Find the iron that's right for you
Thanks to canny marketing and shifting attitudes, ironing is now something blokes are more than happy to boast about doing.
Today's modern gent wants to look sharp, and his trusty iron is on hand to help.
The modern iron is sleek, powerful, and either adorned with lots of inexplicable buttons and knobs, or totally lacking in them, because the iron or steam generator does all the thinking for you.
It can be very cheap indeed, or several hundred pounds.
So what is the best iron or steam generator?
Our choice is the Philips PerfectCare Elite Steam Generator (scroll down for full review). This doesn't exactly make ironing 'fun', but it does take most of the hassle out of it, with no temperature gauge, the removal of even the slightest possibility of burning clothes, and enough steam to get rid of the most testing creases.
If you're on a budget, have less space, or just have a less frequent need to iron, the much cheaper but still highly effective Tefal Smart Protect FV4970 iron is our recommendation.
It's got a comparably foolproof feature set to the Philips but is less powerful and hence less expensive.
Buying: iron or steam generator?
The current trend is towards hugely efficient two-part steam generator irons that produce enough vapour to power the Flying Scotsman. Steam generators are more bulky and take longer to warm up, but because most of the work is performed by the steam and not your arm, they really are effortless to use and ideal for daunting laundry piles.
Although your common-or-garden modern steam iron will make a very decent fist of flattening clothing, unless you actively enjoy the job, we'd recommend the most expensive steam generator you can afford, preferably with auto-sensing tech so you don't have to worry about setting the correct temperature for different fabrics.
If you are looking for the best steam iron to buy this year, then look no further, as we have rounded up everything from travel wonders to full blown domestic wizards.
1. Philips PerfectCare Elite Steam Generator: best steam generator iron
A steam generator like this is far and away the best option if you are regularly faced with mountainous piles of laundry. This elegant, Which?-awarded steam generator is the most expensive model in the Philips range.
It comprises of a large, detachable 1.8-litre water reservoir that continually pumps high-pressure steam (120 g/min) to a comfortable and unbelievably lightweight iron unit. This glides over tricky cotton-rich fabrics like an air hockey puck.
If you hit a troublesome patch, double tap the button for a whopping 470g steam boost.
Making things even simpler, the Philips PerfectCare has no temperature controls at all. Instead, the ingenious OptimalTEMP technology controls the heat of the soleplate so you can swap from silk to denim without having to fiddle with different temperature settings.
A remarkable side effect of this system is that you can leave the iron face down on fabric – even silk – without burning it.
Add Philips' effective Easy De-Calc Plus lime descaler function and you can be sure this smooth operator will remain gunk-free for years to come.
Yes, you will do to wait a little longer for it to reach operating temperature, and pay more for the privilege, but seriously, if God wanted to flatten the Himalayas, this is what he’d use. If you can afford it, get it.
2/ Tefal Smart Protect FV4970: best iron
If you can’t stretch your budget or storage space to a Philips PerfectCare steam generator, here’s the best, cheapest, smallest option.
Like the Philips, the Tefal Smart Protect has just one fixed, no-burn heat setting for all fabrics, so switching between silks and linens is a breeze. In fact, this system is so efficient and fuss free that you wander while all irons aren’t built this way.
The Tefal makes the most of its 40 g/min steam output by way of a smooth-running Durilium Technology soleplate fitted with extra steam holes at the tip and on the edges.
It also provides a 150g/min blast for stubborn creases and has an Eco mode that reduces energy consumption by 20%. Top mid-price choice.
3/ Rowenta Silence Steam DG 8960: another great steam generator
Rowenta is widely considered the Rolls Royce of iron manufacturers. This steam generator model is their Silver Cloud and it comes with a price tag to match.
The Silence Steam's 1.5-litre reservoir is an ungainly beast but it delivers an industrial-strength 260g/min steam shot guaranteed to iron the wrinkles out of anything short of corrugated roofing.
Bonus: our test model has been going strong since 2013 with no hiccups whatsoever.
Braun CareStyle 5 IS 5043
The BraunCarestyle 5 steam generator is perfect for large piles of laundry and delicate clothing though it’s not as attractive a design as the Philips PerfectCare.
iCare is Braun's smart textile protection system, setting the right temperature for every fabric.
Steam distribution is powerful (6 bar) and even from the 1.4-litre reservoir, with an Eco-mode for those saving the planet, and cash.
Best of all, the Eloxal 3D BackGlide soleplate consists of smooth, rounded edges, allowing the iron to almost glide over fabrics forwards and backwards. It’s also durable, so you can iron over zips and buttons without needing to worry about scratches.
We also liked the click-in lock mechanism, which is faintly reminiscent of loading a magazine into a gun. Get in!
In summary: not as good as the Rowenta or Philips, but more compact and usually a fair bit cheaper.
5/ Russell Hobbs Freedom Cordless: best cordless option
For fuss-free cordless ironing, this can't be beat. The battery adds some extra bulk, and the circular power dock that constantly tops up the battery is a bit fiddly, but wire-free pressing remains a boon.
The Freedom sports a 135g/min boost and 40g/min of continuous steam. You can also use it vertically for curtains and delicate garments like suits and dresses.
A more convenient way to get through the most boring of all chores.
6/ Hoover AirFlow: if you can't stand the heat…
This Hoover uses a fan to cool the air around your hand and offers a very decent 190g/min steam boost, and 45g/min of continuous steam.
With a ceramic soleplate, a raft of steam settings, an anti-scale device and nice wide legs for wrapping up the cord, it's a textbook example of the modern-day iron.
Meanwhile, its cool air blower allegedly, ‘lowers the temperature around your hand by up to 50 percent’. So that's nice.
7/ Breville Power Steam Advanced Sure-Fill: best budget option
A lot of people just don't need a high-end iron. If you only iron shirts for weddings and funerals, and then only barely, something like this Breville is fine.
No, it's not got the highest steam output in the yard – 40g/min and a not-too-shabby 120g steam shot for rebellious creases – but the water tank is easy to fill and it costs very little.
The ceramic soleplate is more slippery than old-style steel plates, but spreads the same level of heat. It can also be used vertically for removing creases from suits, dresses and curtains.
8/ Swan 900W Travel Iron: best for travel (obviously)
This cheap, dinky travel companion is a small and packable steam iron for those who simply must maintain an immaculate appearance even when ostensibly letting their hair down.
Key stats: 900W, 1-litre tank, 500g in weight, about 10 quid. And it comes with a 'travel pouch', too.
Mmm, travel pouch.
9/ Bosch Sensixx'x DA5070 EditionRosso: best for the impatient
Looking like a Ferrari and just as quick to get up to ironing temperature, the awkwardly named Sensixx'x (?!) has a power output of 3,050 watts.
It also features an easy-glide CeraniumGlissée soleplate and a 50 g/min continuous steam output for fuss-free pressing.
The Sensixx'x is comfy in the hand, well balanced and one of the lightest irons on test. The anti-calc cleaning system is a major but although the 300ml tank is ample, it's also too dark to see the remaining water level.
A worthy contender, nonetheless.
10/ Morphy Richards Redefine ATOMiST: best for those who just have to be different
This expensive, idiosyncratic cloth flattener doesn't use steam. Instead, a unique micro spray system – which requires 80% less water and leaves no unsightly limescale marks – moistens clothing with an ultra-fine mist.
This ‘vapour mist’ is said to penetrate deep into the fabric making ironing more effective, while the unique transparent thermoglass sole plate allows you to see the creases being flattened as you go. It also heats up very quickly.
Problem is, this doesn't glide over fabrics as smoothly as a steam iron and the thick tube running from the removable water tank to the iron unit keeps getting in the way. Still, top marks for effort.