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Irons buying guide

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When you want your clothes to look your best, you need an iron to get out those stubborn wrinkles. Popular choices include a dry iron; a steam iron, which adds steam to help release wrinkles; a trouser press, perfectly designed for pressing your trousers; and a generator iron, which is connected to a water tank to produce more steam than a regular iron. You can also select a cordless iron which keeps you from getting tangled in the electrical cord.

Irons are small appliances used to remove wrinkles from clothes and fabric. An iron works by applying heat and weight to stretch the fibres of the fabric. When cool, the fabric will maintain the new stretched shape, minus the wrinkles. Some fabrics like cotton also require the use of water, or steam, to loosen the wrinkles.

Electrical irons are a vast improvement over the earliest irons, which have a long history. In China, irons date back to the 1st century BC, when metal pans heated with charcoal were used. In the 17th century, thick slabs made of cast iron with an attached handle were heated in a fire. Some homes used a cluster of irons, so that when one iron cooled down, another could be removed from the fire for use. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, irons were often heated with a fuel like kerosene, and some houses even had pipes to distribute the gas to various rooms to power appliances like irons.

Today electrical irons provide even, reliable heat. Temperature controls let you avoid scorching the fabric, and features such as automatic shut-offs greatly reduce the risk of fire. Price Inspector can help you buy a great iron for a cheap price. We research the UK shops to find you the best prices, and our buying guide will help you choose the right model.

Features of an Iron

Today’s home irons offer many different features. Some popular choices include:
  • Feet that allow you to set the iron down, usually standing up, without letting the hot plate touch anything that would get damaged.
  • A thermostat that will ensure a constant temperature.
  • Temperature controls that let you select the proper operating temperature. The temperature setting is usually labelled with the types of fabric it is appropriate for, such as silk, wool, linen, and cotton. 
  •  An electrical cord that is coated with a heat-resistant insulation. Even cordless models will have an insulated cord for its recharging base.
  • A steam emission process is common, but not all models offer steam. These will include an inside water reservoir for a steam iron, while a generator iron will have an attached tank. A steam iron usually has a visible window to show how much water is left in the reservoir, while steam generator irons may have a low water indicator light. Some steam irons offer constant steam, while others feature a burst system, letting you control when you want an extra burst of steam by pushing a button. Some models let you use a dial to control the amount of steam that is emitted, and others offer an anti-drip system.
  • A nice safety feature is a cord control, where the cord is attached to the iron with a spring that keeps it out of the way.
  • Automatic shut-off features come in two styles. If you leave the iron flat too long, the iron shuts off to prevent scorching or fires. Another feature is that if the iron is not used for a certain period of time, such as 10 to 15 minutes, the iron shuts itself off to prevent fires and save energy.

Types of irons

  • Steam or dry irons: This is the most common type of iron. They consist of an electric hotplate and a small water reservoir. The combination of the iron’s weight, water from the steam, and electrical heat work to remove wrinkles.
  • Cordless irons: These are designed for light use only. The iron is put on the stand to warm up, and then it stays hot for a brief period. Due to the amount of energy consumed by an iron, battery power is not a viable option. The technology for cordless irons is still in development, and most are lacking in quality and durability.
  • Steam generator irons, also known as continuous steam irons, use a traditional iron unit that is connected to a water tank. These provide considerably more steam than a regular iron, and you can significantly reduce your ironing time. Most models hold enough water for about 1.5 to 2 hours of use, depending on your steam setting.
  • Trouser presses: This is a vertical appliance that lets you hang a pair of trousers to remove wrinkles. They usually feature a jacket hanger, so you can hang up a suit jacket while pressing your trousers. A trouser press works to refresh the sharp crease provided by a dry cleaner and remove the wrinkles at the knee from a day’s wear. There is an automatic shut-off, so you can safely place your trousers in the press overnight, and results will improve by leaving the trousers in the press while they cool down.
  • Travel irons: These are very small, lightweight irons that are perfect for packing in your luggage for quick touch-ups when travelling.

Tips to consider before you buy

  • The most important consideration is the type of fabric you iron most frequently. A natural fibre like linen and heavy fabrics such as denim will require heavier steam. For these materials, you will want spray or steam-burst features. If you generally iron synthetic fabrics, you won’t need these features.
  • Review the controls. The most common are dials or slides, but newer models are starting to offer digital controls. Decide what method will be easiest for you, and make sure the fabric settings are clearly marked.
  • Test the iron to make sure it is comfortable in your hand. People have different sizes of hands, and you may find that one iron is more comfortable than another.
  • Consider the weight of the appliance. Weight varies in different models, so make sure you can comfortably lift the appliance. As most shops will have the iron on display without water in the reservoir, be sure to factor in the added weight of the water. A steam generator iron is typically lighter weight than a steam iron.
  • Research the type of water recommended for the iron. Most use tap water, while others specify distilled water. Some manufacturers specifically recommend against using distilled water, so if your home water is too soft or hard, you may need to use bottled water.
  • If you are considering a steam generator iron, determine whether the tank can be refilled while in use. Typically only the higher-end models feature a low-water indicator, which is a nice feature. Decide whether you want the tank to rest on the ironing board or nearby on the floor.
  • Choose an iron that lets you shut off the steam to use as a dry iron. If you will be steaming vertical items like draperies, look for a locking continuous steam switch so you won’t have to hold down a steam switch.

Popular brands

There are many popular brands to choose from:

  • Russell Hobbs and Russell Hobbs Steam Iron: Russell Hobbs brand has been known for quality, innovation, and style for more than 50 years. Their impressive portfolio of products is recognised as one of the top appliance brands in the UK, and they have won numerous prestigious awards.
  • Tefal Steam Generator Iron, Tefal Express Iron, Tefal GV9360, Tefal GV7150 and Tefal GV7070: Tefal is an international leader in home appliances, from irons to cookware. Their non-stick surface that is so well-known for non-stick pans is also ideal for irons, letting the iron glide smoothly over the fabric.
  • Morphy Richards Steam Generator, Morphy Richards Steam Iron, Morphy Richards Steam Station and Morphy Richards 42284 Morphy Richards is a leading brand in the UK, located in South Yorkshire for more than 70 years.
  • Simac: Simac makes a high-quality line of steam irons, delivering maximum heat in a minimal amount of time.
  • Philips Iron, Philips Steam Generator Iron, and Philips GC7220: Philips is known for making a wide range of consumer electronics and appliances, providing good quality for a reasonable price.
  • Breville Iron: Breville irons combine ergonomic designs and the latest technology to make ironing fast and easy. Their Super Steam iron features a stainless steel plate, 30g of continual steam, and an 80g burst of steam. They also provide anti-drip, vertical steam, and automatic shut-off.
  • Polti Steam Iron: Polti is an Italian company perhaps best known for their steam floor cleaners, but they also make a good line of steam irons.


Buying Guide to Irons
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