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Rowenta Focus Excel DW5280 Review

An expansive spray and an ideal nose for detailing, but with some usability issues and underperformance on sensitive fabrics
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Rowenta Focus Excel DW5280 Review
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Price:  $80 List
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Manufacturer:   Rowenta
By Maggie Nichols and Jessica Riconscente  ⋅  May 3, 2023
  • Ironing Performance - 40% 6.5
  • Steam Output - 25% 5.0
  • Heating - 15% 5.0
  • Detailing - 10% 8.8
  • Ease of Use - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Rowenta Focus Excel is a slightly above-average iron that has some great features and some attributes that are less than ideal. We loved using it for cotton and linen fabrics, which it smooths over with ease. Its narrow nose makes detailing work a cinch, and it has one of our favorite spray features, easily covering a wide swath in front of the iron. However, we weren't impressed by its performance on challenging fabrics like silk and polyester, as it tended to spew out droplets of water rather than a fine mist for a steam boost. Without a well-rounded performance, this costly iron is best for folks looking for a model to help them with specific projects that fall within the strengths of the Focus Excel.
Great shaped nose for detailing
Excellent spray
Challenging to refill tank
Not great on satin

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Rowenta Focus Excel has a very elongated, narrow nose that helps it do detailing work with ease. It's great on certain fabrics but has a sloppy steam boost function that, more often than not, leaves large water drops on the fabric.

Performance Comparison

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - the rowenta focus excel has a great spray feature and pointed nose...
The Rowenta Focus Excel has a great spray feature and pointed nose for detailing, but isn't as impressive overall as many others.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ironing Performance

The Focus Excel is one of our favorites to use on cotton and linen. It flattens wrinkles quickly, requiring just 1 or 2 passes. It sometimes bunches up the fabric rather than gliding over it, but it still does an admirable job. On silk, satin, and polyester, however, it has a harder time smoothing out regular wrinkles. Using the steam boost function resulted in large drops of water rather than extra steam. This model boasts over 400 steam openings (though the actual number on our test model was closer to 370), meaning smaller openings in more locations around the iron. While the principle behind this sounds great, it didn't seem to make much of a difference compared to the others we tested.

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - on cotton and linen, the focus excel performs admirably. but across...
On cotton and linen, the Focus Excel performs admirably. But across satin, silk, and polyester, it was less impressive.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Steam Output

With so many steam holes, very little steam is actually visible coming out of them. We measured the steam output of the Focus Excel at just shy of the average amount among models in our lineup. It also fluctuated temperature during our testing, changing the amounts of steam it released, despite having no one fiddling with the controls.

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - the focus excel didn't produce nearly as much steam as other rowenta...
The Focus Excel didn't produce nearly as much steam as other Rowenta models we tested.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


The Focus Excel is solidly below average in terms of the temperature it achieves. Hitting an average of just 309°F across its soleplate, this iron is one of the coolest in our lineup. However, its nose gets much warmer at 338°F. This translated to better detailing performance throughout our testing.

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - the focus excel just doesn't get as warm as many others.
The Focus Excel just doesn't get as warm as many others.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Not all accentuated noses are great for detailing, but the one on the Focus Excel truly is. It's very long and pointy, making it easy to angle into all the little crevices and pockets of your garments. It feels great to use, with a comfortable grip on the handle. Our only complaint is that the cord is a bit closer than we'd like and occasionally brushes against the wrist while twisting around button holes and collars.

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - the accentuated nose on an already narrow soleplate helps the focus...
The accentuated nose on an already narrow soleplate helps the Focus Excel to be a great choice for detailing work.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use

Like many of the irons we tested, the Focus Excel has a nice long, 8-foot cord that permits freedom of movement. It's attached with a ball joint meant to swivel 360 degrees, but it proved to be too rigid to rotate properly. The indicator light is rather dim, forcing you to squint to see if it's on or off. Filling the water tank took some getting used to. The back of the opening appears to be a funnel for directing water but resulted in a lot of back spray and shooting the water off to one side. On the flip side, the extra spray function on this model is one of our favorites. It's nearly as wide as the iron and shoots out far enough that it only requires a single press to get the right amount of water. The only way it could be better is if it were a finer mist, but we still like it a lot, just the way it is.

The very dim indicator light on the Focus Excel.
The very dim indicator light on the Focus Excel.
Filling the Focus Excel water reservoir.
Filling the Focus Excel water reservoir.
Viewed from below.
Viewed from below.
Some of the features of the Focus Excel, including its indicator light, water tank opening, and cord.

Should You Buy the Rowenta Focus Excel DW5280?

The Focus Excel works well on certain fabrics and for detailing jobs. If you never find yourself needing to iron polyester, silk, or anything satin, this limitation probably won't apply to you. It's one of our favorites for detailing. However, it's also more expensive than several models we liked even more that offer better and more well-rounded performances.

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - easy access to the steam boost and extra spray features.
Easy access to the steam boost and extra spray features.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

What Other Irons Should You Consider?

For a more balanced iron that details well but also performs admirably on large swaths of all kinds of fabric, the Black+Decker D3030 Allure is an excellent option and costs less. If you must have the best for detailing and are willing to sacrifice all medium and large jobs, the Panasonic NI-L70SR Cordless is an intriguing model that does top-notch detailing work in short bursts. But if you prefer the traditional corded style and truly value detailing abilities above all else, the Focus Excel may be for you.

rowenta focus excel dw5280 - the focus excel is great for detailing.
The Focus Excel is great for detailing.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Maggie Nichols and Jessica Riconscente