If you find ironing a chore, make like a bad workman and blame your tools, because the latest steam irons really do make light work of the job. Powerful steam, smooth-gliding soleplates, intelligent settings and more combine to make the latest models far more effective than their predecessors. We’ve tested a wide range of mid-priced and premium steam irons to see which performed best pressing a range of everyday clothes.
For more expert product reviews, see our other buying guides
Best steam irons
1. Philips Azur Elite GC5039/30 – best luxe steam iron
We really like the design of the Philips. Where others go dark and a bit blue in a blatant attempt at unisex appeal, this looks dark and luxe. If your iron and ironing board live in a cupboard that was designed by an architect, this is the iron for you. Controls are almost non-existent. There’s no temperature setting because it’s set automatically, promising no fabric burns on any iron-safe fabric.
Even its steam of up to 75g/min is semi-automatic. You choose between iQ, max, ionic or off. iQ is intelligent and adjusts depending on the speed at which you move the iron. Move slower and you get extra steam for stubborn creases. Or you could just turn steam up to max. The ionic setting promises silver ions in your steam to improve hygiene.
You can pump a trigger button for a 260g/min steam shot, including vertical steam. And unusually it has a calc collector that can be physically removed and cleaned out.Its 350ml water tank is easy to fill through a large opening, and it comes with a jug. A black jug, obviously. The 3m cord doesn’t stow very comfortably around the heel though.
Steam is powerful, pumped out consistently and quietly, and we really enjoyed using it. It glides well and delivers impressive steam, but little annoyances like the cord – and the price tag – meant we couldn’t quite justify giving it top marks. It’s still a superb steam iron, though.
Ideal Home rating 4.5 out of 5 stars
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2. Tefal Freemove Air Cordless FV6520 – best cordless steam iron
The Freemove is very lightweight in the hand, not least because it’s cordless. Yes, you read right, cordless. After around 30 seconds of ironing, the base beeps to remind you to recharge. Then it takes 11 seconds to recharge – just enough time for you to adjust the garment to a new position. The timings work. As do the ergonomics: it slides comfortably onto the base and ironing cordlessly feels very natural.
But it’s not perfect. Glide isn’t great and we weren’t so impressed with the steam and controls. Steam is on (25g/min) or off, there’s no adjustment. And as well as switching it on, you must constantly squeeze a trigger for steam. Surely one control should be enough. While under your thumb are buttons for water spray and steam boost (115g/min) which can be used vertically. But these are quite hard to squeeze, nowhere near as ergonomic as the rest of the Tefal. The only other button is for the anti-calc mode.
Our only major criticism of the Tefal is that the steam is mediocre and takes a while to get going and then it keeps going. Steam sometimes continues when it’s first sat on its base and condenses into water. Then this can get carried back to your garment as drips. It’s not a constant problem, more an occasional annoyance.
Its 250ml tank is easy to fill through a large opening. But, because of the charging base, the iron isn’t designed to sit on its heel so you must fill it sat on its base. This works but takes a bit of getting used to. For storage, the 1.9m cord fits nice and safely around the base and clips to itself to stay in place. Surprisingly affordable and a good choice if you’d like a lighter iron and don’t need strong steam.
Ideal Home rating 4 out of 5 stars
3. Bosch TDA7060GB – best steam iron for smart settings
Another iron with an intelligent temperature setting that automatically gets it right for all iron-safe fabrics. But this one has standard heat settings too, for when you want to take control. Meanwhile its touch-sensitive handle only switches on the heat when gripped. The idea is disconcerting – what if the iron cools down too much? But it works just fine, saves energy and acts like a reassuringly strict safety cut-off.
Its 50g/min constant steam is very effective and more than strong enough for most jobs. Therefore you rarely need the 200g/min steam shot, but it comes into its own for vertical steam, powerful enough to tackle anything. The controls for these and the water spray are well positioned under the thumb. There’s a button for self-cleaning the anti-calc too.
The fill hole for its 300ml water tank is small but easy to fill, with or without the supplied jug. Its 3m cord fits well around the iron’s heel for storage. Looks are a bit boring, in blue and white. However, the Bosch’s performance and intelligence impress, especially for a mid-priced iron.
Ideal Home rating 5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Bosch TDA7060GB, £69, Amazon
4. Rowenta DW6010 Eco Focus – best energy saving steam iron
This has an eco mode that targets steam to remove creases while using 30% less electricity. There’s a boost mode if you need more. The soleplate glides adequately, but not brilliantly. Steam performance is disappointing. It doesn’t feel like enough steam to power through the ironing pile, even when you push the 180g/min steam shot button. It takes repeat efforts to iron out creases. The same goes for the vertical steam.
Two buttons under your thumb trigger water spray and steam shot. They’re well-made and positioned just right, but the lever that controls variable steam (up to 40g/min) feels flimsy. And you have to keep pushing it if you want more steam. The fill hole for the 270ml tank is a bit small and fiddly to get to, so it’s good that the Rowenta comes with a jug. And the 2m cord is a bit short and there’s nowhere to wrap it.
We like the idea of the Rowenta Eco Focus, and its floral green and black design looks good, but the performance didn’t live up to the promise. It’s ok as a budget iron, but we’ve seen better.
Ideal Home rating 3.5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Rowenta DW6010 Eco Focus, £65, Amazon
5. Morphy Richards Saturn Steam (305000) – best steam iron for digital controls
A thoroughly modern-looking iron in black and teal, complete with digital controls. Arguably too many digital controls. Unusually there’s a power button and a light to illuminate your quest to spot, and eliminate, wrinkles. And up and down buttons to set temperature, while lights indicate whether you’re on one, two, three dots or max – we couldn’t help wondering what’s wrong with a dial. There’s also a button for anti calc and a trigger button for vertical steam
The controls took a bit of mastering, but we found that a long press on the steam button put it into constant steam mode, which was a game-changer. It delivers up to 50g/min, but uses a pump that delivers a constant 1 bar pressure, much like a larger steam generator. The result is very steamy. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but the steam definitely helps gets through the ironing pile quickly.
The fill hole for its 350ml tank is a bit small and fiddly to get to. The 2.5m cord is a bit short and doesn’t stow brilliantly either. There is lots of powerful steam and a smooth glide but we found the controls annoying and preferred other irons for performance.
Ideal Home rating 4 out of 5 stars
6. Braun TexStyle 9 Pro SI9188BK – best steam iron for removing creases
This delivered powerful steam and ploughed through the ironing pile at high speed. It’s black, modern-looking and certainly has unisex appeal. You control steam level (up to 50g/min) with a small dial under your thumb, but you can’t control temperature. Instead, it has a single iCare setting that can’t be overridden and promises to be good for all iron-safe fabrics.
There’s a trigger button under your finger which is good for 230 g/min steam shot and vertical steam – again powerful. It glides very smoothly. We found it possible to plough through the ironing double-speed because the steam is strong enough to do both sides of a shirt at once. Its 330ml tank is easy to fill through a large opening, and it comes with a jug, but the 2.5m cord is a bit short.
It stows looped around the heel adequately but not brilliantly. And we couldn’t see the benefits of the soleplate’s 3D design, where it curves up at the heel end. Still, the performance is excellent.
Ideal Home rating 5 out of 5 stars
7. Breville DiamondXpress – best value steam iron
The selling point of this relatively affordable steam iron is that its ceramic soleplate incorporates crushed diamonds for added durability and improved glide. It’s attractive. We like the rose gold coloured soleplate and detailing, we sort-of enjoy the use of little crystals on the temperature dial (one, two or three dots in diamante). But the photo decals of diamonds are overkill, verging on naff.
Its 400ml tank is easy to fill through a large opening and it’s quick to heat up. There’s a slider to adjust steam (up to 70g/min). And there are two buttons under your thumb, for water spray and steam shot (200g/min). The only other button is for self-cleaning. It didn’t glide especially well but the diamonds should make the soleplate durable. Constant steam levels are good, not great. The steam shot is better and you can pump the button for vertical steam too.
Ergonomically, we were impressed. It sits well in the hand and balances nicely on its heel. To store, there’s space to wrap the 3m cord around the bottom without it touching the hot soleplate. And we love the Safe-Store strip. After you unplug, a strip on the side stays red until the iron is cool enough to store safely. At which point the words SAFE STORE appear in red on black. It’s not the best iron on test but it’s the best at this price.
Ideal Home rating 4.5 out of 5 stars
How to buy the best steam iron for you
You don’t want just any old, any old iron. Look for strong steam and a smooth-glide soleplate to power through the ironing pile. If the steam is strong enough, you save even more time because it penetrates through the garment, ironing both sides at once. Premium models also offer intelligent controls that save time and hassle, because you can iron all garments on a single setting.
What else should I look for?
Measured in g/min (grams per minute), the bigger the number the more powerful the steam, which relaxes the fabric weave to make it easier to smooth out creases.
Again measured in g/min, press a button for an extra boost to tackle stubborn creases. The bigger the better.
Hold the iron up and press the steam shot button to refresh and un-crease hanging garments and curtains.
Most irons also offer a simple spray of water at the press of a button, another useful tool for creases but we prefer steam for most fabrics.
Intelligent temperature setting:
Some irons – usually pricier models – don’t need you to select the temperature, they just automatically get it right for all fabrics. This saves time because you don’t need to look at garment labels or divide them into one-dot, two-dot and three-dot piles. Iron in any old order.
You want a material that glides smoothly over all fabrics, with plenty of holes to deliver steam and a groove above it, so you can easily iron under shirt buttons. An all-round soleplate is best, so you can iron in any direction.
The power should switch off automatically if the iron is left flat for a couple of minutes, or left upright for longer.
All the irons here feature a limescale filter that removes impurities from the water. You can push a button to clean the filter, forcing out deposits using the iron’s own steam.
Water is cut off if there’s not enough to create steam, to prevent drips.
Some models have a power cord that’s too short. It depends where your socket is, but we prefer a 3m length.
All these irons are designed so the cord wraps around the base when not in use. But some are designed better than others. We want our cord to stay put when the iron’s in the cupboard.
How much should I spend on a steam iron?
We tested a number of mid-priced and premium models, with prices ranging from £60 to £160. £60 buys you a perfectly good steam iron but spend more and you’ll get more powerful steam that piles through the ironing pile faster.
You may also get more intelligent features, so you can disregard settings completely and get on with the job in hand.