What makes a great iron? Models that release more steam tend to do the best and fastest job, based on Consumer Reports' tests of dozens of models. And features that make ironing go more smoothly include a light that indicates that the iron has reached the proper temperature; auto-shutoff, a safety feature that powers the iron down when left stationary for a short time; a steam-surge button that releases a burst of steam for tackling stubborn wrinkles; and vertical steam, which lets you remove wrinkles from drapes and hanging garments. Here's how to get the best results from any iron.
Heed hard-water advice. Most irons work fine with tap water. But if your water is very hard, you might want to mix it with distilled water. Mineral deposits are more common with hard water, so you also might need to clean the soleplate and steam holes more frequently. Follow the owners’ manual.
Start cool. Irons heat up faster than they cool down. So start with synthetics and other fabrics that require a cooler iron, then do wools at medium and finish on high with cottons and linens. Allow a minute or so between changes for the iron to heat up.
Prevent dribbles. Leaking can occur when you iron at lower temperatures, so add water after you have pressed delicate fabrics. Remember to empty any leftover water once you’re done ironing. That reduces the chance of drips the next time you iron, and the heat will evaporate the remaining moisture.
Clean the iron, including the soleplate. Even if you don’t have hard water, do that occasionally, especially if you use starch. Some have a self-clean setting.
The best irons from our tests
- Rowenta Steamforce DW9280, $140, our new top-rated steam iron, was excellent overall and provides lots of steam. But at 3.7 pounds, it's heavier than most top picks.
- Panasonic NI-W950A, $130, emits plenty of steam and has a large reservoir so that you can do lots of ironing before you need to refill it, but this iron is also big.
- T-Fal FV4495 Ultraglide, is $45 and a CR Best Buy. It was excellent overall and provides lots of steam. And it's lighter than most.