The 5 Best Steam Irons, According to Our Tests

After two days of testing, our favorite is the Beautural 1800-Watt Steam Iron.

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Best irons
Dera Burreson

Using an iron is hands-down the best way to get freshly pressed shirts or creased dress pants. Unlike steamers, which rely solely on hot steam, irons use a combination of pressure, heat, and moisture to smooth out wrinkles from your clothes.

But not all irons are effective and easy to use, so we spent two days testing 31 models in our Lab. Our testers timed how long each iron took to heat up and remove wrinkles from different types of fabric (like cotton, linen, and satin). After evaluating each one for its effectiveness, design, portability, and overall value, we narrowed it down to the recommendations on this list. We also consulted Madeline Miller, product specialist at The Laundress, for tips on how to use and maintain an iron.

The Beautural 1800-Watt Steam Iron earned the top spot on our list for its quick heating time, ability to smooth out wrinkles on a variety of fabrics, and numerous safety and user-friendly features. Plus, it comes at a very reasonable price—slightly less than the median cost of all the irons we tested.

Find more about the best irons we tested below, and keep reading for tips on what features to look for when purchasing one.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Iron: Beautural 1800-Watt Steam Iron With Digital LCD Screen

Beautural 1800-Watt Steam Iron With Digital LCD Screen
amazon.com

Who it's for: People of all skill levels will appreciate this iron's safety functions and user-friendly display.
Who it isn't for: People who want a lightweight iron will find this one too heavy.

This steam iron from Beautural is the best option for most people—including beginners and people who iron regularly—because it boasts incredible power at a great value. Out of all the models we tested, this iron was the fastest to heat up. It instantly reached the required temperature for linen and satin fabrics, and it took just 10 seconds to get to the appropriate temperature for cotton. In both our dry and steam tests, the 1800-watt iron was able to work out wrinkles in a single pass on most fabrics. Its double-plated ceramic soleplates cover a large surface area and have plenty of holes, so you get powerful, evenly dispersed steam bursts. Plus, the large water tank means you won't need to refill it very often.

The iron has an easy-to-read LCD screen that allows you to shuffle through nine pre-set modes for different types of fabrics. Our testers really appreciated how helpful the display is: It even tells you whether the fabric should be wet or dry, which makes this a great option for anyone new to ironing.

We found this iron to be comfortable to hold because the handle has a non-slip grip and doesn't get too hot. Keep in mind that it's one of the heavier irons we tested—but this actually makes it more effective at removing wrinkles. The 6-foot cord length is pretty average, although our testers would've preferred it to be closer to 8 feet for better maneuverability.

The Beautural iron is packed with helpful safety and maintenance features, like an automatic shut-off that turns the iron off after eight minutes or when it's tipped over for more than 30 seconds. There's also a self-cleaning function and anti-calcium filter, the latter of which prevents calcium buildup so you can use tap water. It's also worth noting that the iron didn't drip during any of our tests.

In the end, this steam iron beat out 30 others for its ability to remove wrinkles just as effectively, if not more effectively, than many higher-priced models. Plus, its user-friendly features make it a great choice for ironing novices and experts alike.

Product Details:

  • Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Tank Capacity: 340 milliliters
  • Wattage: 1800
  • Cord Length: 6 feet

RELATED: 11 Top-Rated Steam Mops That Will Cut Your Cleaning Time in Half

Steam Irons on Amazon
Dera Burreson

Best Budget Iron: Conair EZ Press Steam Iron

Conair EZ Press Steam Iron
amazon.com

Who it's for: People who don't iron very often or anyone who needs a portable option for travel.
Who it isn't for: People who need to regularly iron large items, like quilts and tablecloths.

The Conair EZ Press Steam Iron performed remarkably well in our tests, especially considering its compact size. In both our dry and steam tests, the handheld iron smoothed out wrinkles on three different fabrics with just one or two passes. Depending on the fabric type, we found that this iron took anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to heat up, which is fairly quick considering it's only 800 watts. It doesn't come with all the bells and whistles that more expensive models have, but there is an indicator light that lets you know when the iron reaches the right temperature.

The manufacturer doesn't specify the tank capacity, but our testers found it to be about 50 milliliters. The tank is pretty small compared to full-size models, so the Conair iron should be reserved for ironing just a few pieces at a time—otherwise, you'll be refilling it very often. Its small surface area is ideal for pressing seams when sewing by hand, but it also means you'll have to use more effort when ironing large areas, like quilts or tablecloths.

And since stuffing clothes into a suitcase can make your clothes extremely wrinkly, we think this Conair iron is perfect for travel. It weighs just one pound and won't take up much space in your luggage. Plus, it has a dual-voltage switch that will come in handy during international travel and a generous 8-foot cord. Even though this iron's portability is great for bringing on trips, we still think its impressive performance makes it a good budget-friendly iron for occasional at-home use.

Product Details:

  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Tank Capacity: ~50 milliliters
  • Wattage: 800
  • Cord Length: 8 feet
  • Conair EZ Press 800 Watt Handheld Steam Iron
    Dera Burreson

Best Splurge Iron: Rowenta Steamforce Iron

Rowenta Steamforce Iron
wayfair.com

Who it's for: People who iron frequently and want a professional-quality model.
Who it isn't for: People who want a lightweight iron with a retractable cord.

Rowenta is a highly trusted name when it comes to irons, and the Steamforce model stands out for its easy-to-use controls, adjustable settings, and effortless wrinkle removal. In our tests, this iron removed wrinkles with ease, particularly on cotton where the fabric was smooth after a single pass. The nonstick stainless steel soleplate has over 400 tiny holes, and we found that this resulted in a powerful steam release without any dripping. We also like that the angular design makes it easy to hold and apply pressure, while the narrow tip allows you to maneuver around buttons and collars.

This iron has one-touch controls that can be used to adjust the heat and steam settings (which include a vertical mode for hanging garments), and the LED display will light up when the soleplate reaches the right temperature for the selected fabric. During our testing, we found that the auto shut-off and anti-drip functions both worked as advertised.

There are some downsides to the Rowenta iron, though: The 8-foot cord isn't retractable, and the iron itself is on the heavier side of the models we tested. And because the water tank is blue, it can be difficult to see when you've reached the max fill line. Despite these drawbacks, this professional-quality iron still shines where it matters: its ability to remove wrinkles. Even though the Rowenta Steamforce is more expensive than the other irons on this list, paying more for a top-of-the-line model could be well worth it if you find yourself ironing often.

Product Details:

  • Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Tank Capacity: 350 milliliters
  • Wattage: 1800
  • Cord Length: 8 feet
  • Rowenta Pro Master 1800 Iron
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Best Iron With Retractable Cord: Mueller Professional Grade Steam Iron

Mueller Professional Grade Steam Iron
amazon.com

Who it's for: People who want to reduce the risk of accidental tip-overs.
Who it isn't for: People who would prefer an iron that has strong steam bursts.

This model from Mueller is a great choice for anyone who wants a steam iron with a retractable cord. Not only does a retractable cord make it easy to store your iron in a neat and tidy way, but it can also help prevent accidents. When you're able to retract the cord after unplugging it, there's less risk of tripping over the cord and knocking over a hot iron. In our tests, we found that this iron was able to get rid of wrinkles from most fabrics with a few passes. The iron has a large base, which our testers said feels sturdy, so it's less likely to tip over.

We like that the tapered tip on this model makes it easy to iron in small areas, while the slightly heavier weight helps press out wrinkles. Even though the steam bursts helped remove some of the creases, they weren't nearly as strong as some of the other models we looked at.

The Mueller iron has many of the helpful features that more expensive models do, such as vertical steam for hanging clothes, anti-drip soleplates, and a self-cleaning mode to remove scale buildup. Like many other irons we tested, this one also has a safety function that automatically turns the iron off after 30 seconds when it's horizontal and 8 minutes when it's vertical.

Product Details:

  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Tank Capacity: 200 milliliters
  • Wattage: 1500
  • Cord Length: 8 feet
  • Mueller Professional Grade Steam Iron, Retractable Cord
    Dera Burreson

Best Cordless Iron: Panasonic 1500-Watt Dry and Steam Cordless Iron

Panasonic 1500-Watt Dry and Steam Cordless Iron
walmart.com

Who it's for: People who don't want to be restricted by cord length, especially quilters or crafters.
Who it isn't for: People who don't want the hassle of recharging their iron.

A cordless iron, like this one from Panasonic, eliminates the need to struggle with a cord while you work, which is particularly useful for quilters or anyone who needs to iron large pieces (like tablecloths or sheets). Our testers found that this cordless iron removed wrinkles well, especially when the fabric was sprayed with water beforehand. We really appreciated that the heat settings were easy to figure out, even for people new to ironing. To use the iron, simply place it back in the power base each time you reposition to help maintain the temperature and keep it stable while not in use. It'll recharge and heat back up in a matter of seconds, depending on how cool it got over time.

This model also has a detachable water tank, a time-saving feature that allows you to refill it while the iron is heating. Our testers liked that it comes with a charging base and heat-resistant carrying case, although the latter is pretty bulky and could be difficult to store. Other features include a vertical steam function, an auto shut-off (after 10 minutes), an anti-calcium system to prevent buildup, and an anti-drip system that held up well in our testing. But the main downside to this Panasonic iron is that you'll need to continually place it back on the base to maintain its temperature. But if you're set on having a cordless model, we think that's a small price to pay for convenience.

Product Details:

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Tank Capacity: 154 milliliters
  • Wattage: 1500
  • Cord Length: Cordless (6 feet for power base)

RELATED: The 5 Best Cordless Vacuums, According to Our Tests

Panasonic NI-L70SRW Cordless Iron
Dera Burreson

Final Verdict

After testing 31 different irons, we think the Beautural 1800-Watt Steam Iron is the best for most people because it's effective at smoothing out wrinkles, extremely quick to heat up, and has plenty of features that help with safety and convenience. There are nine different fabric settings and an LED display, both of which make the iron very easy to use (even for beginners). Plus, it costs less than the median price of all the irons we tested.

Our Testing Process

We spent two days thoroughly testing 31 different irons to find out which ones are actually the best. To evaluate each iron's effectiveness, we evaluated how well it was able to smooth out creases from three different cloth napkins (satin, linen, and cotton). We made sure each piece of fabric was extremely wrinkled by wetting and balling them up for a few days before the tests. Then, we timed how long it took each iron to remove the wrinkles from the various materials. Our testers also used a stopwatch to measure how long it took each iron to reach the appropriate temperature for different types of fabric.

testing the best irons
Dera Burreson

We also considered factors like portability, weight, maneuverability, and cord length. In terms of design, our testers paid careful attention to the device's overall temperature, noting whether the handle seemed uncomfortably hot and how easy it was to fill the reservoir. Finally, we used our testing insights and the iron's price to rate each model's overall value, which helped us determine which ones to include on this list. (It's worth noting that testers weren't aware of the prices until they finished evaluating the irons.).

How to Shop for Irons

Effectiveness

The most important factor to consider when shopping for an iron is how effective it is at removing wrinkles from different types of fabric. That's why we performed our tests on three materials: satin, linen, and cotton. The best irons on the market will smooth away wrinkles instantly, without requiring you to pass over the creases multiple times.

Portability

If you're considering an iron for travel or small spaces (like a dorm room or apartment), then portability is going to be a key factor. That means you'll have to consider an iron's size and weight so that you can avoid heavy and bulky models. This is also important if you have arthritis or struggle with grip strength. Don't forget that irons are heavier when the water reservoirs are completely full.

Cord length is also important when it comes to portability. A long cord (about 8 feet) will give you more flexibility and allow you to use it at a reasonable distance from the outlet. If you're planning to iron large items like quilts, consider picking a cordless model so you don't have to worry about too-short cords or poor outlet placement.

Heat Time

A higher wattage iron is going to heat up much faster than one with lower wattage, which is important if you want to quickly freshen up your clothes before heading out. But keep in mind that how long an iron takes to heat up will vary based on the setting you choose—different fabrics should be ironed at different temperatures, so that can affect the heat time.

Steam Iron vs. Dry Iron

Most modern irons are steam irons, which means they have a water tank and steam holes that emit hot steam in addition to applying heat and pressure to the fabric. A dry iron, on the other hand, simply has a soleplate that uses heat and pressure to smooth out wrinkles without any water or steam. But many steam irons can also be used as dry irons by selecting the no-steam mode. In fact, you can even fill the water tank on a steam iron and use the spray function to slightly dampen the fabric before dry ironing.

Design and Features

The design of an iron can make all the difference in your experience of using it. Unless you're specifically looking for a compact model for travel, bigger is generally better when it comes to irons. That's because a larger, heavier plate will cover more surface area and help remove wrinkles more effectively—and a larger water tank typically means you'll have stronger steam bursts and fewer trips to the sink for refills. Some models even have removable water tanks so you can refill them while the irons are heating.

You'll also want to look for safety features, like an auto shut-off that will turn the iron off if it tips over or is left on for too long. Make sure that the iron you choose has all the fabric settings you'll need, like nylon, linen, cotton, or silk. Some irons even come with a self-clean function that helps prevent limescale buildup over time, which is particularly useful if you have hard water.

Another factor to consider is whether you want a stainless steel or ceramic-coated soleplate. Stainless steel is more durable and better at conducting heat, but ceramic reduces the risk of scorching your clothes at higher temperatures.

best irons
Dera Burreson

More Clothes Irons to Consider

Rowenta Perfect Steam Pro: This iron performed really well in our tests, but it costs much more than the average person is willing to spend on an iron. If you're a professional or someone who irons in bulk, this high-pressure model allows you to effectively speed through a lot of garments with ease.

Black+Decker Light 'N Easy Compact Steam Iron: People who have trouble with grip strength or arthritis will appreciate that this full-size iron only weighs 2.5 pounds. It dripped a little during our tests, but it was still relatively effective at smoothing out wrinkles—even without a heavy plate.

Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot Travel Iron: This affordable iron is another option for travel that's comparable to the Conair EZ Press, but our testers found that it wasn't quite as effective or user-friendly.

Questions You Might Ask

What's the difference between a steamer and an iron?

A steamer uses a direct flow of hot steam to remove wrinkles from fabric, while an iron uses heat and the weight of the device to smooth out wrinkles. (That's why ironing is also called pressing.) But most irons nowadays are steam irons, which means they have a water reservoir that allows you to use steam, heat, and pressure together.

So, when should you use a steamer instead of an iron? For sturdier fabrics like cotton or linen, or for pressing creases into fabrics, the pressure of an iron will be more effective at smoothing wrinkles than steam. Certain fabrics, like velvet and corduroy, shouldn't be ironed because the pressure can distort the appearance of the fabric. Others, like synthetics, silk, and chiffon, should only be ironed with gentle steam settings.

"For items tagged 'do not iron,' steaming is generally a suitable alternative that will help to achieve a crease-free, fresh finish," Miller says. "If you don't have a steamer at home, use the steam function on your iron and hover it a few inches from the garment to let the steam gently lift out wrinkles." Some irons we tested have vertical steam settings for this exact purpose.

Can you use tap water in a steam iron?

Most steam irons are designed to be used with tap water. In fact, some manufacturers say tap water works best in their appliances, including Rowenta. That's because these irons have features that are designed to remove mineral deposits that would otherwise clog parts of the iron. If you have hard water (aka water that is high in calcium and magnesium), the brand may suggest using part distilled water and part tap water in your iron. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations though, because using distilled water in irons designed for tap water can potentially harm your appliance and void the warranty.

What's the best way to store and maintain an iron?

Taking a few extra steps after each session will keep your iron in great shape over time. "It's important to properly maintain your iron to ensure a smooth ironing experience free of spots or mineral deposits," says Miller. "After each use, take care to fully empty your iron's water reservoir and let it cool down in a safe place. Once the soleplate is cool enough to touch, wipe down the entire iron with a clean, damp cloth."

Always store your iron upright in a cool, dry place until the next use. If you do end up with burn marks or mineral spots on the soleplate, check out our guide on how to deep clean your iron.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, we tested 31 irons over two days in our Lab and evaluated each model on its effectiveness, portability, design, and overall value. For expert tips on using and caring for irons, Melanie consulted Madeline Miller, product specialist at The Laundress.

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