Do you run out of steam? Spit and sputter? Stick and stain? Perhaps it’s time to replace your old steam iron!
When you head for the store be sure you have aspirin with you because choosing an iron is no longer a simple task. A single manufacturer can have over 20 different models. It seems not a single model has exactly the features you want at an acceptable price. What do you look for?
Weight – A bit of weight helps your iron do it’s job, too much and you’ll tire out!
Sole plate – I love a non-stick plate. If you starch your quilting fabrics or use fusibles, you will too. Silverstone and other newer coatings are standard on the mid to higher priced models although you can find it on some less expensive ones. Rowenta uses a very smooth stainless plate and sells a special cleaning kit to remove buildup.
Self-Cleaning Feature – This allows the water tank to be emptied through the steam vents. It flushes the tank and any lint or dirt that has accumulated. Hint: If your iron is spitting dark colored water, you probably have a lint/dirt build up in you water tank and steam chamber. This can easily happen if the iron is stored upright out in the open (especially in a laundry room).
Auto Shut-off – This is both a blessing and a curse. This feature shuts off the iron if stationary for 8 minutes or left horizontal for 30 seconds. Safe? Yes, but when you’re piecing it can be frustrating to find that the iron has cooled down by the time you’re ready to use it again. It is now standard on nearly all but the cheapest irons.
Water tank – Some irons have valves that repel mineral deposits so that regular tap water can be used. I find my irons last longer when I use distilled water. It’s inexpensive and I don’t have to run to the sink to refill. A few have removable water tanks.
Steam output – It seems that every box claims “higher steam output” or “excellent steam performance”. But how do you compare steam output? It is measured in grams output per minute. It’s difficult to find test data but Consumer Reports may help. Steam is what really takes the wrinkles out of cotton and presses seams flat.
Wattage – 1000 is really the lower end for steam performance with most falling in the 1100 – 1200 watt range. Steam output increases with higher wattage.
It’s hard to know if you’ll like an iron until you use it, or least hold it in your hand. Target has a nice selection and is a good place to compare models and manufacturers.
Rowenta – Touted as one of the best it has many interesting features and runs the gamut of price ranges. The higher end models are 1400+ watts and produce a lot of steam.www.rowenta.com
Panasonic – Their claim to fame is a retractable cord reel in the base. A few models have removable water tanks. www.panasonic.com
Black and Decker – The mid to high range B&Ds are my favorites. Nice weight, good steam output, non-stick options, self-clean features, and now a flip lid that covers the fill opening to prevent lint/dirt build-up in the water tank (or accidentally dumping water everywhere!) High end models sport a comfort grip handle and other spiffy pluses. Compare models at www.householdproductsinc.com
Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex – I tried a bottom of the line 17300 ($9) from the PX and took it back. I thought I wanted an inexpensive iron that would stay on (not auto shut-off). It never got hot enough and spat water after 2 days...but this was the cheapest model. www.hambeach.com
To add more confusion Elna, Singer, Bernina, etc. market irons.
Perhaps all those wavy blocks need is a good iron. And have you heard?...irons can be used to take wrinkles out of clothing too!
Comparison shop for irons, sewing machines, etc. at www.allbrands.com. Not only do they have good prices, they explain similarities between brands and models, and disclose who actually manufactures many models. Sometimes the only difference is the price!