The best steam irons help you fly through the laundry pile, heating up quickly and removing creases with ease. But not all models are up to scratch – some take ages to steam, and show signs of limescale build-up and soleplate damage after just a few uses.
To help you avoid a dud, we've handpicked our favourites Best Buy steam irons, including our top steam generator iron, the best budget option and the one to buy if you want to go cordless.
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If you're after a simple steam iron, you'll struggle to find better than this. It's rare for an iron to get five stars in each of our key tests (performance, limescale resistance, cleaning efficiency and soleplate durability), but this model did exactly that. With no major concerns, we've no hesitation in making this iron a Best Buy.
If money is no object, look no further than this steam generator iron. It smooths wrinkled clothes with ease, and has no problem navigating delicate details such as embroidery and shirt buttons – plus its generous 1,650ml tank produces enough steam to iron for over an hour at a time.
This budget steam iron works just as well, if not better, than some far more expensive models. It has a '3D' soleplate capable of ironing in all directions and one of the best anti-limescale functions we've seen. The only snag is you've got to initiate the anti-scale feature twice a week, which is twice as regularly as most irons. For less than £40, it's an absolute steal.
It isn't a Best Buy, but there's lots to like about this cordless iron. It glides smoothly, gets rid of creases with little effort and won't clog up with limescale anytime soon. Plus, it's easier to charge than most cordless models: just place it on the circular base while you adjust your clothes on the board.
At 1.4kg, this isn't the lightest steam iron we've tested – some steam irons weigh less than a kilogram – but it's the best of the featherweight bunch. It heats up in less than 30 seconds and makes light work of deep creases – not bad for an iron that weighs little more than a bag of sugar.
Watch our video, below, for our expert tips on how to choose the best iron for your needs and budget.
Which type of steam iron should I choose?
There are two main types of iron to choose from: steam irons – including cordless steam irons – and steam generators.
These differ in features and performance, but also in price, so the amount you want to spend may well influence your decision.
You'll also want to consider where you plan on storing your iron, as steam generators are considerably more bulky than traditional steam irons.
Regular steam irons use a combination of steam and heat to smooth out creases. Prices range from less than £10 to more than £100 – more expensive irons tend to have fancier features and higher steam power.
An ordinary iron will suit you if you mainly iron smaller loads of laundry, purely because the water tanks tend to be on the small side.
They're a little heavier when in use than steam generators, but most are still light enough that you shouldn't have any issues and small enough that they're easy to store.
The one major downside of steam irons is that they generally produce significantly less steam than the larger generators, so you may have to work harder to get the creases out of your clothes.
Steam iron pros
Far cheaper than steam generators
Easy to store and carry
Can be used on a normal ironing board
Very quiet during use
Steam iron cons
Produce less steam than a steam generator
Will need refilling more often
Can be heavy with a full water tank
Cordless steam irons
Cordless steam irons are still a relatively new concept, but we're starting to see more and more pop up as they increase in popularity.
They're designed to make ironing quicker and easier thanks to the lack of a restrictive power cord, giving you more freedom to move around the ironing board.
Cordless irons come with a baseplate that has to be plugged in during use. You need to periodically place the iron back on the baseplate while ironing to keep it hot and steamy.
Unfortunately, most cordless models use non-replaceable lithium-ion batteries. Once yours gets to the point where it no longer recharges properly between uses, you'll need to buy a new iron.
Cordless steam iron pros
Freedom to move round the ironing board
No power cord to snag your freshly ironed clothes
Tend to be lighter than corded irons
Cordless steam iron cons
Gradually lose heat during use
Batteries can't be replaced
Not many models to choose from
If you want to find out if making the move to a cordless iron is right for you, check out our cordless iron reviews.
Steam generator irons
Steam generators are designed to produce vast amounts of steam for longer, to make light work of large piles of ironing.
They're typically able to hold around three times as much water as a regular steam iron, so you won't have to stop to refill as often. They're also lighter to hold when you're at the ironing board because the water is held in a separate tank,
The best steam generators undoubtedly make the ironing experience faster and easier, and will leave you with flawlessly smooth clothes. However, they are expensive and won’t be right for everyone.
Steam generator pros
Produce much more steam than a regular iron
Smooth creases quickly and effortlessly
Lighter than most irons
Won't need refilling as often
Steam generator cons
More expensive than a standard iron
Bulky to store and heavy to carry
Some are too heavy to sit on a normal ironing board
It’s worth investing in a steam generator if you regularly iron big piles of laundry and large items, such as duvet covers and sheets, and if your priority is to get through the ironing as quickly as possible.
But there are big differences between the best and worst steam generators. Our tests show that some are actually less steamy than the best regular irons, so check out our steam generator reviews before you buy.
How much do I need to pay for a good iron?
You can buy a steam iron fairly cheaply these days. Prices for basic models start at less than £10 and go up to more than £100 for top-of-the-range ones.
Our tough tests have uncovered fantastic Best Buy models for less than £30. But we've found there are also a lot of dud models at the cheaper end of the market, too.
A steam generator iron will produce lots more steam for you to work with, but comes at a price – a top-end steam generator iron could set you back more than £300.
We've also come across premium irons which have an internal pump for producing pressurised steam, giving you extra oomph to get through tough creases. They can be a good compromise if you don’t have the space or budget for a full-on steam generator.
These premium irons tend to be bulky and expensive compared with traditional irons, though. And we've found some traditional irons that can deliver just as much steam power.
You'll also find own-brand steam iron models available from big supermarkets, such as Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Plus stores including Argos and John Lewis & Partners.
You can find out more about the models on offer from these brands - go to thebest iron brands.
Best steam iron features to look for
Limescale filter It's worth checking whether an iron has a scale filter before you buy it. The amount of steam your iron produces can be severely hampered by the build up of limescale over time, which is why you need to clean your iron.
Self-cleaning system This helps you get rid of any limescale that does form. But we've found some systems take lots of time and effort, such as soaking the filter in lemon juice for four hours, so check our reviews.
Comfy handle The best handles are soft or smooth and not too wide. Some handles can rub uncomfortably after you've been ironing for a while.
Thin, tapered soleplate This type of soleplate is easy to slide under buttons and into tight pleats. Chunky soleplates tend to snag on buttons and zips.
Auto shut-off This turns off your iron if it's not used for a while, which is handy if you're ever worried about whether you've forgotten to switch it off.
Easy-to-fill tank Look for a wide filler hole. Also check it has clear maximum fill markings – otherwise water will glug back out.
Our tough tests reveal the irons that will help make ironing a breeze and those that don't, so check oursteam iron reviewsbefore you buy.