The Best Steam Irons of 2020
Best Overall Steam Iron
Rowenta DW5080 Focus
The Rowenta DW5080 Focus is the machine for those who want silky smooth glide, the power to conquer even the most unmanageable wrinkles, and the precision required to get into tiny nooks and crannies. 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 speedy heat up time.
The only flaw in the Focus is its price. Though it usually sells 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 spend multiple hours ironing each week, the extra cost of the Focus is certainly 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 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 is relatively minor, 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 on a Tight Budget
Sunbeam Steam Master
If your ironing needs begin and end at keeping a few business casual outfits looking presentable from week to week, the Sunbeam Steam Master provides everything you need at a low price. Its soleplate glides smoothly enough to avoid 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 of the Sunbeam Steam Master is its lack of power — we measured its steam output at a somewhat anemic 21 grams per minute. If you're looking for an iron that can blast through more difficult tasks and stubborn wrinkles with ease, you'll want to look elsewhere. Otherwise, the Sunbeam Steam Master is an inexpensive and effective way to check "ironing" off of your to-do list.
Read review: Sunbeam Steam Master
Best Bang for Your Buck
Black & Decker D2030
For the low volume 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 has enough steam power, glides smoothly enough, and heats up quickly to streamline the dreaded Sunday ironing to-do list.
Our main gripes with the Black & Decker D2030 are minor aspects of the user experience. We think that the handle could be 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 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
The Oliso TG1100 can serve up some valuable 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, 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 psychological perspective, we found it easier to trust an iron that instantly and visibly lifts off of the ironing surface when not in use than it is to trust an unseen accelerometer to turn a 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 decidedly below average and it doesn't glide as smoothly as many other models. It also lands 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 time, they have carefully researched 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 are 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 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 have a significant impact on the arduousness of your weekly ironing session. Our test results 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 garments. 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. 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 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 more easily get into tight areas, like around collars and into the intricate patterns of your latest sewing project. This elegance is backed up by enough power to flatten even the most stubborn of 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 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 the eye of a quality control engineering to notice a difference in real-world use.
Unfortunately, the Oliso TG1100 doesn'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 isn't as effortless 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 the 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, requiring 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 normal, at-home ironing tasks.
Steam output generally equates to a speedier ironing experience. All of the models that we tested are going to be able to smooth out all of the wrinkles and creases you'll encounter. However, a more powerful model with higher steam output will force 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. Therefore, 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 the holes in the soleplate are at transferring that steam to the clothing (during testing we determined that efficiency was primarily a function of the number of holes). We didn't rely on manufacturers' claims but 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 has plentiful 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 it 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 out of 10 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.
Three models fell into the middle of the steam output pack. The Black & Decker D2030 scores a 6 out of 10, producing 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 scores a 5 out of 10, putting out steam at a rate of 21 g/min. This is relatively low, and its soleplate design was 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, scoring a 3 out of 10. This model put out less than a third of the steam of the top performer, managing just 11 g/min of steam in our testing. 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. Not bad considering its small stature, but still quite weak overall.
Ease of Use
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 several 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 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, 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 heavyweight, 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, has well-designed controls, and an extra-long 10' cord. However, it is difficult to fill without spilling water since there is not much space around the tank opening.
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.
The Black and Decker D2030 doesn't present any significant roadblocks to getting your ironing done, but also doesn't offer any particular features that make it more convenient either. The cord design can sometimes get in the way but not to a significant degree, the handle could be a bit more ergonomic but certainly isn't uncomfortable, and the water could be a bit easier to fill but generally doesn't cause 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 quicker you can put the ironing board back in the closet and get back on with your life. We put all of 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 is worth getting one of the top scorers in this category, otherwise, we view this a comparatively low priority metric.
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 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. While these models did heat up a bit more slowly than the competitors, it would not be limiting 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 that we tested have fairly standardized safety features to mitigate 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.
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 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 for every steam ironer's needs.
— Max Mutter & Steven Tata