Best Steam Iron of 2021
$139.99 at Amazon
$42.18 at Amazon
$99.00 at Amazon
|$120 List||$120 List|
|Pros||Amazing steam output, precise soleplate nose, steam holes are evenly distributed and plentiful||Powerful steam burst, pointed nose for precision, budget-friendly||Efficiently reduces wrinkles, misty water spray, 400+ steam holes, retractable cord||Great glide, decent steam output, precise for buttons and pleats||Great steam output, excellent glide, precise|
|Cons||Very expensive, short cord, heavy||Minimal steam output, lack of steam holes on soleplate||Filling the water tank could be easier||Expensive, nylon setting is too low, inconsistent temperature||Expensive, uneven soleplate temperature|
|Bottom Line||A powerful steam iron equipped with out-of-this-world steam output, achieving high-end quality but for a top-tier price||A high-performing iron equipped with a powerful steam burst and the ability to tackle most fabrics and most wrinkles||An above-average steam iron with a conveniently retractable chord and an ergonomic soleplate that can tackle most wrinkles||A steam iron that offers user friendliness, precision, and a smooth glide for an overall pleasurable experience||A top-notch model at a top-tier price for anyone that demands high-end ironing performance|
|Rating Categories||Rowenta DW9280 Stea...||Black+Decker D3030...||CHI Steam Titanium||Rowenta DW5080 Focus||Rowenta DW7180 Ever...|
|Ironing Performance (35%)|
|Steam Output (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Specs||Rowenta DW9280 Stea...||Black+Decker D3030...||CHI Steam Titanium||Rowenta DW5080 Focus||Rowenta DW7180 Ever...|
|Weight||3.85 lbs||1.9 lbs||2.9 lbs||3.4 lbs||3.7 lbs|
|Soleplate Material||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Titanium Infused Ceramic||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
|Steam Output||69 g/min||22 g/min||55 g/min||43 g/min||60 g/min|
|Temperature After 5 Minutes of Heating||304° F||337.6° F||304° F||288° F||313° F|
Best Overall Steam Iron
Rowenta DW9280 SteamForce
With its impressive steam output, the Rowenta DW9280 SteamForce removes stubborn wrinkles from most fabrics with ease. There is no need for additional steam or moisture while ironing cotton and linen, but a quick press of the steam button helps rid difficult-to-work-with materials like silk and polyester of stubborn wrinkles. The massive amount of steam is released through 400 strategically-placed steam holes found on the soleplate, and the iron runs nice and hot, ensuring that no moisture is left behind. Not only does this iron work quickly and effectively, but its pointy nose helps get into most nooks and crannies, making it a very versatile iron too.
Our biggest gripe with the SteamForce is its high price tag. It may be too expensive for the casual user, but if you are someone who needs a precise and efficient steam iron and plan to use it often, we still feel that its performance justifies its price.
Read review: Rowenta DW9280 SteamForce
High-End Performance at a Budget-Friendly Price
Black+Decker D3030 Allure
With just a few swipes, the Black+Decker D3030 Allure tackles any wrinkle that crosses its path. While it doesn't emit much steam on its own, a spritz or two of the steam burst helps eliminate wrinkles on particularly stubborn fabrics like silk and polyester. The pointy soleplate nose allows for precision ironing, so dodging buttons and getting in between pleats is a breeze. The cord wraps easily around the base, and it is mostly easy to fill the water tank, although some spills occur when the top flap is in the way.
Budget-friendly devices usually cut corners a bit when it comes to features, and the Allure is no exception. While this is a stellar machine, we don't love how little steam is emitted without the steam burst. There are only a measly 22 steam holes to disperse said steam, which is far less than our higher-performing products. This doesn't affect performance too much, though, and pressing a button isn't terribly hard, but it is one place where the Allure could stand to improve.
Read review: Black+Decker D3030 Allure
High Steam Output at a Lower Cost
CHI Steam Titanium
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 with fabric, like silk. All these features make this iron a breeze to use, but one of our favorites is the retractable cord. This simple feature speeds up the clean-up process by allowing the user to retract the cord without waiting for the iron to cool completely.
While the retractable cord makes things easier, we sadly can't say the same thing for filling the water tank. There is a little flap inside the fill hole that frequently gets in the way of the water stream and causes a good amount of spillage. The only other bone with have to pick with this nifty appliance is that the nose plate is not quite as tapered as some of our higher performing models. It still gets the job done, but if your top priority is precision, there may be a better option in our test suite for you.
Read review: CHI Steam Titanium
Great for Travel
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 makes it difficult to get tough wrinkles out or any wrinkles at all without putting in the physical leg work — you have to swipe over every wrinkle multiple times. Still, this 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.
Read review: Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot
Why You Should Trust Us
Michelle Powell and Hayley Thomas have lead TechGearLab's steam iron testing. Over the past five years, our testing team has carefully researched over 100 different models and personally used more than 20 products covering a wide range of price points. In an effort to keep our reviews unbiased, we purchase all the units we test, never accepting free or discounted sample units from any manufacturers.
We spent over 150 hours using these irons for this review, carefully measuring their steam output and timing their heating cycles. Our steam iron testing also dovetails with our sewing machine testing, granting us the opportunity to use all these irons on various fabrics and situations where precision is necessary.
Related: How We Tested Steam Irons
Analysis and Test Results
Irons all pretty much look the same, and, on the surface, at least, they might seem to function the same. 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 imaginable fabric 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.
Related: Buying Advice for Steam Irons
For most people who will iron a few items a week, the Black+Decker Allure offers the best balance of cost and performance. The Rowenta SteamForce outperformed it by a wide margin in regards to steam output, but it costs almost three times more, making it a less viable option for many folks — particularly if you are okay sacrificing some steam. The Allure still offers a powerful steam burst at the touch of a button, so for simpler jobs or fair-weather ironers, it's a great runner-up.
The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot is incredibly inexpensive; however, it only proves its value if you are an avid traveler in need of a compact and travel-friendly model. This is a great option to consider if you want a second supplemental iron specifically for travel, but it shouldn't be your main home iron.
Clearly, an iron's ability to smooth out wrinkles is important. In fact, it's probably the only reason you would spend money on one of these handheld, steam-breathing dragons. In our testing, we found that all irons produce nearly identical results in terms of garment smoothness. Are there differences between products? Yes. Are they noticeable? Barely. For our testers to uncover these subtle differences, they had to lay down some fabric, iron two side-by-side swatches with two different irons, and closely examine the results. Therefore, you can rest assured that any model you choose from our lineup will yield nice, smooth garments.
In the end, our ironing performance metric essentially boiled down to glide performance. Models that glide over fabric more smoothly don't necessarily yield better results. Still, they do make the process feel much easier, which is a nice perk when you're stuck for an extended session surfing the ironing board. Better glide is also quite noticeable during the precision ironing demanded by many quilting and sewing projects.
The Rowenta SteamForce offered some of the best ironing performance in our testing. Possibly its best attribute is the silky glide that makes every pass feel smooth and effortless. The unique pointed nose allows it to easily maneuver 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. If you're looking for a high-performance model, the SteamForce won't disappoint.
The Black+Decker Allure also offers incredible ironing performance. Its tapered nose allows for easy navigation around hard-to-reach spots, and the fast working, ergonomic soleplate removes most wrinkles within three swipes. The powerful steam burst and misty water spray help significantly with deep wrinkles and folds without dampening the garment.
Closely following its sibling is the Rowenta Focus. It provides a fantastic ironing experience. It shares the wrinkle-reducing power and pointed nose of the SteamForce, but the glide was just slightly less smooth in our tests.
Earning similarly high praise to the Focus is the CHI Steam Titanium. Needing only a few passes per deep wrinkle, the Titanium is an efficient steam iron, and the steam burst helps with troublesome fabrics like polyester.
The Rowenta DW7180 Everlast and Maytag M400 SpeedHeat performed well but not outstandingly. They both struggle with deep-set wrinkles in silk and with the nylon setting being a little too cool. The steam blast helps remove some harder-to-smooth wrinkles but leaves the garments slightly damp. While they both provide decent glide on most fabrics, the SpeedHeat sticks a bit on linen.
The small and portable Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot and Steamfast SF-717 Mini are the worst performers here, but we still love these little appliances for those who need something on the road. The small stature robs them of power and surface area, which means many passes are required to get a garment looking truly smooth. This is fine for travel applications, just don't expect great results if you use these tiny models for your regular, at-home ironing tasks.
Steam output generally equates to a speedier ironing experience. All the models we tested should be able to smooth out all the creases and wrinkles you'll encounter. However, a more powerful model with higher steam output will beat back wrinkles with fewer passes than a less powerful model. This can make your ironing experience feel more streamlined, easier, and overall more enjoyable. Two factors determine the steam output: how much steam is produced and how efficient the holes in the soleplate are at transferring that steam to the clothing. During testing, we concluded that the number of holes is the primary influence affecting this efficiency. We measured steam output ourselves instead of relying on manufacturers' claims.
The entire Rowenta team crushes this category. The SteamForce, Everlast and Focus are all top performers. Right up there with them is the CHI Steam Titanium. These top performers share two characteristics: 400 or more steam holes and a large steam output per minute. The SteamForce comes in hot with a steam output of 69 grams per minute, followed by the Everlast with 60 grams. The Titanium pushes out 55 grams, and the Focus does 43 grams per minute. These four models perform significantly better in this category than any other option in our test suite.
Three models land far beneath the top scorers but above our worst performers: the Maytag SpeedHeat, Black+Decker Allure, and Sunbeam Steam Master. The SpeedHeat and Allure offer a total of 23 steam holes, and the Steam Master has 15. All are placed around the perimeter of the soleplate and provide just over 20 grams of steam per minute.
Ease of Use
If there is one aspect of ironing that you particularly dislike, such as refilling the water tank, then ease-of-use should be an important consideration in your purchase decision. If you're more concerned with performance attributes like steam output, then ease of use may be less important. We considered several factors when testing for this metric, 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. 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. 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.
Continuing their reign atop the leaderboard are all our Rowenta models, the Focus, SteamForce, and Everlast. All three are easy to fill, but the SteamForce has a bit larger fill hole making it slightly easier than the rest. They all also have an adequately pointed nose for easy precision work. The spray trigger on the SteamForce makes the handle feel more secure and comfortable, and the Everlast's cylindrical handle feels natural and comfortable to hold. However, the handle on the Focus is not quite cylindrical, making it feel a little more cumbersome. They could all stand to improve their cord management, though. Each one has a nice convex curve to the base of the iron under the soleplate where you can securely wrap the cord, but they would be much more manageable if they were retractible.
All this talk of retractible cords brings us to the runner-up in this category, the CHI Titanium. With its retractable cord, the Titanium is among the easiest to clean up and stow away. The nose of the soleplate tapers nicely for detail work, but it is not quite as pronounced as Rowenta models, and filling the tank can be a little hectic as the small flap that closes off the fill hole can shoot water off the wrong way. The Black+Decker Allure also scores well here. The handle has a nice feel, and the soleplate is shaped to favor detail work.
The Sunbeam Steam Master also endeared itself to our testers with a retractable cord; however, its handling feels average, and the fill hole for the water tank is awkwardly placed, making it nearly impossible to fill it directly from a sink faucet. The Maytag SpeedHeat is very easy to fill, but there is nowhere to securely wrap the cord, and the soleplate shape, while still shapely, does not lend itself to super detailed work.
The faster a model heats up, the sooner you can put it away, and the more evenly it heats up, the more effective it is. We put all our irons on their highest setting and measured the soleplate temperature with a thermocouple after five minutes. We found that the spread in temperatures spanned a whopping 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
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In this category, the Sunbeam Steam Master shines bright, or in this case, hot. Its maximum temperature after five minutes was 390 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average for the whole soleplate was 359 degrees. This iron surely gets hot, but we also found that it was inconsistent when checking different parts of the soleplate.
The Maytag SpeedHeat, Black+Decker Allure, and Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot all also reached impressive temps. The SpeedHeat averaged 345.8 degrees Fahrenheit after five minutes. The Allure came in at an average of 336 degrees, and the Hot-2-Trot wasn't far behind with an average of 332 degrees.
While heat is a vital function of an iron, it is important to note that we dubbed this metric the least important of all four. This means that unless you have a specific need for heat, you should take into account how the steam iron you are considering performed in the categories mentioned above first.
Why We Didn't Score Safety
Steam irons are a potential fire hazard, but all the irons that we tested have fairly standardized safety features to mitigate this danger. This includes a 30-second auto-shutoff timer if an iron is left stationary when lying flat or on its side, and, depending on the model, an 8-30 minute auto-off timer when the iron is left standing on its heel. We tested these features on all the irons we reviewed to make sure they functioned as advertised, and all the irons in this review worked perfectly in that regard.
We hope that our testing results have helped you zero in on the ironing attributes that matter most to you and helped you identify a reasonably priced model that delivers what you're seeking. Here at GearLab, we're always striving to make chore time a little less painful, and though we know that there are many features and a lot of information to sort through, there is a model out there to meet every steam ironer's needs.
— Michelle Powell and Hayley Thomas