Our expert teams have been researching and performing hands-on testing of household appliances for over 5 years. For 2023, we picked 8 of the best steam irons to review — so if you want to make wrinkles cower in fear, you've come to the right place. We ironed more than 350 garments to find the strength and weaknesses of each model, evaluating glide, steam output, ease of use, and warm-up speed side-by-side. Whether you're a veteran crafter needing as much precision and power as possible or you want something inexpensive to effectively get your work clothes ready for the upcoming week, we've got you covered.
The Rowenta DW2459 Access is an easy, high-value choice that scored well across the board. This steam iron is exceptionally smooth, gliding easily over even the most delicate fabrics. It has no problem getting wrinkles out of cotton and linen quickly and needs just an extra pass or two to achieve the same results on silk. With 400 tiny holes on the soleplate, an extra blast of steam also proved to get the job done on some of the toughest fabrics like polyester. The pointed nose makes detailing around buttons and armpits a breeze. And the retractable cord is the icing on the cake — no more tripping as you wait for your iron to cool.
The flaws of this iron are relatively few. The chamber for the retractable cord pulls the Access center of gravity back a bit, forcing us to tip it forward at times. The opening for refilling the water chamber is also rather small, with a slope that often results in water shooting off to the side rather than funneling in. And the extra spray button doesn't shoot water very far — a detriment when ironing large swaths of fabric. Still, if you're searching for top-notch, all-around performance at a reasonable price, look no further.
The Black+Decker D3030 Allure is easy to use and offers great performances at a price we almost can't believe. Running hot, the Allure sailed over all fabrics we tested, with a superb front spray feature that works wonders. Its tapered nose makes precision work a breeze, and an 8-foot cord handily reaches just about wherever you need it. We appreciate the matte finish of the handle and the large, obvious controls.
The Allure doesn't have the most impressive steam output compared to many of the models we tested and utilizes just 23 holes around the perimeter of the soleplate. Still, though the numbers are lower, we didn't find this to impact how well it irons even synthetic fabrics. We wish the water tank lid would open a little further, but we got used to it. Truly, for this price, this iron is a great purchase for just about any everyday ironing job.
The CHI Steam Titanium is an above-average performer at a fair price, making it a great value. It has an ergonomic handle and glides across most fabrics with ease. It makes quick work of most wrinkles, even deep-set ones on hard-to-work fabric, like silk. These features make this iron a breeze to use, as does the retractable cord, which speeds up the clean-up process and allows you to clean up without waiting for the iron to cool completely.
While the retractable cord makes things easier, we sadly can't say the same for filling the water tank. A little flap inside the fill hole frequently gets in the way of the water stream and causes a good amount of spillage. The nose plate is also not as tapered as some of our higher-performing models. It still gets the job done, but if your top priority is precision, you may have a better option in our test suite.
The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot is both travel and wallet-friendly. This compact steam iron will barely take up any real estate in your suitcase, and it heats up quickly and efficiently. It is somewhat effective in its efforts, smoothing out most smaller, surface-level wrinkles your clothing may acquire while traveling.
Because the Hot-2-Trot is so small, it omits certain features like a steam burst or water spray. This lack of features makes it difficult to get tough wrinkles out without putting in the physical leg work — you have to swipe over every wrinkle multiple times. Still, this mini steam iron is a good option for someone who is constantly on the go, but it isn't powerful enough for daily use or bigger jobs.
We spent over 150 hours using the irons in this review, carefully measuring their steam output, timing their heating cycles, and assessing their user-friendliness. But the cornerstone of our testing process focuses on the ironing performance score. Each iron undergoes 6 specific ironing tests, evaluating how well each model removes wrinkles from cotton, linen, silk, and polyester. Additionally, we critique how well each iron works on details (like between buttons on a shirt) and the uniformity and effectiveness of the spray feature. We also evaluate all the little details, like glide smoothness, handle feel and balance, cord position and storage, and evenness of heating.
Our in-depth testing process of steam irons is broken down into four rating metrics:
Ironing Performance (35% of overall score weighting)
Steam Output (25% weighting)
Ease of Use (25% weighting)
Heating (15% weighting)
Jessica Riconscente, Maggie Nichols, Michelle Powell and Hayley Thomas have put their heads together to take on this steam iron testing. The four have collectively spent over a dozen years testing home and other products for GearLab. Over the past five years, our team of experts has carefully researched the top models on the market and tested more than 25 products covering a wide range of price points. We purchase all the test units at full price to keep our reviews unbiased, never accepting free or discounted sample units from manufacturers. For this update, we settled on 9 of the best steam irons available today to test side-by-side.
Analysis and Test Results
Irons all look pretty much the same, and, on the surface, at least, they might seem to function the same, too. However, you start to notice the subtle differences that can significantly impact the chore of an ironing session once you've spent nearly a month ironing every fabric imaginable with a plethora of different irons. No matter your needs or budget, our test results represent an effort to make this task as pleasant as possible.
For most people who will iron a few items a week, the Rowenta Access offers exceptional performance for a great value, tackling just about any job easily at about half of what some of the competition costs. If that's still a bit too much, the Black+Decker Allure offers a decent balance of cost and performance.
The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot is incredibly inexpensive but only proves its value if you are an avid traveler needing a compact model. This iron is a solid option if you want a second supplemental iron specifically for when you're on the move, but it shouldn't be your main home iron.
An iron's ability to smooth out wrinkles is essential — it's probably the only reason you would spend money on one of these handheld, steam-breathing dragons. While all the irons we tested will eventually get out wrinkles, some did it in a single pass, while others required more effort. To uncover the sometimes subtle differences between models, we ironed huge swaths of different types of fabrics to see how many passes, extra bursts of steam, or spray we needed for the most stubborn wrinkles. We also considered glide smoothness, particularly on delicate fabrics like silk and precision projects like quilts.
The Black+Decker Allure offers the best ironing performance in our testing. Its tapered nose allows for easy navigation around hard-to-reach spots. The fast-working, ergonomic soleplate removes most wrinkles within a single swipe at high heat and just three swipes over more delicate fabrics like silk and satin. The powerful steam burst and misty water spray help significantly with deep wrinkles and folds without dampening the garment.
The Rowenta Access also offers excellent ironing performance. Its best attribute is its silky glide which makes every pass feel smooth and effortless. The classic Rowenta narrow nose allows easy maneuvering in tight areas, like into the intricate patterns of your latest sewing project or around buttons and collars. This elegance is backed up by enough power to flatten even the most stubborn wrinkles. While the Access requires an extra burst of steam to flatten synthetic wrinkles, it doesn't leave any drips or streaks behind. Earning similarly high praise is the CHI Steam Titanium. Needing only a few passes per deep wrinkle, this iron is efficient, and the steam burst helps with troublesome fabrics like polyester.
While all steam irons are built to put out a constant flow of steam when in use, they also come with additional steam options, including a button that puts out an extra burst of steam on the underside and one that can spray out of the front of the unit for serious wrinkles. The Rowenta Focus Excel has a seriously impressive spray option — our favorite of the bunch. It covers a much larger area than most of the rest, stopping you from needing to press it continuously when you've got a lot of ground to cover. The PurSteam Scratch Resistant has a slightly narrower spray but shoots out pretty far and reasonably evenly, making it our second favorite for big jobs.
How effectively a steam iron puts out steam has a lot to do with how easy and speedy your overall ironing experience will be. The amount of steam put out is a large part of this, but how it is put out is also important. We measured the amount of steam each model expelled over 5 minutes and noted how many holes it has for the steam to escape and their size and configuration.
The CHI Steam Titanium and Rowenta Everlast take top spots for this metric. They released 110 grams and 120 grams of steam over 5 minutes, respectively, and both come equipped with 400 steam holes. We clocked the Rowenta Accessat 53 grams through its 400 holes over the 5-minute interval. Though this is slightly less water, the iron still works just as well as steamier models.
Ease of Use
Suppose there is one aspect of ironing that you particularly dislike, such as refilling the water tank. In that case, ease of use should be an important consideration in your purchase decision. Ease of use may be less critical if you're more concerned with performance attributes like steam output. When testing for this metric, we considered several factors, including cord length, general handling and ergonomics, ease of filling the water tank, and how adeptly the soleplate was at smoothing out oddly shaped clothing items.
Many people complain of water leaking from the soleplate of a steam iron. We found that every model does this if they are not at a high enough temperature, so we didn't dock any points when this happened at low temperatures. Our testers ironed a wide variety of garments with multiple different models — our office looked like the costume department of a Broadway production. Needless to say, we have a good feel for how easy (or frustrating) these products are to use. The Rowenta Everlast impressed us the most here, with an easily wrapped cord and pleasantly shaped and sized handle — though it has a slightly smaller opening to its water tank.
A few models we tested have retractable cords, including the CHI Steam Titanium and Rowenta Access. Though it seems like a small feature, we always appreciate it when a model has this, as it stops the cord from being a tripping hazard while you wait for your iron to cool. Additionally, all the Rowenta models we tested, as well as the CHI Steam Titanium and Black+Decker Allure have narrow noses on their soleplates, which helps a lot for detail work, such as around buttons or delicate stitching.
The faster a model heats, the sooner you can put it away. The more evenly it heats up, the more effective it is. While heat is a primary function of an iron, it is important to note that we ranked this metric the least important. That's because all irons get hot, and all the ones we tested take out wrinkles eventually. However, some boast a higher heat range than others, and when it comes to speed jobs, that matters. We also considered temperature indicator lights, noises, and auto-off functions as a part of this metric.
After 5 minutes of heating, the Rowenta Access achieved the highest temperatures, averaging about 362°F across its soleplate. This high heat works very well for single-pass ventures, but it's so hot that letting it sit on fabric for longer than a second might burn it — best to keep this model moving! The next hottest irons we tested were the PurSteam Scratch Resistant, which hit 343°F, the Black+Decker Allure, which clocked in at 338°F, and the Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot at 332°F.
But you shouldn't have to measure your iron with a temperature gun like we did, just to know when it's ready. The steam irons we tested came with various indicator lights and sounds to let you know when they're on and ready. Our favorite is the CHI Steam Titanium, which has a separate indicator light for each setting. That light blinks while it's heating and then beeps when it's ready, making it easy to know when your iron is ready to start — or when it's reached the right temperature for a specific fabric if you're switching between materials as you iron.
The PurSteam Scratch Resistant also has detailed indicators. It utilizes different colors to indicate when it's ready and includes beeps to warn you when it's about to shut off automatically.
Our goal is to help you identify a reasonably priced model that provides the functionality and features you need. We are always striving to make chores less painful, and we know that there are many features and a lot of information to sort through. We hope our test results can help you zone in on the ironing attributes that matter most to you and find the perfect steam iron to make your domestic upkeep easier.
Jessica Riconscente, Maggie Nichols, Michelle Powell, and Hayley Thomas
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