A good steam-generator iron can help you get through your ironing in record time, and makes it effortless to remove even stubborn creases. Buy the wrong one, though, and it may be no better – perhaps even worse – at banishing wrinkles than a conventional iron. Steam generators are big and bulky too, making them potentially tricky to store. So be sure to check out our guide to the best steam irons before making your decision on what type to go for.
First, you need to decide between non-pressurised or pressurised. The latter gives twice as much steam as a conventional steam iron and because the water is held in a separate tank base-unit, the iron is lighter to hold and the water needs refilling less often. Pressurised steam generator irons produce the same amount of steam as non-pressurised, but the constant flow of high-pressure steam means it’s easier to penetrate entrenched creases, making even faster work of your ironing.
Next up, think about what’s important to you. Would you benefit from a one-temperature-for-all-fabrics iron? Do you want it to heat up quickly? Do you want it to be on the quieter side? Would a steam shot button be useful? What about vertical steam for curtains and suits on the hanger? Check how heavy it is, how comfortable the handle is and if the cord is long enough to reach your nearest plug socket.
Does it have a good limescale resistance (important in hard water areas)? Do you have to regularly clean the iron? Is the soleplate thin and tapered for hard-to-reach areas and is it scratch-resistant? Is it easy to see when the water needs filling up (and do you get a warning telling you when it’s almost empty)? What about auto shut-off – a useful safety feature that kicks in after 10 or so minutes of inactivity?
Once you’ve ironed out all those issues (excuse the pun), take your pick from our top selection.
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Philips PerfectCare Elite Silence GC9650/80: £357.37, Amazon
Tank capacity: 1.8l
Steam rate: 140g/min
You’ll have enough puffs of steam to make short work of your ironing pile with this heavy-duty yet quiet machine – all helped by the fact that the soleplate is exceptionally smooth and there’s a single temperature setting for all fabrics, which saves having to fiddle about with controls. The soleplate is also thin enough to reach under buttons, an eco-setting reduces the steam output, the water tank is easily removable and the de-calc system is effective in getting rid of limescale. Faults? Zero.
Rowenta Silence Steam Extreme Generator Iron: £270, Lakeland
Net weight: 5kg
Tank capacity: 1.4l
Steam rate: 120g/min
Another iron that glides over fabric, flattening even obstinate creases in its wake, this one also won us over by its good looks and extremely good resistance to limescale. It’s the quietest machine we tried too – a boon if you don’t want to be deafened by bursts of steam as you try to catch up with the latest Netflix series. But while the soleplate is thin and pointy enough to tackle embroidery, pleats and get under buttons, it’s not as scratch-resistant as some, so watch out for zips.
Braun CareStyle 3 IS3044: £199, Currys
Net weight: 4.26kg
Tank capacity: 2l
Steam rate: 120g/min
Here is another product that automatically adjusts the temperature according to whether you’re ironing on delicate or thicker fabrics. Its vertical steaming function is particularly effective. It’s good for hard-water areas, with a powerful limescale filter, and the soleplate is durable, scratch-resistant, smooth and thin. It’s surprisingly lightweight, but on the downside, the square handle could be more ergonomic and the cord is a bit short at 1.8m.
Morphy Richards Speed Steam 333200: £149.99, Argos
This lightweight iron has been designed to work through multiple layers without the need to push down hard, which makes it a boon for the likes of bed linen and clothing that’s either lined or layered. It gets hot nice and quickly and we got through a huge ironing pile without having to refill the tank. It’s a good choice for those short on storage space and who live in hard-water areas as it keeps limescale at bay. You have to turn the heat up a bit higher than with other irons, but you get the same results. It’s a shame it doesn’t stand up on its own, though.
Russell Hobbs 24430: £63.57, Amazon
This is Russell Hobbs’ most lightweight steam-generator iron yet, so there’s no chance of wrist ache while you’re ironing or feeling like you’re lifting a pile of bricks when you go to store it away. The trade-off is that you need to use the boost function more than usual for deep-rooted creases. For normal creases, though, it’s brilliant. It’s also fantastic for anyone who lives in a hard-water area as it doesn’t scale up anywhere near as fast as other irons we tested. The steam is plentiful and consistent and the soleplate is very scratch resistant. We’d have liked the soleplate to be a bit thinner to make it easier to get underneath buttons, however.
Bosch Series 4 TDS4070GB: £129.99, Bosch
You’ll have no shortage of steam with this beautifully engineered machine that makes a breeze of even the tallest ironing piles, sliding effortlessly over the most stubborn of creases. In fact, we hardly had to use the steam-boost function. It’s ready to go in a minute and a half (quicker than most) and the pre-set temperature settings mean you don’t have to fiddle around with the buttons. We like the vertical steam function too – great for the likes of curtains and suits. It’s better at keeping limescale at bay than many irons, but we’d have liked the water tank to be removable.
Philips GC9682 Perfectcare Elite Plus: £350, Amazon
This bling looking beast of a machine costs a bomb, but it’s a godsend if you have daunting piles of ironing. It’s significantly faster than most, even the other Philips machine reviewed here, with brilliant power. And while the base unit is enormous, the actual iron is one of the lightest we’ve used. It has sensors to predetermine your fabric type and adjust the temperature accordingly and it really comes into its own when it comes to standing up against limescale, thanks to the excellent anti-calc system. You hardly ever have to fill the tank and when you do, it’s easily removable. You can’t stand the iron up on its own, though.
Swan SI11010N Steam Generator iron: £49, Amazon
We wondered if this iron, which comes in at under 50 quid, could possibly get close to the efficiency of its more expensive counterparts, but we were very impressed with the amount of steam it produced, which made for effortless ironing for lighter creases – although you will need some elbow grease for more entrenched ones. The soleplate glides well, the iron itself is quite light and the water tank lasts a good hour before it needs refilling. It’s more compact than some and includes cable storage and a carry handle. It lacks the oomph of the other irons reviewed here, but for the price tag, we were suitably wowed.
Tefal pro express ultimate GV9563: £299.99, Argos
There are certain basics that irons should deliver, notably being comfortable to hold, not too heavy, heats up quickly, tackles creases with speed and ease and doesn’t get limescale buildup if you live in a hard-water area. This ticks all those boxes and more, as it’s also easy to fill up the water tank and has a scratch-resistant and robust soleplate. Plus, it works a treat vertically. It’s not the fastest to heat up and it can be difficult to reach under buttons and pleats, but otherwise this is easily our favourite of all the many (and there are a lot) Tefal steam-generator irons on the market.
The verdict: steam irons
You’ll be blown away by the quality of the Philips GC9650, which makes short work of even the tallest ironing piles. If it’s too pricey however, the Morphy Richards Speed Stream 333200 is a great mid-priced option, while our favourite budget buy is the Swan Steam Generator iron – a bargain for under fifty quid.
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