Best steam generator irons to buy in 2019
By Georgia Wilson
Find out which is the best steam generator iron for you, plus what you need to know to buy the best steam generator.
The best steam generator irons pump out lots more steam than a standard iron, making ironing quicker and easier.
But a steam generator iron can be expensive and bulky, and not all live up to the manufacturer's claims.
Our expert guide looks at the key things to consider when choosing a steam generator. From how much to spend, to which features to look out for, we’ll help you choose the best model - and avoid the worst.
In this article:
- Best steam generators - our pick
- Steam generators to avoid
- Video: how to buy the best steam generator
- Pressurised vs non-pressurised steam generators
- How much should I spend on a steam generator?
- Steam generators and antiscale cartridges
- The best steam generator features to look out for
Just want to find out which steam generators performed the best in our tough tests? See our full list of the best steam generator irons.
We’ve picked out three of our best steam generators that will steam through your ironing and leave laundry wrinkle-free.
Each model scores highly when it comes to how well it smoothes creases from clothing, as well as how easy and quick it is to use. Which? members can access the full reviews using the links.
Want to see more of the Best Buy steam generators revealed by our tough tests? Go to our full list of the best steam generators and steam irons.
The Philips PerfectCAre Elite GC9650/80 banishes creases in the blink of an eye, is easy to use, fill up and store away. The water tank isn't the biggest we've seen, but should be big enough to get through most loads without refilling.
However, it does cost twice as much as some of our other Best Buy steam generators.
Tefal GV6720 Effectis (£130)
If you're looking for a fantastic steam generator without spending a fortune, the Tefal GV6720 Effectis is one of our most affordable Best Buys.
It's light at 1kg, and pumps out plenty of steam to make easy work of creases.
But its 1.17-litre water tank is one of the smallest we've seen – so if you iron in big loads, look for a Best Buy with a larger water tank.
This lightweight Philips steam generator is a dream to iron with. Steam gets deep into fabrics so creases lift out easily.
Limescale doesn't build up too quickly, but when it does the cleaning system works brilliantly to get it steamy again.
The cleaning system is a little fiddly, though. Which could be a pain if you live in a hard water area and need to descale it regularly.
Not seen the perfect model for you? Check out our full list of Best Buys – go to best steam generators and steam irons.
Steam generators should make ironing quicker and easier, but some don’t produce enough steam or take ages to heat up, making them worse than a regular iron.
Here are three steam generators you shouldn’t waste your money on. Which? members can login to view them. Not yet a member? Join Which? to unlock the three models to avoid and to access all of our online reviews.
Not sure if you need a steam iron or a steam generator? Our interactive tool walks you through the key features of each type to help you choose.
Steam generators vs steam 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, which means 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.
Here are the pros and cons to help you choose.
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 worst and the best 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.
There are two basic types of steam generator to choose between:
Non-pressurised steam generator
These are typically the cheapest type of steam generator. They work in a similar way to standard irons, but produce larger quantities of steam.
The large separate water tank means you won’t have to refill it as often.
Pressurised steam generator
These blast high-pressure steam deep into fabrics, making it even easier to smooth creases. They’re more expensive than non-pressurised generators.
A pressurised generator could be a good investment if you regularly iron a lot of laundry, as a good one will whizz through your ironing pile faster than any other type of iron.
Steam generator irons can range in price from around £50 to more than £350, with most models costing more than £100.
In general, the more you pay, the more steam your iron is likely to produce. And the more extra features it will come with.
But price isn't the best indicator of how quickly a generator can banish creases. Many of the big iron brands have produced steam generator irons for less than £200 that we've ranked as the best steam generators, and there are very occasional Best Buys for less than £100.
Shops including Argos, Currys, Homebase and John Lewis tend to stock steam generators and there are plenty available on Amazon. You can compare features, scores and prices for steam generator irons using our steam irons review page.
Prices tend to fluctuate too – so, if you're prepared to wait, you'll probably be able to snap up a good one on sale. Make sure you check our steam generator reviews before you buy, so you don't end up with a dud.
Will I have to wait long before I can start ironing?
The best steam generators are ready to go in two minutes, but with some you have to wait for pressure to build before you can start ironing, which can take more than 10 minutes.
These models usually have to cool and depressurise before you can refill the water tank. If you need more than one tank of water to get through your laundry pile, this will really add to the time it will take to finish the job.
It’s worth finding out whether you'll have to wait for steam to form and/or depressurise with the steam generator you have your eye on, before you buy it.
Is limescale a problem for steam generators?
The amount of steam your generator produces can seriously tail off if limescale builds up inside. However, steam generators tend not to clog up as quickly as steam irons.
Nearly all steam generators come with in-built cleaning systems to try to flush out limescale, as with steam irons. The cleaning process can range from a few quick and simple steps, to more complicated procedures involving shaking the boiler over the sink or soaking parts in lemon juice for four hours.
We test each steam generator to see how easy it is to clean and whether cleaning returns steam levels to full power. You can see which are the best for this in our steam generator iron reviews.
Some steam generators come with anti-scale cartridges that claim to prevent limescale forming and should keep steam powerful. These cartridges need replacing every few months and cost around £5 each.
If you don’t have a replacement to hand, you should be able to iron with distilled water in place of tap water. But you might find this a hassle that gets in the way of your ironing routine – and some models won’t function if the cartridge needs replacing.
Thin, tapered soleplate
A thin soleplate will slide easily under buttons easily, as thicker ones tend to catch.
A soleplate that narrows at the nose will be easier to slide into pleats.
Large, clear and easy-to-fill water tank
The larger the water tank, the more steam time you'll get. So choose one which will hold a lot of water – provided you have the room to store it.
Some tanks are removable so they're easy to fill at the tap. Others are filled in-situ with a separate jug, so look to see whether the filler hole is large and accessible.
Check whether the tank is clear enough to see the water level, both as you're filling it and as you're ironing. Some of the darker tanks make it difficult to see when you've filled the tank to maximum and when you're about to run out of steam.
Some irons lock to the generator base, which makes them much easier to carry.
Steam generators are bulky and come with an additional power cord, so having a way to neatly store the cords makes getting them out and putting them away a whole lot easier.
Look for steam generators with a storage compartments or clips to hold both power cords in place when it's not in use.
Auto shut-off safety feature
Steam generators with this feature will switch off automatically if they're not used for a while.
This is a really handy feature that provides peace of mind if you worry about whether you've remembered to turn off your iron.
Haven't found the steam generator for you? Head to our steam generator reviews for more recommendations.
Why Which? steam generator reviews are better
Which? is completely independent – so you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about which steam generators are best.
Every steam generator iron we review has been through exhaustive testing in our lab. We go further than anyone else to make sure our reviews are comprehensive and easily comparable, taking the guesswork away when it comes to you making a decision. We'll tell you how well each iron smoothes out creases, if it resists lime-scale build-up, how easy it is to fill, empty and clean, and how robust the soleplate is – so you can buy the best steam generator for you.
Find out more about how we test steam irons.