We researched 30 of the best steam irons on the market in 2020, then bought the 8 most likely to make wrinkles cower in fear. We then ironed more than 300 garments to find every strength and weakness of each model. After evaluating glide, steam output, ease of use, and warm u-up speed, all in a side-by-side manner, we've found the best steam iron for every person. Whether you're a veteran crafter that needs as much precision and power as possible, or just want something inexpensive that can effectively get your work clothes ready for the upcoming week, we've got you covered.
The Best Steam Irons of 2020
Best Overall Steam Iron
Rowenta DW5080 Focus
For those that want silky smooth glide, the power to conquer even the most unmanageable wrinkles, and the precision required to get into tiny nooks and crannies, the Rowenta DW5080 Focus is for you. Its best in class steam output of 38 g/min can handle the most onerous of wrinkles, even those of the 'this shirt has been stuffed in the bottom of my suitcase for a week' variety. It backs up this performance with simple, intuitive controls and a decently quick heat up time.
The only flaw in the Focus is its price. Thought it usually sells for around 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 Best Buy pick. If you're looking for high-end performance for your big sewing project, or spend multiple hours ironing each week, the extra cost of the Focus is certainly worth it.
Read review: Rowenta DW5080 Focus
High-end Performance, Slightly Lower Price
Lagging just behind the top scorer in our testing, the CHI Professional offers pretty much everything you get from the top-shelf models, like high steam output, fast heating, and a smooth glide, for a lower price. It even has a tapered nose that, while not quite as nimble and maneuverable as those on the Rowenta models, is a huge step up from what you see on most irons.
Our biggest complaint with the CHI is its water tank's propensity to spill during refilling. This issue isn't hugely annoying, but it is a distinct disadvantage when compared to the top scoring Rowneta Focus. If you're looking for the best possible iron we would 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 find the CHI Professional on sale, we would wholeheartedly recommend it.
Read review: CHI Professional
Best Bang for Your Buck
Black & Decker D2030
Most people's regular ironing needs will amount to a few garments per week. In that case, the Black & Decker D2030 offers all you need for a reasonable price. While it certainly doesn't earn a superlative in any category, it has enough steam power, glides smoothly enough, and heats up with enough expediency to streamline the dreaded Sunday ironing to-do list.
Our main gripes with the Black & Decker D2030 are minor aspects of the user experience. Mostly, we think the handle could be a bit more ergonomic, and we found it relatively easy to spill some water when refilling the water tank. Also, it lacks the tapered nose design of some of the higher-end models. However, these shortcomings only become readily apparent if you iron more than once a week and/or work on crafting projects that demand precision. For the average ironer the Black & Decker D2030 hits that perfect Goldilocks zone: enough performance to satisfy, but no bells and whistles that make it overly expensive.
Read review: Black & Decker D2030
Best for Extra Peace of Mind
If you're still haunted by the scorch marks on your favorite shirt from when you left the iron sitting while you answered the doorbell, or just have an unfortunate habit of leaving appliances on and unattended when they shouldn't be, the Oliso TG1100 can serve up some valuable peace of mind. This unique iron 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, preventing any burn or scorch marks. We'd like to note that all irons have 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 psychology perspective, we've found it easier to trust an iron that instantly and visibly lifts off of the ironing board when not in use than it is to trust an unseen accelerometer to turn a stagnant iron off, making the Oliso much better at quelling worries.
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 decidedly below average and it doesn't glide as smoothly as many other models. It also lands far on the pricey 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 been leading TechGearLab's steam iron testing since 2016. In that timeframe, they have carefully researched well over 100 different models, and have personally used and tested more than 20 products covering a wide range of price points. All of our testing units were purchased at retail price - we never accept free or discounted sample units from any manufacturers so that our reviews remain unbiased.
For this review we've 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 the opportunity to use all of these irons on many different 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, all seem to function the same. However, once you've spent nearly a month straight ironing every imaginable fabric with multiple different irons, you start to find some minor differences that can actually have a significant impact on the arduousness of your weekly ironing session. Our test results below represent our effort to make your chore time 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 offers a comparable 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 the only reason you would spend money on one of these handheld, steam-breathing dragons. In our testing, we found that all irons produce almost identical results in terms of garment smoothness. Are there differences between products? Yes. Are they noticeable? Barely. For our testers to find even minute 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 shirts and dresses. In the end, our ironing performance metric essentially boiled down to glide performance. While models that glide over fabric more smoothly don't necessarily yield better results, they do make the process feel much easier and hassle-free, which is a noticeable perk when you're stuck surfing the ironing board for an extended period of time. Better glide is also quite noticeable during the precision ironing required in many sewing and quilting projects.
Related: Buying Advice for Steam Irons
The Rowenta DW5080 Focus earned the top slot after our ironing test were said and done, and for good reason. It glides more smoothly and effortlessly than any other model we've tested, its pointed nose makes maneuvering into tight spots easy, and it has more than enough power to tame even stubborn wrinkles. For serious crafters or those that tend to end up with piles of clothes to iron, this model it our top recommendation.
Closely following its sibling, the Rowenta DW7180 Everlast provides a fantastic if slightly short of top-notch ironing experience. It shares the pointed nose and wrinkle reducing power of the Focus, but glides just slightly less smoothly.
In the good but not exceptional 7 out of 10 range we have four different models, all of which glide with relative ease but not quite the feathery lightness of the top scorers. All of 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 in smoothing out wrinkles, but you'd have to be looking at it with eye of a quality control engineering to really notice a difference in real-world use.
Earning a mediocre 5 out fo 10, the Oliso TG1100 failed to glide nearly as smoothly as the top-scoring models. This didn't affect the quality of the finished product, but the process itself felt significantly more difficult and less efficient.
The worst scorer in this metric was the Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot, which scored a 4 out of 10. It can get wrinkles out, it just takes a lot more passes than the full-sized models do. It's small size also means it takes more time to get the job done. This may be okay if you're traveling, but not for weekly chores.
Unlike ironing performance, we saw clearly differentiating results in our steam output test. While we found all models yield almost identical results when you iron properly, the difference that steam output makes is speed. All of the models we tested are going to be able to smooth out all of the wrinkles and creases you'll encounter. However, for a particularly stubborn wrinkle, a more powerful model with higher steam output will force said wrinkle into compliance with fewer passes than a less powerful model. While this does save a minute amount of time, you would have to be ironing a lot for it to add up to anything significant. Like better glide, however, this can make your ironing experience feel a bit easier and more streamlined. Therefore, if your fancy clothes tend to spend most of their lives in wrinkle-inducing heaps on the floor, a model with greater steam output will 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 (read: numerous) the holes in the soleplate are at transferring that steam to the clothing. We didn't rely on manufacturers' claims but measured steam output ourselves.
In this metric 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 has plentiful well-placed steam holes to take full advantage of this output. The only model that was able to come close to this performance was the CHI Professional 13101, which spat out 35 g/min of steam in our testing. It also has a lot of soleplate holes, though not quite as many as the Focus, which has a clear edge in terms of pounding out stubborn wrinkles.
Taking the silver medal with a score of 8 was the Rowenta DW7180 Everlast. It has the same superior steam hole layout of the Focus but put out a bit less steam at 29 g/min.
There were three models that fell into the middle of the steam output pack. The Black & Decker D2030 scored a 6 out of 10, producing a respectable 24 g/min of steam. It lost some points because it has a relatively small number of steam holes, all near the edge of the soleplate. The Sunbeam Steam Master scored a 5, putting out steam at a rate of 21 g/min. This was relatively low, and its soleplate design was somewhat lacking with only a small number of steam holes. The Shark Ultimate Professional also scored a 5. Its steam output was fairly low at 19 g/min, but it has an excellent soleplate design with a multitude of well-distributed steam holes, which partially makes up for its low output.
The Oliso TG1100 fell well behind the rest of the field in steam output, scoring a 3 out of 10. It only produced 11 g/min of steam in our testing. This is less than a third of the top performer, and barely half of the closest performing model. The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot was at the very bottom of the scoreboard, earning a 2 out of 10. It produced just 7 g/min in our testing. Not bad considering its small stature, but still quite weak overall.
Ease of Use
While we did find appreciable differences in ease of use performance between irons, those differences were small enough that they may feel insignificant to many people. If there is one aspect of ironing that you absolutely hate, like refilling the water tank, then ease of use will 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 a number of ease of use factors in our testing including cord length, general handling and ergonomics, ease of filling the water tank, and how conducive soleplate shape was to 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 for this. 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 in our ease of use testing. The DW5080 Focus and the DW7180 Everlast share 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 wide body 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, handled well, and was able to 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. It tends to splash a bit if you don't pour the water perfectly, which can make filling it directly from a sink a messy affair.
The Oliso TG1100 also scored a 7. It has the longest power cord of any of the models we tested and was one of the easiest models to fill up with water. Its only real downside was its heavy weight, which made 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, well-designed controls, and an extra long 10' cord. However, without much space around the tank opening, it is difficult to fill without spilling water, which can be a bit annoying.
Leading off the straggler group in our ease of use testing is the Sunbeam Steam Master, which earned a 6 out of 10. It endeared itself to our testers with its retractable cord, which 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 near impossible to fill it directly from a sink faucet.
Presenting an acceptable but not noteworthy user experience, the Black and Decker D2030 earned a score of 5 out of 10 in this metric. It is generally easy to use, but a slightly less than ergonomic handle, a cord that can sometimes feel in the way, and a water tank that can be difficult to refill make it less amicable than many other models.
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.
We all want to get our clothes ironed as quickly and efficiently as possible, so it makes sense to assume that the faster a model heats up the quicker you can put the ironing board back in the closet and get back on with your life. While this is true, our testing revealed that the differences are not all that meaningful. We put all of our irons on their highest setting and measured the soleplate temperature with a thermocouple after two minutes, and 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 is worth getting one of the top scorers in this category. If 30 seconds here and there doesn't sound like a big deal to you, then heating speed doesn't need to factor into your purchase decision.
The CHI Professional 13101 heated up the fastest in our testing, hitting 440˚ after two minutes. This means it would be 400˚ and ready to iron cotton in well under two minutes, which impressed our testers and saves a lot of 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 hit 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 score in 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. While these models did heat up a bit more slowly than the competitors, it would not be restrictive for most people as they still reach cotton ironing temperatures in just over two minutes.
Why We Didn't Score Safety
Steam irons are a potential fire hazard. All the irons we tested have fairly standardized safety features to avoid this danger. This includes a 30-second auto-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 test these features on all of the irons we review to make sure they function as advertised, and all of the irons in this review worked perfectly in that regard.
Choosing an iron from the numerous and seemingly identical options available can be a confusing and tedious experience. We hope that our testing results have helped you identify the ironing attributes that matter most to you, and find a reasonably priced model that delivers what you're looking for. Here at TechGearLab we're always striving to make chore time a little less painful.
— Max Mutter & Steven Tata