How to Shop for the Best Clothes Iron

Household concept.Ironing board with clothes.
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Many of us avoid ironing every way we can. But if you want to have a crisp, professional look to your home laundry, especially dress shirts, and want to save money by doing it yourself, you must have a good clothes iron and maintain it correctly. And, before you send your old iron to the landfill, consider recycling it creatively.

The price of irons can vary from less than $20.00 for a basic model to several hundred dollars for top-of-the-line cordless steam iron. The dry iron is a throwback to the flat irons that colonial and pioneer women heated in the fire before ironing clothes. It has a solid soleplate with a heating element and does not have a water reservoir to produce steam.

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The most popular iron is a steam iron. The soleplate of a steam iron has vent holes that release steam onto the surface of the fabric. The steam helps remove wrinkles and makes ironing easier for most fabrics. These irons often have additional features and are, typically, more expensive.

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Which iron to select depends on how often you plan to use it and what you hope to accomplish. But, with any iron purchase, there are five important things to consider before buying an iron.

#1: Heat

Less costly, basic irons off have simply low, medium, and high heat settings while higher priced models offer more temperature settings to match different types of fabric.The ideal iron should have adjustable settings for delicate to cotton fabrics or the ability to set a specific numerical temperature.

Another important feature is an automatic shut off that will turn off the iron if it remains horizontal for a specified period of time. This safety feature can prevent overheating if you forget to turn off the iron that can lead to fires.

#2: Steam Production

Steam is one of the best wrinkle removers and there are several things to look for in a steam iron.

Look for an iron that offers adjustable levels of steam and produces a concentrated outflow with a burst of steam feature to help with tough wrinkles. The iron should have a clear gauge on the water tank for ease in filling and a spray nozzle to pre-moisten fabrics. There should also be an option for no steam at all.

A self-cleaning feature is ideal because it uses a burst of steam to clear clogs in the soleplate of the iron and will save those discolored water droplets from appearing on your white shirt.

Some steam iron models can be used as a steamer by producing vertical steam when the iron is held upright. This is a great option if you don't have a clothes steamer for removing wrinkles from hanging clothes, drapes, and velvet garments.

#3: Type of Soleplate Surface

There are two types of soleplates on irons: Non-stick soleplates and stainless steel.

  • Non-stick soleplates are most often coated with the same non-stick surface as cookware and are the easiest to clean.
  • Stainless steel transfers heat well but may need to be scrubbed to remove built-up starch or sizing.

The choice is up to you, your budget and your attention to iron care. When both soleplates are clean, they work equally well when ironing.

#4: Cord

There are irons with cords and cordless irons. Cordless irons work by heating the iron on a heated base (which is plugged into an electrical source). These irons will retain their heat levels for about five minutes and then must be returned to the heated base for reheating. A cordless iron is the easier to use thanks to freedom of movement and no cord helps prevent the rewrinkling of fabrics. 

Corded irons are usually less expensive to purchase. Look for one with an extra long cord for convenience. It is also helpful to have a reversible or pivoting cord that reduces stress on the interior wires and allows left- and right-handers to use it comfortably - no excuses!

You can also purchase a cord holder for your ironing board that will help prevent rewrinkling of freshly ironed items.

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#5: Weight

Depending on where you like to pump iron - the gym or the laundry room - irons can weigh between one and a half to three pounds. A heavier iron will cover a greater pressing area but a light-weight iron performs well enough for light or infrequent sessions.