Advice on choosing a steam iron or steam generating iron
Ironing is probably the household chore that we hate most of all, especially shirts with all those fiddly bits and whose creases never seem to fully disappear! Research has shown that when it comes to doing the ironing, most people will want to get out of the way as quickly as possible.
There is, however some good news in the form of today's modern steam irons which have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Joining the traditional iron is the steam generating iron which has become much more popular recently. The range of irons available has never been wider and there are many innovations that can help you cut through your ironing quickly and effectively.
Lets look at the two main types of iron available - steam irons and steam generator irons.
This is the traditional type of iron that most of us are familiar with. Really designed for those smaller ironing loads, steam irons have small built-in water tanks that generate continuous steam, usually at a rate set by the user - this is called variable steam. Steam irons are also able to give short bursts or shots of steam to help with removing those more stubborn creases.
Steam Generator Irons
A steam generator iron (may also be called steam generating iron or just steam generator) is actually comprised of two different parts - the steam iron as above but without the water tank, which helpfully makes it weigh less. Instead, a much larger water tank is fitted into a separate unit. This separate unit has only one function - to generate continuous steam and it does this at high pressure - up to 5 bar. This continuous steam is delivered to the iron via a steam hose at up to double the rate that a standalone steam iron can produce. A steam generator iron is therefore much more suitable for larger loads and will make ironing much easier and quicker.
Important Features Explained
There is a very wide range of steam irons available today, with a seemingly never ending set of specifications and features. Listed below are the main features that you need to look out for and what they mean.
Power Output - Watts
The more powerful the heating element, the higher the number of watts and the quicker the heat up time of the iron. The average for a standalone steam iron is 2400 watts, but some Bosch models have 2750 watts.
Steam Iron Soleplate
The underside of the iron (the bit that gets hot) is called the soleplate. The best material for a soleplate is ceramic - they have the smoothest gliding and best stain resistance. Other materials used for the soleplate include stainless steel and aluminium.
Steam - Continuous Steam Output
Measured in grams per minute, the continuous steam output relaxes the fabric as you iron and as well as removing creases makes the ironing action smoother. The higher the constant steam capacity, the shorter the ironing time required. A steam generator iron is capable of producing much higher continuous steam output than a traditional steam iron.
This is also measured in grams per minute. Most steam irons can give a short, powerful burst of steam that penetrates deep into the fabric to help remove the more difficult creases especially in tough fibres. Higher burst rates will naturally give better performance. Not all steam generating irons offer steam shots, but the higher continuous steam compensates for this.
This allows you to iron hanging items such as suits and jackets as well as steam curtains and blinds without needing to take them down.
The longer the power cord the more flexibility you have when ironing larger items. 3 metres is generally the maximum size available on a steam iron. For steam generators, there are two cords the power cord to the steam unit and the steam cord from the iron to the steam unit.
This important feature prevents limescale build up in your steam iron, therefore improving the everyday performance and longevity of your iron. A Steam generator iron uses replaceable cartridges or a removable filter that you periodically rinse out.
Auto Shut off
This safety feature activates after the iron has been inactive for a certain amount of time, either resting on its soleplate or left idle standing on its heel.
This makes sure thatif the iron should be used before reaching the required temperature, any water not yet turned to steam will not leak onto the fabric.
So whatever your ironing requirements, there's sure to be a model to suit your needs and pocket.