Steam iron reviews: Features explained
The irons we have tested in our irons reviews area can all produce steam using everyday tap water rather than special 'ironing' water, but an unfortunate side effect is that, over time, calcium in the water supply will form limescale, which clogs the steam vents.
Most new steam and generator irons include cleaning systems and anti-calcium functions, which are designed to prevent this calcium build-up from damaging the iron. Some have a changeable anti-calcium cartridge, while others have a burst of steam or a dedicated anti-calcium button you'll press when cleaning the iron, to force limescale out of the vents.
Tap water vs distilled water
Much of the UK has relatively hard water and some iron manufacturers suggest using distilled water or a mix of tap and distilled water in hard-water areas.
Frequent cleaning helps, but in some cases we found it's important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines. If you're concerned about the life of your iron, you can find out the water hardness in your area from your water supplier.
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Some irons have a notch in the soleplate or a recess just above, which makes it easier to iron around buttons.
A cable tidy, compartment or clip is useful for storing your iron neatly. It will also lessen the possibility of damaging the wires if you can keep the cable kink-free.
Aside from steaming, a directional spray incorporated into the front of the iron can be handy on stubborn creases.
Steam shot button
This provides an additional burst of steam at a higher vapour rate. Most steam irons have one located, within thumb's reach, at the front of the handle.
Some irons have a fail-safe which will switch the iron off automatically if it hasn't been used for a period of time – usually eight minutes idle in the upright position and 30 seconds when rested on the soleplate.
This feature enables you to steam curtains or hanging clothes, but it's worth noting that for most steam irons, this means repeatedly pressing the shot of steam button.
Some irons have stainless steel soleplates, others have non-stick or ceramic coatings which are supposed to help the iron glide more smoothly.
Dry tank warning
In case you don't notice when your iron runs out of steam, some irons include warning lights to alert you that the tank needs filling.