Best Steam Iron of 2020
Best Overall Steam Iron
Rowenta DW5080 Focus
The Rowenta DW5080 Focus is the machine for those who want a silky-smooth glide, the power to conquer even the most untamable wrinkles, and the precision required to navigate tiny nooks and crannies. Its 38 g/min steam output is best-in-class and means it can handle the most onerous of wrinkles, even a forgotten shirt that's been stuffed in the bottom of a suitcase for a week. It backs up this performance with simple, intuitive controls and speedy heat up time.
The only flaw in the Focus is its price. Though it often is available for less than its advertised price, it is still a bit steep as far as steam irons go. If you're just ironing a few work shirts each week, you can probably get away with our less expensive picks. If you are looking for high-end performance for your big sewing project, or you spend multiple hours ironing each week, the extra cost of the Focus should certainly be worth it.
Read review: Rowenta DW5080 Focus
High-end Performance at a Great Price
Just behind the top scorer in our testing, the CHI Professional provides pretty much everything you get from the top-shelf models, such as high steam output, fast heating, and a smooth glide, for a lower price. It even sports a tapered nose that, while not quite as nimble or maneuverable as those on the Rowenta models, is still a huge step up from what you see on most irons.
Our biggest complaint about the CHI is that its water tank is prone to spilling during refilling. This issue is relatively minor, but it is a distinct drawback compared to the top-scoring Rowenta Focus. If you're looking for the best possible iron, we suggest spending a bit more on the slightly more powerful Focus. However, if you want a high-performing product and want to save a little money, or you're lucky enough to find the CHI Professional on sale, we wholeheartedly recommend it.
Read review: CHI Professional
Best on a Tight Budget
Sunbeam Steam Master
If your ironing needs begin and end with keeping a few business casual outfits looking presentable from week to week, the Sunbeam Steam Master offers everything you need at a low price. Its soleplate glides smoothly enough to prevent unnecessary frustrations while ironing, the nose is nimble enough to work around most collars, and the retractable cord makes storage quick and easy.
The biggest downside to the Sunbeam Steam Master is its lack of power — we measured its steam output at a somewhat paltry 21 grams per minute. If you're searching for an iron that can blast through more difficult tasks and stubborn wrinkles with ease, you'll need to look elsewhere. Otherwise, the Sunbeam Steam Master is an effective and inexpensive way to cross "ironing" off your to-do list.
Read review: Sunbeam Steam Master
Best Bang for Your Buck
Black & Decker D2030
For a pint-sized but consistent ironer, the Black & Decker D2030 offers all you need for a reasonable price. Though it doesn't earn a superlative in any category, it supplies enough steam power, glides pretty smoothly, and heats up quickly to streamline the dreaded Sunday ironing chore.
Our main gripes with the Black & Decker D2030 are minor aspects of the user experience. We think the handle could be more ergonomic, and we found it relatively easy to spill water when refilling the water tank. Also, it lacks the tapered nose design of some higher-end models. These shortcomings, however, only become readily apparent if you iron more than once a week or are into crafting projects that demand precision. For the average ironer, the Black & Decker D2030 hits a perfect Goldilocks zone: enough performance to complete the task, but no bells and whistles to inflate the cost.
Read review: Black & Decker D2030
Best for Extra Peace of Mind
The Oliso TG1100 can serve up some peace of mind as a unique model that has a touch-sensitive handle that engages a small tripod whenever you remove your hand. This lifts the iron about an inch off the garment to avoid any burn or scorch marks. We'd like to note that all irons include a trigger that shuts them off automatically if they've been left lying face down and motionless for 30 seconds, so this feature doesn't make the Oliso particularly safer than any other model. However, from a psychological perspective, we found it more comforting to see the iron lifted off the ironing surface when not in use, rather than trusting an unseen accelerometer to turn the stagnant iron off.
The downsides of the Oliso are, unfortunately, quite substantial. Outside of its lift-off feature, its ironing performance is fairly lackluster. Its steam output is definitely below average, and it doesn't glide as smoothly as many other models. It also falls on the pricier end of the spectrum. Still, this model can get the job done, and if you've already lost a few garments to the scourge of iron scorching, it may be a worthwhile investment.
Read review: Oliso TG1100
Why You Should Trust Us
Steven Tata and Max Muter have led TechGearLab's steam iron testing since 2016. In that time, they have carefully researched over 100 different models, and personally used more than 20 products covering a wide range of price points. We purchase all the units we test, never accepting free or discounted sample units from any manufacturers to try to keep our reviews unbiased.
For this review, we spent over 150 hours using these irons, 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 a variety of fabrics and in situations where precision is a necessity.
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, once you've spent nearly a month ironing every imaginable fabric with multiple different irons, you start to notice the subtle differences that can have a significant impact on the chore of an ironing session. Our test results represent an effort to make this task as pleasant as possible, no matter your needs or budget.
The Rowenta Focus offers the best performance in the field, but at a relatively high price. The CHI Professional provides a similar level of performance for a somewhat lower price. For most people that will only iron a few items a week, the Black & Decker D2030 offers a good balance of performance and cost.
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 is going to 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, but they do make the process feel much easier and hassle-free, which is a nice perk when you're stuck surfing the ironing board for an extended period. Better glide is also quite noticeable during the precision ironing demanded by many sewing and quilting projects.
Related: Buying Advice for Steam Irons
The Rowenta DW5080 Focus offered 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 around collars or into the intricate patterns of your latest sewing project. 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 Rowenta DW5080 Focus won't disappoint.
Closely following its sibling, the Rowenta DW7180 Everlast provides a fantastic ironing experience. It shares the pointed nose and wrinkle-reducing power of the Focus but glided just slightly less smoothly in our tests.
In the good but not exceptional 7 out of 10 range there were four different models, all of which glide with relative ease but not quite the feathery lightness of the top scorers. All these models also lack the convenient and maneuverable nose shape of the Rowenta offerings. If we're really splitting hairs, we think the Sunbeam Steam Master and the CHI Professional 13101 glide just a bit more smoothly, but the Black & Decker D2030 and the Shark Ultimate Professional are just a bit quicker at smoothing out wrinkles. In real-world use, you'd have to be examining glide performance with the discerning eye of a quality control engineer to notice a difference.
Unfortunately, the Oliso TG1100 couldn't back up its unique safety features with high-performance. Consequently, it earns an average score of 5 out of 10 in our ironing metric. It glides well enough to not be annoying but certainly not as effortlessly as the top models. Its fairly boxy design is also harder to maneuver in tighter areas. The bottom line is that you spend extra on this iron for its unique safety feature, not for better ironing performance.
The small and portable Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot was the worst performer in our ironing performance tests. Its small stature robs it of surface area and power, which means it requires many passes to get a garment looking truly smooth. This is fine for travel applications, just don't expect great results if you use this iron 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 wrinkles and creases you'll encounter. However, a more powerful model with higher steam output will beat back wrinkles with fewer passes than a less powerful model. As we noted with improved glide, this can make your ironing experience feel a bit easier and more streamlined. Thus, a model with higher steam output can make you feel like a steam-powered deity, rather than a Cinderella toiling over a steaming iron. Steam output is determined by two factors: 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 this efficiency was primarily influenced by the number of holes). We didn't rely on manufacturers' claims and instead measured steam output ourselves.
Here the Rowenta DW5080 Focus again took top honors, scoring a 9 out of 10. It produced an impressive 38 grams per minute of steam in our test and featured a plethora of well-placed steam holes to take full advantage of this output. The CHI Professional 13101 was the only model that was able to come close to this performance and spat out 35 g/min of steam in our testing. It also sports a lot of soleplate holes, though not quite as many as the Focus, which demonstrated clear superiority for pounding out stubborn wrinkles.
Taking the silver medal with a score of 8 out of 10 was the Rowenta DW7180 Everlast. It has the same steam hole layout as the Focus, but it put out a bit less steam at 29 g/min.
Three models landed in the middle of the steam output pack. The Black & Decker D2030 scored a 6 out of 10 and produced a respectable 24 g/min of steam. It lost some points because its holes are near the edge of the soleplate and there are far fewer of them than other models. The Sunbeam Steam Master scored a 5 out of 10, putting out steam at a rate of 21 g/min. This is relatively low, and its soleplate design is somewhat lacking, with only a small number of steam holes. The Shark Ultimate Professional also scores a 5 out of 10. Though it has an excellent soleplate design with a multitude of well-distributed steam holes, its steam output was fairly low at 19 g/min.
The Oliso TG1100 fell well behind the rest of the field in steam output, earning it a 3 out of 10. This model put out less than a third of the steam of the top performer — just 11 g/min of steam in our testing. The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot was at the very bottom of the scoreboard, scoring a 2 out of 10. It produced just 7 g/min. That's not terrible considering its small stature, but still quite weak overall.
Ease of Use
If there is one aspect of ironing that you absolutely hate, 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 is a less important consideration. We considered several ease of use factors in our testing, including cord length, general handling and ergonomics, ease of filling the water tank, and how adept soleplates were at smoothing out oddly shaped items of clothing.
Many people complain of water leaking from the soleplate. We found that all models did this when they weren't at a high enough temperature, so we didn't dock any points when this happened. While we were iron testing our office looked like the costume department of a Broadway production, and our testers ironed a wide variety of garments with multiple different models, so the bottom line is we have a good feel for how easy (or frustrating) these products are to use.
Continuing their reign atop the leaderboard, both Rowenta models shared the top score of 8 out of 10 for ease of use. The DW5080 Focus and the DW7180 Everlast feature nearly indistinguishable soleplates, user interfaces, and general weight and feel, so they provide almost identical user experiences. The soleplate is wide enough to allow for efficient passes but has a narrow point that allows for precise maneuvering on oddly shaped garments. Rowenta's widebody designs shield your hand from steam and make it easy to fill the irons directly from the sink.
Next up in our ease of use testing was the Shark Ultimate Professional GI505, which scored a 7 out of 10. The Shark has a nice cord design, handles well, and can get into tight spaces with ease (though with not quite as much aplomb as the Rowentas). It lost some points due to the opening of its water tank, which tends to splash a bit if you don't pour the water perfectly. This can make filling it directly from a sink a messy affair.
The Oliso TG1100 also earned a 7. It has the longest power cord of any of the models we tested and was one of the easiest to fill up with water. Its only real downside is its heavy weight, which makes it feel a bit clunkier in terms of handling. It also has a foot that automatically raises the iron off the board if you let go of the handle. This was a very polarizing feature, half our testers loved it and the other half hated it, so we left it out of our scoring.
The final model that scored a 7 out of 10 was the CHI Professional 13101. It handles quite well and includes well-designed controls and an extra-long 10' cord. However, it is difficult to fill without spilling water since there is limited space around the tank opening.
Leading off the straggler group in our ease of use testing was the Sunbeam Steam Master, which earned a 6 out of 10. It endeared itself to our testers with a retractable cord that made clean up and storage a breeze. However, its handling felt 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 Black and Decker D2030 didn't present any significant roadblocks to getting your ironing done, but it also doesn't offer any particular features that make it more convenient. The cord design can sometimes get in the way but not to a significant degree, the handle could be a bit more ergonomic but it certainly isn't uncomfortable, and the water could be a bit easier to fill but it generally didn't lead to any spills.
The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot's small size makes it easy to maneuver and refill, but it also means it takes much longer to finish an ironing job. This fact alone pushed it down in our ease of use scoring.
The faster a model heats up, the sooner you can put the ironing board back in the closet and get back on with your life. We put all our irons on their highest setting and measured the soleplate temperature with a thermocouple after two minutes. What we found is that the spread in temperatures was only 40˚F, meaning they all heated up at very similar rates. So the differences in heating speeds are more like swimmers shaving their legs to gain a few milliseconds, rather than upgrading from a Subaru to a Ferrari. If every second matters to you then it might be worth getting one of the top scorers in this category, otherwise, we believe this should be a low-priority metric.
The CHI Professional 13101 heated up the fastest in our testing, hitting 440˚ after two minutes. This means it can be at 400˚ and ready to iron cotton in well under two minutes, which impressed our testers and would save some time if you're ironing fabrics that require high temperatures.
The Rowenta DW7180 Everlast was the second-fastest heater in our test, scoring an 8 out of 10. It reached a scorching 430˚ after two minutes of preheating. Next up was the Black and Decker D2030, which earned a score of 7. It achieved a temperature of 420˚ at the two-minute mark. The Rowenta DW5080 Focus earned a score of 6, hitting 400˚ at the two-minute mark.
Three models earned a score of 5 out of 10 in our heating testing. While this score is not far off the average, it is the lowest of the bunch. Both the Sunbeam Steam Master and the Shark Ultimate Professional reached 390˚ after two minutes. The Oliso TG1100 was slightly behind, hitting 380˚ after two minutes. The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot also hit 380˚ after two minutes. Although these models did heat up a bit more slowly than the top competitors, they would not be limiting for most people because they still reached cotton ironing temperatures in just over two minutes.
Why We Didn't Score Safety
Steam irons are a potential fire hazard. All the irons that we tested have fairly standardized safety features to mitigate this danger. This includes a 30-second auto-shut off timer if an iron is left stationary when lying flat or on its side, and an 8-30 minute (depending on the model) 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 you've identified a reasonably priced model that delivers what you're looking for. Here at GearLab, we're always striving to make chore time a little less painful, and though we know that there are a lot of features and information to sort through, there is a model out there to meet every steam ironer's needs.
— Max Mutter & Steven Tata