Buying Guide to Irons

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7 Things to Know Before You Buy

An iron that quickly and easily de-wrinkles, leaving clothing and other fabrics crisp and well-pressed, is an indispensable household tool. The wide variety of capabilities featured in today's irons make it possible for you to accomplish professional-quality ironing at home.

When choosing an iron that fits your needs, the following features of a high-quality iron are the most, er, pressing.

Fact #1: Soleplate Materials and Design

The metal plates that heat up on the bottom of irons are known as soleplates. They come in several materials.

Stainless steel soleplates are smooth, which allows the iron to easily glide over clothing, and they are good conductors of heat. Soleplates with a nonstick coating also glide well and resist sticky buildup. Ceramic soleplates offer a nonstick surface and create a smooth glide. Aluminum sole plates are less common nowadays. While this material is a good conductor of heat, it tends to stick to clothing, which can be damaging.

Also keep in mind, the longer and wider a soleplate, the more quickly you'll finish your ironing tasks.

Fact #2: Steam/Spray Capabilities

The combination of heat and steam is the most effective at ironing out wrinkles. Choose an iron with steaming capabilities, including a burst of steam button that emits a concentrated blast of steam at the tip of the iron. This helps remove stubborn wrinkles or when trying to iron difficult fabrics or getting the iron into hard-to-reach locations.

If you wish to iron items in place rather than bringing them to the ironing board, (think curtains or hanging garments), get an iron with a vertical steam option that allows you to also use the appliance in the upright position.

Many irons have a built-in sprayer that shoots water onto the fabric when you press a button. This function also helps to remove stubborn wrinkles.

Fact #3: Water Tank Capacity

A filled water tank enables the iron to steam and spray. To avoid frequent refilling, look for a machine with a water tank that holds 8 to 10 ounces and has an easy-to-read gauge so you know when to refill. The tank itself should also be easy to fill. Some models feature a removable tank.

Fact #4: Temperature Settings

Considering that various fabrics like cotton and acrylics require different heat concentrations when ironing, choose a model that features several temperature settings. Make sure all of the temperature controls and fabric settings are easy to see and adjust.

Fact #5: Functional Design

Look for an iron with a thin, pointy front end, which allows you to squeeze into tight spots when ironing, such as between buttons. Ensure that the iron isn't top-heavy and prone to fall when you stand it on end, and look for a model with an adjustable retractable cord, which helps keep the cord out of the way when ironing and allows for tidy storage. A soft grip handle is also helpful, as it minimizes hand fatigue.

Fact #6: Cleaning Capabilities

Opt for a self-cleaning "anti-scale" model that flushes out loose mineral deposits that can stain fabric. Some irons also have a replaceable calcium filter, which enables you to use tap, rather than distilled water.

Fact #7: Safety Features

Many of today's irons possess a safety feature that automatically shuts your iron off after you stop using it for a period of time. Most models turn off after several minutes when left in the upright position and in just a few seconds if the iron's soleplate is left stationary on clothing or the appliance falls. Some models also have an indicator light that tells you when the iron is cool enough to store.