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Many Americans have been working from home for over a year, and while most won’t return to the office anytime soon, it may be time to begin breaking out the work clothes that sat dormant in your closet. If your clothes are anything like mine, they may have a wrinkle or two (or three). While you can lug your wardrobe to the nearest dry cleaners and face a large cleaning bill, it may be smarter to invest in a clothes iron.
“Having a clothes iron makes it easy to get your clothes looking crisp, clean and pressed in a matter of minutes,” said Zeynep Mehmetoglu, who owns Washington, D.C.-based cleaning service Maid Bright and runs it with her husband Yusef. “You don’t have to wait for the dry cleaner laundry service to have your clothes on a moment’s notice.”
If you’re thinking of buying a clothes iron, here’s everything you need to know, from key features to some of the best models at various price points. You can also find steamers at Shopping reader-favorite retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy, among others.
Should you get a clothes iron?
Irons are handheld kitchen appliances that help smooth out your garments. Almost any type of fabric can be ironed, and many specific types should be ironed to maintain their original form.
“Almost all clothing items that contain natural fibers, like cotton, linen or silk, will need an iron touch-up,” said Teresa Hunsaker, a family and consumer science educator at Utah State University — she writes a column offering cleaning tips during Covid-19.
There are two common types of clothes irons, according to Hunsaker:
- Dry irons are typically more affordable and sport fewer features. Models come with a metal plate — users adjust heat settings using a knob that controls a bottom plate.
- Steam irons use steam instead to get out wrinkles, and typically have both steamer and dry iron capabilities. Steam irons equip a tank for water and include a spray function to shoot steam out of the plate. They are often more versatile than dry irons and have an adjustable gauge that controls the amount of steam released onto the fabric.
Mehmetoglu recommends shopping for a steam iron over a dry iron, as steam irons are typically more effective in getting out creases on difficult fabrics, like denim or linen. In fact, most modern clothes irons will have some steaming capabilities.
“It will take you less time to get through a pile of laundry with a steam iron,” she said. “With a dry iron, you would still need to spray your clothes with a bottle filled with water or starch to get the wrinkles out of your clothes.”
Best clothes irons of 2021
This affordable steam iron comes with seven heat settings for different fabrics, including silk, nylon, cotton, wool and linen, and can switch easily between steam and dry ironing. Additional features include an anti-drip system and automatic safety shutoff. This model has an aluminum plate and grooves to help you navigate around buttons and collars.
This steamer has both vertical steam and ironing capabilities, and uses 1700 watts of power. It has a digital temperature control and five fabric heat presets, including linen, cotton, wool, silk and synthetic fabrics. This model comes with an 8-foot retractable cord for easy storage and has safety features like an auto-shutoff and an anti-drip function.
This steam iron can hold over 8 ounces of water and has a vertical steam feature to steam upright garments. It has some added temperature features for specific fabrics like silk, wool and nylon. This iron is self-cleaning and has an anti-calcium feature, and uses 1500 watts of power. This steamer also comes with a 8-foot cord that can swivel 360 degrees.
Mehmetoglu recommends this higher-end steam iron. This model is made of stainless steel and uses 1800 watts to iron out wrinkles in almost any type of fabric. It comes with a 2.5-meter cord and has added features like a vertical steam, anti-drip system, anti-calcium system and auto-shutoff. It’s water tank holds almost 11 ounces of water and has an extreme steam burst tip to target wrinkles in a small area.
This cordless clothes iron is affordable and more mobile than irons that require a nearby electric outlet. Users can heat up the iron on a hot plate, though this model does come with a 10-foot cord for added convenience. This iron also comes with an auto-shutoff feature and has a stainless steel plate. The sunbeam steam iron uses 1500 watts of power and has adjustable steam levels depending on what fabric you’re ironing.
How to shop for clothes iron
Assess your wardrobe and what types of fabrics you’ll most likely iron, advised Hunsaker. Some fabrics can’t handle high heat — you’ll therefore want to find an iron with adjustable heat settings. Most clothes iron prices range between $25 to $100 — the more features an iron has, the more expensive the model will be, said Mehmetoglu.
- Virtually all steamers come with basic heat settings, including low, medium and hot. Higher-end models will have additional heat settings, like ones based on fabric types.
- Most steamers should have safety features like an automatic shutoff.
- Consider certain cord features considering how often you plan to use your iron and what you want to iron — some cords equip 360-degree rotating swivels and others retractable cords.
- If you don’t want to use a cord at all, consider a cordless iron. They don’t require an electric cord and warm up over a heat plate, but they typically only stay hot for a few minutes at a time.
- Steam irons equip features like an adjustable steam gauge and spray nozzle. Some produce steam while upright so you can steam a garment hanging on a hanger. Most include removable water tanks — they’re easier to refill (transparent water reservoirs let you easily discern when they need a refill).
- When buying a steam iron, pay attention to added safety and maintenance features like an anti-calcium system, which helps reduce calcium build up in the water (which can be difficult to clean) and therefore prevent calcium from getting on and staining your clothes.
- An anti-drip function helps prevent water from dripping on your clothes, which can cause water rings.