Irons & trouser presses buying guide

Irons vary widely in price, so choosing the right one really depends on how much ironing you do. If you only iron occasionally, paying for extra steaming power and other features is unnecessary. If you have a large family, or lots of ironing, then paying a little extra for one with a range of features may be a wise choice. View our range of irons. And watch our Smooth moves video.

Options on offer

There are broadly five types of iron and ironing systems on the market:

Steam irons

Today's steam irons have innumerable benefits since the level and output of steam can be precisely measured for different applications and fabrics. Because steam opens a fabric's weave, deep-set creases can be better ironed out and, generally speaking, more steam means quicker, easier ironing.

The impact of its steaming power depends on how well an iron can generate and manage heat - and this is largely determined through its engineering, design and wattage. Normally, the higher the wattage, the greater the heat generated. Most models of iron have steam features, and these come in 4 basic forms: vertical, variable, burst and continuous.

Vertical steam

Vertical steam is useful for hanging garments such as suits and dresses, especially those made from delicate fabrics, or for ironing hanging curtains. Ensure you hold the iron a few centimetres from the garment in order to avoid burning.

Variable steam

Some irons have an integral steam control system which constantly regulates steam output to the ideal level, automatically adjusting steam generation to most fabrics.

Burst of steam

A steam-burst feature provides additional, instantaneous power on demand, smoothing out difficult creases or for creating sharp creases on trousers. Such a surge (or 'boost') of steam is expressed in grams per minute, and tend to range from 20g per minute to up to about 70g/min in steam irons, increasing to up to 150g per minute on steam generators.

Continuous steam output

A continuous steam facility makes ironing easier and more effective owing to the continuous impact it makes on 'taming' textile fibres.

Steam generator irons

Steam generator irons are essentially 'souped up' steam irons which come attached to a steam generator - and it is this generator that supplies all the steam. These devices are invaluable for anyone who processes a lot of laundry, cutting ironing time in half as the higher steam pressure generated means both sides of garments are ironed at the same time. Additionally, because the steam is generated by a separate generator the iron element of the appliance is lighter and easier to use than conventional steam irons.

Presses are most commonly used by cleaning professionals. They consist of 2 large plates - measuring anything up to 56cm long to 26cm wide - which are brought together by closing a handle, applying as much as 100lbs of pressure. They can be used in the conventional manner, or side to side for pressing wide or long clothing, curtains and sheets etc.

Not only will a press cut your ironing time by as much as 50% but it will also prevent the 'shiny' finish that is often produced by irons. Though a press takes up a larger space than an ironing board when in use, it folds up neatly when your ironing's over.

Trouser presses are extremely efficient at removing creases from all styles of trousers - and especially good at getting rid of unsightly wrinkles behind the knees. They may be used on any material which you would normally iron - although some man-made fibres may require extra pressing for best results.
Another advantage of trouser presses is they don't leave a surface sheen on the material - an effect often seen following repeated ironing.

Travel irons are smaller and lighter than household irons. Usually weighing in at well under a kilogram, they are unsuitable for large quantities of laundry as, at 700 - 800W, they are less powerful than conventional models.

Many travel irons incorporate some form of steam spray facility and most come with features such as fold-down handles and travel pouches for easy packing. Travel steam brushes are a practical alternative to travel irons. Small and compact for easy portability, they work with tap water and can be used for vertical and horizontal steaming as well as pressing.

Steam irons and steam brushes
 
Steam generator irons
 
Shirt and trouser presses

Ironing boards

When you've chosen the iron to suit your needs, it's important to pick the right ironing board for the job. From size to safety features, there are a number of options to consider.

Size

Ironing boards generally range from around 110cm to 135cm in length and 35cm to 45cm in width. The larger sizes tend to speed up the ironing process, helping you to work through larger loads, while the more compact designs are often easier to store and manoeuvre. Most boards are height adjustable but some may have a greater level of adjustment than others, even enabling you to iron while sitting down.

Surface

The majority of boards feature a steel mesh surface which steam can easily pass through, preventing an unwanted build-up of moisture. Some models feature an undertray which collects excess water, preventing it from reaching your floor, while a few high-tech variants even include suction-fans which draw steam through garments for supreme results.

For a more pared-back approach, some models feature wooden construction, primarily for retro design appeal. Like their steel mesh counterparts, these feature holes through the ironing surface to allow steam to dissipate.

Safety features

Most ironing boards come with a 'parking' area for regular
steam irons, but broadly speaking only the larger, sturdier tables offer a platform for steam generator units. Some incorporate heat-resistant materials such as silicone to rest the iron on, and this is sometimes integrated into the cover itself for a smaller overhang when the table is in use.

Lockable legs not only help you to store and manoeuvre an ironing board, but also prevent the board from collapsing suddenly, which offers peace of mind especially when young children are around. Some ironing tables feature a cord minder to help keep the iron's power cable neatly out of harm's way.

Ironing board

Frequently asked questions

What type of water should I use in my iron?

Most irons are specifically designed to use tap water since their anti-scale features clean the water as a matter of course. Caution: you could actually damage your iron by using pure distilled water, scented or softened water because these types of liquids contain mineral elements that become concentrated when heated, causing spitting, brown staining or premature wear on your appliance.

How long does it take for a steam generating iron to heat up?

They can take up to 20 minutes to heat up, although fast heat-up technology steam generators can take as little as 2 minutes.

What is the difference between a steam iron and a steam generator?

Steam generators use professional technology incorporating a significant element of high pressure, guaranteeing faster ironing

and greater efficiency every time. Measured in 'atmospheres' or 'bars', this calibre of pressure is the same as you would find in a professional dry cleaners. Steam systems which do not use pressure are just as efficient as top-of-the-range steam irons, but simply have the benefit of larger water capacity.

What are the advantages of continuous steam output?

A continuous steam output facility makes ironing easier and more effective owing to the impact it makes on 'taming' textile fibres. 10g per minute is the minimum required - but best results are obtained with an output of 20g per minute, which is generally recommended for fast results on any type of fabric. The highest continuous steam output found on conventional domestic steam irons is 40g per minute, rising to 100g per minute on a steam generator.