When faced with baskets of wrinkled laundry what you really need is an iron that produces a lot of steam, or a family that wouldn't mind plenty of polyester. Consumer Reports' tests of 51 conventional irons found big differences in how much steam they produce. The steamiest of all was the newly tested and top-rated Panasonic NI-W950A. But at $220, it's also the most expensive. Can a $50 steam iron get the job done right?
The $50 Rowenta Effective Comfort DW2070 iron was excellent overall—superb at ironing fabrics and producing steam. Its performance and price make it a CR Best Buy. However, the Rowenta Eco Intelligence DW6080, $120, didn't make our recommended list. Rowenta claims it uses 25 percent less electricity. And it did in our tests, compared to another Rowenta with the same wattage, but the Eco iron produced less steam, and a lot less compared to the irons we recommend.
As for the top-scoring Panasonic NI-W950A, it has a large reservoir and emits enough steam that you can iron a large linen tablecloth before refilling. Its sole plate is alumite, which the manufacturer says is anodized aluminum, and is slightly curved and pointed at both ends. This unusual shape didn't show any obvious advantages in our tests, but the Panasonic did deliver excellent ironing and steam. The Panasonic is a big iron, so when shopping for any iron, pick it up, hold it, and imagine it filled with water. Does the design allow for large hands?
Our free buying guide also offers tips on minimizing leaking. "Whatever you buy, hang onto to your receipt as most irons have at least a one-year warranty," says Pat Slaven, an engineer who runs Consumer Reports' iron tests. "Follow the manual and use whatever water is recommended. When finished ironing, put it on a solid surface, not on the ironing board. People wind up dropping the iron and once it's gone for a ride, well ... ."
Our steam iron Ratings offer more details from our test results and note features and product specs, such as the iron's weight and whether it has auto shut-off, a handy safety feature. You'll also find five cordless steam irons as well as larger steam-ironing systems.