Looking for the best steam iron – or go large and buy the best steam generator iron? We're not sure anyone enjoys ironing as such, but if you must do it, you want it out of the way as sharply and crisply as possible. That's why you want the BEST iron, damn it. For today’s modern gent or lady who wants to look sharp, their 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 does all the thinking for you.
Homewares are a popular product category so you're likely to save a bit of cash on your crease destroyer of choice. And there are already plenty of discounts to be had – you'll find the best of them further down the page as we check prices at thousands of retailers every day to ensure you get the flattest prices and don't end up steaming over a bad purchase.
- Best washing machine
- Best coffee machine
- Best water filter jug – stops your iron scaling up
- The best hair dryer
- The best kettle
Wait, what is a steam generator?
Steam is a crease’s arch adversary, so it stands to reason that the more steam you have at your fingertips the easier the task.
Steam generators work in the same way as bog standard irons, only they’re a lot more powerful and therefore faster, easier and more efficient for ironing large amounts of laundry.
Unlike a standard iron, a steam generator is comprised of a unit containing a water reservoir, boiler and pump that connects to a lightweight iron via a length of rubber hosing.
This separation of components allows steam generators to produce far greater volumes of continuous high-pressure steam and, in most cases, stupendously powerful steam boosts for tricky fabrics and heavy creases. For instance, where a common or garden iron kicks out around 55 grams per minute of continuous steam, a good steam generator is capable of discharging between 120g/min and a whopping 165g/min. And when it comes to giving your laundry a steam boost, the best steam generators can output between 280 and 600g of steam in one short crease-flattening blast.
However, steam generators do have a number of disadvantages. They’re more expensive than irons, they take up to three minutes to warm up, and their base units are quite heavy and bulky and ideally need to be used on a steam generator-specific ironing board (Brabantia produces an excellent range of sturdy models). They also tend to make a buzzing noise while the steam is being pumped from the main unit to the iron.
However, if you regularly deal with a lot of laundry, a steam generator will certainly make life much easier. Obviously, if you only iron shirts for weddings and funerals, they could be slight overkill, in which case, a bogstandard steam iron is the device for you.
How to buy the best iron for you
Want the short answer? Head to the Philips PerfectCare range at your favourite online retailer, and get the one you can afford.
If you iron a lot of clothes, paying more for a really good steam iron is money well spent, in my opinion. Look for one with the largest possible water reservoir and, if you live in a hard water area, either use filtered or distilled water, or look for an iron with an effective de-calc function.
Modern irons with auto-sensing tech are also a fantastic choice. It means you don't have to worry about setting the correct temperature for different fabrics. Philips leads the pack in this respect.
If you are really serious about crease removal, but don't want to devote many tiring hours to it, a steam generator could be for you. They are more expensive, bulky and can take longer to warm up, but because most of the work is performed by the steam and not your arm, they are near effortless to use – ideal for daunting laundry piles.
If you are looking for the best steam iron or steam generator to buy this year, look no further. We have rounded up everything from cordless wonders to full blown domestic wizards…
The best steam irons you can buy, and the best steam generators, in order
Best steam iron
Philips takes ironing to new heights with this sensational new model by applying the same groundbreaking OptimalTEMP technology it uses for its award-winning steam generators.
You won’t find any temperature setting dials on this amply powerful iron because it doesn’t need any. Instead it cleverly optimises the temperature no matter what you’re ironing, whether it’s heavy denim or fine silk. Indeed, this tech is so bewilderingly brilliant you can even leave the iron facedown on delicate fabrics and it won’t burn or leave any marks. Yes, fellas: no more scorched chiffon disasters. Phew.
The Azure Elite also comes with three steam modes: DynamiQ, Max and Ionic. DynamiQ uses a motion sensor to detect the iron’s movement and switches the steam off as soon as it comes to a stop, resuming once the iron is moving again. This saves water in the 350ml tank and reduces the number of trips to the tap. The Max setting is as it suggests – a full constant blast for flattening heavy creases. Ionic provides intermittent bursts ‘rich with silver ions for more hygienic ironing’, whatever that means. I haven't used that mode much.
Spec-wise, this iron delivers an industry-leading 75g per minute of constant steam and an impressive 260g steam boost when sh*t gets real. The SteamGlide soleplate does indeed steamily glide over fabrics with consummate ease.
Add a doddlesome anti-calc system, a comfy handle and a three-metre cable and you have the most streamlined and practical iron on the market.
Lower down the price scale to the Philips machines is the quite horrifically spelled Sensixx’x. It is a decent bargain and ideal for those who iron a bit less frequently, or simply have less money to burn. But it's not terribly attractive to look at.
The Sensixx’x heats up pretty pronto and features an easy-glide CeraniumGlissée soleplate with precision tip and a 40 g/min continuous steam output that makes light work of even the most rebellious fabrics. And should you reach a crease too far, simply hold in the 180g boost button and it’ll flatten it in a thrice. It also comes with an easy-to-fill 320ml water reservoir and an excellent three-stage anti calc system to keep scaly spurts at bay.
This 2,800 watt model doesn’t feel too heavy in the hand and is generally easy to use though the handle is quite small which means the three-metre power cord rubs against the hand which is a bit irritating; perhaps consider a different model if you have big hands, dude.
Best steam generator
This pales slightly in comparison with the Elite Plus and Elite Silence but the older and considerably cheaper Philips steam generator is still a formidable performer. The hefty, 1.8-litre water reservoir pumps out steam at a suitably high-pressure 120 g/min. The iron part of the combo is as light and elegant as the pump is hefty and businesslike, gliding over clothes like an air hockey puck. The button-fired 470g steam boost is enough to flatten most creases.
The Philips PerfectCare system involves no temperature controls, flattening everything from silk to denim (not that you should iron jeans, but you get my drift) without having to change the temperature setting.
Even more magically, you can leave the iron face down on any fabric – even a silk nighty – and, somehow, it will not burn. This writer actually tried this and I'm still married.
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. It's quite expensive, but you get what you pay for. And compared to more recent additions to the Philips range, it feels like a steal.
A T3 feature guide with one company hogging most of the top spots is a rarity outside of the drone market, but the simple truth of the matter is that, right now, Philips is producing far and away the best irons and steam generators on the market. We’ve already thrown accolades at two other Philips steam generator models in this roundup but – hold your horses – here comes that third. And it’s shot straight to the top of our steam generator list.
This keenly priced Compact model differs in a few areas from its pricier and higher specced stablemates, but it’s almost as efficient and, in many ways, much more practical for day-to-day ironing duties. Despite being the same size, the hand unit is slightly heavier than the others (1.2kg as opposed to around 0.8kg) but not ungainly so. Also, the non-detachable reservoir holds 1.5-litres of water instead of 1.8-litres and both the continuous steam and boost outputs are somewhat lower but still more than capable enough for the job in hand. Crucially, the whole package is small enough to sit on an average ironing board cradle – something you can’t confidently do with other steam generators.
As is the case with the majority of Philips steam generators and irons, this model also comes with OptimalTemp technology which uses just one temperature setting for all types of fabric, whether it’s heavy denim or fine silk. The system is so perfectly dialled that you can safely leave the iron unit face down on the ironing board without having to use the main unit’s cradle. Needless to say, the iron will automatically shut down after a period of inactivity.
If you’re keen on trying a steam generator but don’t want to blow a huge wad or put aside a quite large area of storage space, then this pukka pink product is the one for you.
Best travel iron
This compact travel model won't take up much luggage space and is just the thing to rehabilitate your T-shirts which, having been thrown ad hoc into the suitcase, will likely resemble a pile of dish rags.
It comes with a stainless steel soleplate, variable steam output, temperature control, a water spray function, a small 80ml water reservoir and a manually operated dual voltage switch (110v to 240v) so it can be used in any country on planet Earth. Okay, you’re not going to get through a mound of laundry in record time with this iron, but for a nicely pressed shirt or two when required, it passes much muster.
If you’re holidaying for more than a week or on a business trip and need to look spick and little bit span at the conference meeting, then a small travel iron of this stature might just save the day. It’s cheap as chips, too.
Picture the scene… You’re about to go to a wedding and you have your favourite shirt – possibly your only shirt – ready on the ironing board. You have just minutes to spare, so you turn on your steam iron, place it on the shirt, pull the steam trigger and – holy mother of pearl – a spurt of limescale splatters itself all over the front. We’ve all been there. Well, the clever bods at Tefal appear to have solved this ridiculous peculiarity by fitting a MicroScale filter to this classy iron that removes 100% of any scale in the steam chamber before it reaches the soleplate. We like that, a lot.
The Ultimate Pure has some other great features, too, like 60g/min continuous steam, a Philips Azure Elite-matching 260g/min steam boost, a large 350ml water tank with big filling hole and a fancy Durilium Airglide soleplate with a stain-reducing Palladium coating that is said to provide 33% more glide than its predecessors. We can’t be sure it’s exactly 33% smoother but we do know it skims over cloth like a hockey puck on ice.
Like the majority of steam irons, the Ultimate Pure comes with an easy-to-use sliding temperature scale that runs from low heat (for silks and other delicates) to bloody hot (creased linen). It tackled everything we laid in its path with the flattening prowess of a steamroller. Despite excelling in all departments, it’s a pretty weighty thing in the hand, so bear that in mind if you’re a little frail in the arm muscle department.
Yes, it’s another Philips, but that’s because Philips makes very good irons: they’ve dominated the likes of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s best buys for years and garner consistently excellent reviews from customers. And us. The Azur shares the faintly videogame-y design of our current favourite, the Azur Elite, but dials down the power a wee bit and costs a little less as a result.
It’s not as mad as the Elite but it’s still blooming powerful, with a 250g steam boost, 50g/min steaming for crease removal and a 2,600w heating element. However, it’s considerably lighter: 1.5Kg compared to the Elite’s two-plus kilos.
If you’re slender of frame or don't have great grip, that weight difference means a lot when it comes to comfort during longer ironing sessions. The lesser weight does make it a little less effective on really creased garments, but we think it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
Funky by name, funky by nature, this updated home-grown retro cloth presser is arguably one of the most striking irons on the board and is a choice par excellence for Smeg and Dualit fans, or indeed anyone into the ’50s thing.
However, it’s not all style over substance since it comes with pretty much everything you’d expect of a decent quality iron. It doesn’t have a steam shot function but then its 45g/min continuous steam output is ample enough even for the most obstreperous heavyweight denim. Rather handily, it features three continuous steam output settings, from gentle to geyser.
At 1.3kgs, the Funky is weighty in the hand but thankfully its ceramic soleplate coasts across fabric like skates on ice so it’s easy enough to push about. It also has a large 450ml water tank, a decently long three-metre power cable and a basic self-clean feature. The complimentary heat-resistant silicone pad for resting the soleplate on the surface of an ironing board is a thoughtful addition.
The Funky Iron is available in three new perspex-like finishes – Rose Gold, Pale Blue and Grey – and performs ironing duties without fuss, though its bulbous shape does make it impossible to wrap the cord around for storage. It’s not the cheapest iron on the board either.
Oh, and in case you’re interested, the Funky Appliance Company also produces a set of matching kettles and toasters.
The keenly priced 2800-watt PressXpress uses a wide ceramic soleplate which is more slippery than plain steel while distributing the same level of heat. It also has a precision tip which is good for navigating around the shoulder blades of shirts and between pleats on blouses, etc.
It provides a constant steam rating of 40g/min and a not-too-shabby 180g steam shot for unruly creases, and it can also be used vertically for flattening suits, dresses and curtains.
Unlike on more costly models there is an olde worlde temperature dial, with all the usual suspects – linen, cotton, wool, synthetics, silk. There’s a not-especially-tactile, sliding steam-strength switch on top, along with buttons for steam boost and fine spray. Like most modern irons, it does have a self-cleaning function.
Finally, those who have trouble filling their iron without splashing water all over the place will greatly appreciate this model’s extra wide opening which allows you to fill the huge, industry-leading, 400ml reservoir from a running tap or wide-rimmed glass. Nice touch.
This cool copper-coloured model is the most expensive in the Philips range. It has the same large, detachable, 1.8-litre water reservoir as the Elite, and the same excellent Easy De-Calc Plus lime descaler.
However, it continually pumps steam at a higher-pressure 165g/min, then, when you need a bigger blast, a double tap of the button unleashes an industry-leading 600g boost of Icelandic geysir proportions.
As with all PerfectCare models, this high-end option uses the company’s ingenious OptimalTEMP technology to control the heat of the soleplate so you can swap from delicates to heavy cotton without having to fiddle with a temperature dial.
So remarkable is this system that you can even leave the iron face down on your favourite silk shirt without burning a dirty great hole in it. Needless to say, many other manufacturers are now employing their own single-temp tech in an effort to catch up, but the Philips system remains best.
The steam is automatically regulated using Philips’ DynamiQ sensor system, which detects when and how fast the iron is moving and adjusts the steam pressure accordingly.
The simplicity alone guarantees this cool, futuristic and supremely efficient model an unequivocal high five. Whether you fancy the high asking price is up to you.
This powerful new JML model is well specced for the price though the jury’s out on the colour scheme. According to the advertising blurb, its steam is produced by a pump-driven steam generator and we have to admit that it does indeed create an exceptionally good head of continuous steam. In fact, at 44 grams per minute, it’s a fraction better than the norm. The water tank, too, is larger than most steam irons and that means fewer top ups.
This iron is very easy to use partly because it only has three digitally-controlled heat settings: cotton/linen, wool/silk and nylon. It also features a ceramic soleplate, a swivelling power cord system, vertical steaming for curtains, furnishings and suit decreasing and a very decent self-cleaning anti-calc function. It will also switch itself off automatically after 30 seconds if left face down in a horizontal position and after eight minutes if left in a vertical position.
The Phoenix produced very good results in our test though we would have liked to have seen a steam boost button. Also, we did have an issue with the heat selector buttons which are positioned on top of the handle just below the steam button. In a nutshell, we found it too easy to accidentally switch temperatures without realising it. We wouldn’t consider it a deal breaker by any means but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re a bit cack-handed with your gear.
The Braun CareStyle 5 steam generator is perfect for medium piles of laundry and delicate clothing though it’s not as attractive or effective as the Philips PerfectCare range – it is somewhat cheaper, mind.
This model comes with an iCare mode, which, rather like the Philips models, utilises a smart textile protection system to set the correct temperature for every fabric. And that, in theory, means no more scorched delicates.
But maybe the most useful innovation here is the slippery Eloxal-coated 3D BackGlide soleplate, which consists of a smooth, bevelled rear section that allows the iron to hover over fabrics whether its moving forwards or backwards. And that means no more reverse snagging and bunching, especially when ironing lighter garments like blouses and thin, easily-wrinkled T-shirts.
This steam generator heats up in a respectable two minutes but comes with a pretty small 1.4-litre reservoir and no cord storage facility. Also, the design of the hand unit is so old-fashioned looking when compared to the super sleek Philips models that you might flinch every time you approach to pick it up.
Best handheld steamer
This portable hand steamer is perfect for the travelling business bod, or indeed anyone who has ever tried to borrow an iron at a hotel. You know the scenario. Either another guest has already nabbed the only iron in existence or the iron they’re able to loan you resembles something your great grandma might have used. And then there’s the hassle of trying to fit the ironing board in the tiny space between the end of the bed and the obligatory writing desk that no one ever uses.
Frankly, I never expected this product to make much impression on my heavily creased, hand-held T-shirt but blow me down with a feather if it didn’t remove all the creases without the hot metal plate even touching the fabric. It did so very quickly, too, and without producing any significant amounts of steam; certainly nothing like the geyser-like blast of your average iron.
The lightweight Fridja takes about 45 seconds to warm up and is capable of providing up to 14 minutes of continuous steaming. The whole system is comprised of a hand unit, a 260ml water tank, a flat plastic collar stiffener, a collapsible clothes hanger, a soft fabric guard for delicates and a nice velvet pouch to put it all in. In a stroke of minor genius, it also comes with a space-saving adaptor that allows you to use any standard plastic drinks bottle instead of the main water tank.
Despite how well this works, the £100 asking price does seem a bit steep given all the plastic involved; the AC cable could do with being a bit longer, too. That being said, if you do a lot of business-based travel with suits, shirts, skirts and blouses then this small, eminently packable package will get you out of a tight fix. After all, who wants to turn up at the investor’s meeting looking like a corrugated scarecrow?