If you want your finished sewing projects to look professional, a decent quality steam iron is a necessity. A quality iron doesn't have to be expensive, but like anything else, features influence the price. You can spend as little $20 to as much as $150 on an iron.
Types of Irons
No bells, no whistles. Dry irons have no compartment for water, and therefore you either need to use a damp pressing cloth to help get out wrinkles or live with them.
Steam is the best wrinkle remover, and is really a must for sewing. Steam goes through small holes in the soleplate directly into your fabric. Some steam irons even have a button that provides an extra burst of steam for really stubborn wrinkles. Nice.
The additional sprayer shoots a little spray over the fabric just ahead of where you are sewing. When I chose my iron, I opted for the additional spray feature and I use regularly. I don't regret the few extra dollars spent.
Manufacturers use different terms for some of the features, but by reading the description you should be able to match specific features to the terms below.
- Look at the thermostat. It should have clearly marked settings for fabrics from cool for delicates, to very hot for cotton and linen.
- Auto-off is a safety feature that turns your iron off after a period of in-activity. Some people dislike this feature because they have to wait for the iron to warm up each time they come back to it. A more expensive iron usually has a faster heat time, so check the manual if this is important to you.
- An indicator light will tell you at a glance whether your iron is on. Not all irons have this feature.
- Steam: Be sure what your getting. Is it a steam iron or a dry iron? Today, most full-size irons sold are steam irons, but travel irons are generally not.
- Steam Burst: Does it have a have a steam burst button to help with tough wrinkles?
- Spray Nozzle: Does it have a built in spray nozzle to pre-dampen fabric in front of the iron?
- Water Tank: How big is the water tank? A tiny tank means you'll constantly have to refill it. A clear gauge in the water tank is helpful. Some tanks are removable for easy filling and emptying.
- Self-cleaning: If you leave excess water in an iron, it can cause calcium deposits that leave a white powder on your fabric. The self-cleaning feature removes excess water and prevents calcium deposits.
- Calcium filter: Most irons tell you to use distilled water and to empty the tank when you're done, but some irons have a calcium filter that allows you to use tap water.
Don't automatically think a lightweight iron is better. A heavier iron is actually helpful because the weight does a lot of the work for you. A regular iron weighs about three pounds and lightweights are about half that.
The soleplate is the base of the iron – the part that gets HOT. With a steam iron, the soleplate comes in constant contact with water so what it's made out of is important.
- Regular steel rusts.
- Aluminum eventually corrodes.
- Non-stick soleplates have a coating similar to the non-stick coating used on cookware. Some people find these easy to clean. Upside: good choice if you're a starch user. Downside: they scratch.
- Stainless steel is resists rust and will not corrode and, unlike the non-stick soleplates, are resistant to scratching. I have a strong preference for stainless steel.
- Also, look at the width of the soleplate. A larger soleplate covers a bigger area.
All cords are not equal. In fact, not all irons have cords. Some people prefer a cordless iron – no cord to get in the way. Cordless irons heat up on a base and must be constantly be reheated, which can be annoying.
- Check the length of the cord. A longer cord gives you better mobility.
- A heavier cord is safer and longer lasting.
- Swivel cords are so nice, they are a must-have.
Once you narrow your options down to a few irons you like, hold them to see how the handle feels in your hand. If you have a large hand, you'll want to be sure your hand fits comfortably between the handle and the body of the iron. My hands are on the small side, and some handles feel unwieldy to me.
Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping review both steam irons, but I usually go to Amazon and check the reviews there and at Epinions. Unfortunately, irons don't appear to last much longer than about three years. That seems so wrong, but read the reviews.