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Our expert teams have been researching and performing hands-on testing on household appliances for over 5 years. For 2022, we picked 9 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 300 garments to find every strength and weakness of each model, evaluating glide, steam output, ease of use, and warm-up speed side-by-side. Whether you're a veteran crafter that needs as much precision and power as possible, or you just want something inexpensive that can effectively get your work clothes ready for the upcoming week, we've got you covered.
The Rowenta DW9280 SteamForce easily removes stubborn wrinkles from most fabrics with its impressive steam output. 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. This iron works quickly and effectively, and its pointy nose helps get into most nooks and crannies, making it very versatile.
Our main complaint with the SteamForce is its high price tag. For the casual user, it may be too expensive. However, if you need a precise and efficient steam iron and plan to use it frequently, we feel its performance justifies the price.
With only a few passes, the Black+Decker D3030 Allure tackles any stubborn wrinkle that it encounters. While it doesn't emit much visible steam, a spritz or two of the burst helps eliminate wrinkles on more 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 regarding 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 22 steam holes to disperse said steam, which is far less than our higher-performing products. This disparity doesn't affect performance too much, though, and pressing a button isn't hard, but it is one place where the Allure could stand to improve.
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, 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.
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 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.
Michelle Powell and Hayley Thomas have lead TechGearLab's steam iron testing. Over the past five years, our team of experts has carefully researched the top models on the market and tested more than 20 products covering a wide range of price points. We purchase all the units we test 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.
Our in-depth testing process of steam irons breaks down into four rating metrics:
Ironing Performance (35% of overall score rating)
Steam Output (25% of overall score rating)
Ease of Use (25% of overall score rating)
Heating (15% of overall score rating)
We spent over 150 hours using these irons for 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 tests, evaluating how well each model irons cotton, linen, silk, and polyester. Additionally, we critique how well each iron works out details (like between buttons on a shirt) and the uniformity and effectiveness of a spray feature. Since we all care about performance, these results comprise 35% of the overall score.
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. Our experts conducted more than 117 individual tests to help you find the best steam iron for your needs and budget.
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 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 Black+Decker Allure offers the best balance of cost and performance. The Rowenta SteamForce outperformed it by a wide margin regarding steam output. Still, it costs almost three times more, making it a less viable option for many folks — particularly if you are okay sacrificing some steam. The Black+Decker Allure still offers a powerful steam burst at the touch of a button, so it's a great runner-up for simpler jobs or fair-weather ironers.
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 iron is a great option if you want a second supplemental iron specifically for travel, but it shouldn't be your main home iron.
An iron's ability to smooth out wrinkles is important — 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 make the process 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. 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 DW5080 Focus. It provides a fantastic ironing experience. It shares the wrinkle-reducing power and pointed nose of the Rowenta SteamForce, but the glide was just slightly less smooth in our tests.
Earning similarly high praise to the Rowenta Focus is the CHI Steam Titanium. Needing only a few passes per deep wrinkle, the CHI Steam 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 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 Maytag 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 iron 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. We concluded that the number of holes is the primary influence affecting this efficiency during testing. We measured steam output ourselves instead of relying on manufacturers' claims.
The entire Rowenta team crushes this category. The Rowenta SteamForce, Rowenta Everlast, and Rowenta 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 Rowenta SteamForce comes in hot with a steam output of 69 grams per minute, followed by the Rowenta Everlast with 60 grams. The CHI Titanium pushes out 55 grams, and the Rowenta 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 Maytag SpeedHeat and Black+Decker Allure offer 23 steam holes, and the Sunbeam 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
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 important 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. 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 at the top of the leaderboard are all our Rowenta models, the Rowenta Focus, Rowenta SteamForce, and Rowenta Everlast. All three are easy to fill, but the Rowenta SteamForce has a slightly larger fill hole, making it slightly easier. They all also have an adequately pointed nose for easy precision work. The spray trigger on the Rowenta SteamForce makes the handle feel more secure and comfortable, and the Rowenta Everlast's cylindrical handle feels natural and comfortable to hold. However, the handle on the Rowenta 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 Steam Titanium. The CHI Titanium is among the easiest to clean up and stow away with its retractable cord. 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, but its handling is only average. 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 does not lend itself to detailed work.
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. This means that unless you have a specific need for heat, you should consider how the steam iron you are looking at performed in the metrics already mentioned.
We put all our irons on the 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!
In this metric, 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 certainly gets hot, but we found it was inconsistent when checking different areas of the soleplate.
The Maytag SpeedHeat, Black+Decker Allure, and Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot also reached impressive temps. The Maytag SpeedHeat averaged 345.8 degrees Fahrenheit after five minutes. The Black+Decker Allure came in at an average of 336 degrees, and the Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot wasn't far behind with an average of 332 degrees.
We believe our our test results can help you zone in on the ironing attributes that matter the most. 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. However, we believe there is a model out there to meet every steam ironer's needs, including yours!
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.