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iStock Erma Bombeck famously once said, “My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”
Ironing isn’t always fun, but when you want to dress to impress, or simply need to upgrade from rumpled to crisp (even if it’s just above-the-waist on your next Zoom call), a good iron is essential.
To determine which iron is the best, we rounded up the most popular options and tested everything from how easy they were to use and how fast they heated to how much water their tanks could hold. And of course, we took special note of how well they took the wrinkles and creases out of a variety of wrinkled, balled-up clothes, including a linen shirt, a pair of jeans, a synthetic blouse and a silk scarf.
All models we tested — ranging in price from $22 to $105 — include an automatic shut-off system when the iron is left sitting on its base, side or lying flat, and can do double-duty as vertical steam irons (we did not test this feature). Nearly all models also feature a durable, stainless steel soleplate (the underside of the iron that glides smoothly across your clothes), an 8-foot cord, an auto-clean button (to rid the iron of scale or dust and keep the steam holes clean and clear) and an anti-calcification system (which help rid your iron of any mineral buildup from the water).
Despite those similarities, we observed some key differences — from how quickly the irons heated up to how well they handled wrinkles — with two ultimately proving themselves to be the best:
Best overall clothing iron
The Maytag M400 Steam Iron gets plenty steamy, heats up in a lightning-fast 39 seconds, does a great job tackling creases and wrinkles and at a nice and light 3.3 pounds, makes nimble work of the often-loathed ironing chore.
Best high-end clothing iron
The Rowenta Digital Display Steam Iron outperformed all the other models tested, putting out a huge amount of steam and taking our clothes from frumpy to dry-cleaner fabulous in the fastest amount of time.
Amazon Lightweight, super-steamy, able to get rid of even the stubbornest of wrinkles and priced affordably at less than $50, Maytag’s M400 practically had us looking forward to laundry day.
For starters, it takes less than a minute to get to work — and when you’re in a rush to get ready and need something ironed, stat, there’s no better option. Heating up in a lightning-fast 39 seconds, the quickest of all irons we tested, it also features a handy indicator light that turns green to alert you it’s ready.
As with most of the irons tested, this Maytag model features a self-cleaning setting with an anti-calcium system to keep its steam vents wide open and working well and doesn’t leak. It also comes with an automatic three-way shutoff, turning off after 30 seconds when it’s left lying horizontally or on its side and between seven and 10 minutes when it’s left sitting vertically.
It weighs in at a light 3.3 pounds, and the slightly contoured handle is comfortable to hold. We found the simple settings easy to use. A small dial under the handle allows you to set the temperature for four fabric types: nylon/synthetics, silk/wool, cotton or linen. We appreciate the steam burst and spray buttons on the handle, which are easier to press than those on other irons thanks to their soft touch and smaller size. It’s worth noting that the steam control is adjusted via a nifty slide on the handle rather than behind it, as it is with most models, making it simple to switch between no steam, high steam or something in between without having to hunt behind the handle to do so.
The 8-ounce water tank is on the smaller side, but the tank is easy to fill thanks to an extra-large input hole and it gave us about 15 minutes of total steam output, on average, before needing a refill — plenty for most ironing loads and, except for the Rowenta DW9280, a longer time output than the other irons we tested with bigger water tanks. Our biggest nit is the tank cover, which opens at a hinge to fill. Made of flimsy plastic it seems susceptible to breaking off if pulled too hard.
This iron did a great job of de-wrinkling clothes. After the Rowenta Digital Display, it did the best job at making our linen shirt look like it came straight from the dry-cleaner. Since it’s lightweight, combined with its high steam generation and the way it easily glides over fabric, the Maytag saved our upper arms from tiring as we worked. It was also one of the best at getting creases out of jeans, a synthetic shirt and a silk scarf. And, to move from one material to another, such as going from denim (high heat/steam) to silk (low heat/no steam), just slide the steam control to off and adjust the thermostat.
At 1500 watts, it doesn’t deliver the fastest results of the testing bunch, but it puts out a spectacular amount of steam, giving us crisply ironed fabric in just a few minutes.
Agile, easy to fill, comfortable to use, and priced well, the Maytag is an excellent iron that shouldn’t disappoint — a real value for less than $50.
Best high-end clothing iron: Rowenta DW9280 Digital Display Steam Iron ($109.99, originally $149.99; bedbathandbeyond.com) Amazon At a glance, all the irons we tested look fairly similar: in size, shape, general functionality — you, know, the basics.
But after investigating and comparing the details, from settings and build materials to the most important factor — performance getting creases and wrinkles out of fabric — the Rowenta DW9280 simply stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
Plug in this German-designed model and it heats up quickly and is ready to go in a scant 50 seconds, with a handy LED indicator letting you know it’s ready. Like most of the models tested, it has an 8-foot cord and features a three-way auto-shut-off system that kicks in when it’s left untouched for eight minutes in the vertical position or 30 seconds while lying face down or on its side. The DW9280 is also anti-drip, which means the water supply automatically shuts off when the iron isn’t in steam-mode and includes an integrated self-clean function as well as anti-calcium technology.
But at a whopping 1,800 watts of power — the highest of all models we tested — and with an impressive 400 steam holes in its nonstick, stainless steel soleplate, the DW9280 truly wows with its steam output. The DW9280 crushed all our clothing tests with the best performance among all models and in the fastest time.
Weighing a bit more than most models — 3.85 pounds without water — it definitely has some heft, but it doesn’t cross the line into feeling overly heavy. The slight contour of the handle makes it comfortable to hold, allowing it to simply glide over fabric. We never felt like we needed to put any real muscle into using it, even on tough creases.
The standard temperature control dial is placed on the body directly behind the handle with typical settings that range from nylon to linen. But this iron also features an LED display that lets you know when the soleplate has reached the correct temperature for linen, cotton, wool, silk or nylon.
For particularly pesky wrinkles, a cool spray mist button is conveniently located on the back of the handle, making it easy to compress with your index finger while ironing. Unlike other models, Rowenta irons are designed with an elongated tip, which allows for greater exactness when ironing pleats or around buttons, pockets, collars and other tricky areas.
As previously mentioned, this thing puts out serious steam. Most of the models tested have only a fraction of the 400 steam holes found on the Rowenta. Steam comes blasting out, decimating wrinkles and creases in our testing. The iron can be set to dry or steam, and it’s also designed with a “smart steam” motion sensor that turns the steam off when the iron is not moving, saving electricity and water and reducing the likelihood of getting a steam burn on your skin. With a large water tank that can hold nearly 12 ounces, however, needing to refill wasn’t an obstacle during our testing process, as the Rowenta is able to put out nearly 30 minutes of continuous steam. The soleplate’s “precision shot” function gives off an extra concentrated blast of steam at the tip of the soleplate as well. Timing-wise, it took us just over a minute to take a pair of line-dried, balled-up jeans from wrinkled mess to perfectly pressed, and our linen shirt took 2 minutes and 59 seconds, our synthetic blouse took 2 and a half minutes and our silk scarf took a mere 1 minute and 50 seconds. All looked straight-from-the-dry cleaner when we were done.
With a price tag north of $100, this iron isn’t for everyone. But for everyday ironers who have the room in their budget, the DW9280’s features, performance and incredible capacity for producing steam make it a worthy investment.
In shopping for a new iron, there are several features to examine. All the models we tested come with an automatic shut-off, meaning if you forget to unplug it or are called away from your chore, the item will turn off after around 10 minutes when left standing up or, generally 30 seconds when lying flat or tipped on its side.
All but one of the irons also come with a self-cleaning and anti-calcification system, which removes any mineral scale from the water that has built up in the iron’s vaporizing chamber. This can help make your iron last longer and work better by keeping the steam vents clear. Most of the irons tested feature a stainless steel soleplate — the underside of the iron that glides across your clothes — which offers even heat, is durable and can be easily wiped down with a damp cloth if needed.
Steam output — which is necessary for getting rid of deep wrinkles and creases — is extremely important in a clothing iron. You definitely want a model that comes with a steam burst button that gives off an extra shot of steam to help smooth clothes faster. Luckily, every model we tested had one. All the models tested also have steam controls that allow you to set the iron to dry (for silk and synthetic fabrics), medium or high (for thicker fabrics like cotton and linen).
Every iron we tested featured temperature control dials to adjust the heat for different types of material. Many also can be used as vertical steamers, but we did not test that feature. Water tanks, of course, are necessary for the iron to create steam, but the maximum volume each iron can accommodate ranges from 4 to 14 ounces. Bigger tanks mean less refilling when you’ve let the ironing really pile up. More water also adds to the iron’s weight, but in our testing we didn’t find those added ounces to make a difference in comfort or function.
After considering these features and searching for bestselling, highly-rated and critically lauded clothing iron options, we narrowed things down to a test group of nine irons receiving great reviews for function, build and overall performance.
We put all of the irons to the test by giving them marks for how well — and how fast — they worked on various pieces of wrinkled or balled-up clothing, including a linen shirt, pair of jeans, synthetic shirt and silk scarf. We also looked at a variety of features, from water tank size to cord length to the number of settings each iron includes. This is a breakdown of exactly how we evaluated each iron:
How quickly it heats up: We pulled out our stopwatch app and noted how quickly each iron reached its selected temperature (for consistency we chose the iron’s highest heat setting). We also noted whether or not the iron had an indicator to show it was ready for use. How well it ironed creases out of clothing: We took notes on how well the iron worked on balled-up linen, a notoriously wrinkly material, jeans, a synthetic, pleated blouse and a silk scarf. We also timed the amount of time it took to iron each item. How easy it is to clean: We assessed whether each iron came with a self-cleaning function or built-in anti-calcification system. We also noted how easy it was to clean the soleplate and whether cleaning caused any scratching. Auto-off features: We noted whether the iron featured automatic shut-off, paying attention to how long it took for the iron to shut off on its own in various situations. Number of settings/buttons/dials: For each iron, we counted the number of features such as variable steam, spray, steam burst, etc., awarding more points for more options. Build
Overall build: We assessed the quality of materials used for the soleplate and body of the iron. We also paid attention to each iron’s size, noting how much space it takes up when stored in a closet or cupboard. However, as most irons measured roughly the same in dimensions, size did not end up being a factor in our rankings. Tank size/ease to fill: All the irons we tested need to be filled with water to access steam, so we measured not only how much water each tank could hold (more room can mean fewer refills when you’re ironing multiple items) but also how easy it was to fill the tank and whether there was much spill-over or leakage. Weight: We used a
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