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