Our ongoing quest for crease-free perfection has transformed the art of ironing.
The mangles and rollers used by our ancestors are long gone, replaced by lean, mean steam-snorting machines which banish the deepest of creases in seconds.
Better technology and a wider range of features – whether it’s diamond-encrusted soleplates (really) or sensors that adjust to the thickness of material – mean that finding the perfect iron can be a bit of a minefield.
What is a steam generator iron and how does it differ from a regular steam iron?
The Lamborghini of the ironing world is the steam generator – irons which generate twice as much steam as regular steam irons. Steam generator irons will have a large water tank (usually similar in size to the iron itself) as a base. Water is pumped into a boiler and converted into high-pressure steam, allowing the iron (in theory) to remove deep creases in record time. But a word of warning – steam generator-style irons rarely cost under £100, and it’s important to consider whether you’ll really benefit from the extra steam power. Standard steam irons with much smaller price tags might well be a better fit.
If you’re considering purchasing a steam generator iron, important factors to consider are electrical power (which is measured in watts and will give you an idea of how quickly the iron heats up) and steam output (measured in grams per minute). We’d recommend avoiding steam generators with an electrical power of less than 1800 watts.
Here are our favourite steam irons for crease-free clothes.
Morphy Richards EasyCharge 360
Cordless irons are a godsend when they’re designed well, but all too often they’re not with the quest for manoeuvrability resulting in key features being cast aside. Not so with the lightweight Morphy Richards EasyCharge 360, which slips satisfyingly easily onto its circular stand and has an unmissable light which turns green when it’s ready to go (you’ll need to give it a quick boost after 25 seconds). It might not be the most powerful of irons, but its pointed, tapered tip made it easy to access the crumpled corners others can’t reach, and the clearly-marked controls on the temperature dial, water spray and steam boost were refreshingly easy to read.
Russell Hobbs Diamond Elite Iron
This wrinkle-busting mean machine is Russell Hobbs' most powerful iron thanks to 3100w of power and vertical shots of high-pressure steam. But it’s the external features we loved the most – the ultra-soft handle, which was both smooth and grippy, the easy-to-read dial and the slimline design. Our one gripe? We’d love a longer cord – this one comes in at two metres. But the Diamond Elite was definitely one of our favourites – its Old Faithful-type blasts of steam powered through our ironing pile in record time.Despite the shorter cord, it’s incredibly manoeuvrable, thanks partly to its light weight – just 1.77kg.
The Funky Appliance Company Funky Iron
We had major concerns about the Funky Iron, clearly designed for style-savvy home-owners. It’s on the heavy side, weighing in at 2.1kg, and at 2400w could certainly pack a little more power, but we love its sleek look - a raindrop drop-shaped main body with a matte effect paint job. The clunky control dial is a minor complaint, albeit one which can’t detract from the the device’s ability to smooth the toughest wrinkles in seconds. Bonus points for the added extra of an iron shoe (designed for use with delicate garments) and the fact that designers have somehow squeezed in a 450-ml water tan – although we’d have preferred a larger water hole to minimise spills.
Tefal Ultimate Pure FV9845 Iron
This iron’s main selling points include its MicroScale filter technology, which traps scale particles in a filter, guaranteeing cleaner blasts of steam. It’s one of Tefal’s most powerful irons, packing 3100w of power and firing off ultra-powerful blasts of steam (60g/min continuous and a 260g/min steam boost, for the steam geeks out there). It tackled our crumpled test pile with ease, smoothing deep-set creases in record time, with a satisfying slipperiness which is apparently down to its unique Airglide soleplate. Our one bug bear? The heavy-duty squinting required to read the tiny writing on the control dial.
Beko SteamXtra Steam Generator SGA8328
There’s no getting away from the fact that steam generator-style irons will always be larger and heavier, but Beko’s 2800w SteamXtra is a brilliant reminder of the pay-off – in this case a whopping 1.8L water tank which allowed it to blast endless, geyser-like bursts of steam into our garments. We also loved the brilliantly clear digital display and the low weight of the iron itself (just 900g). There's also a fantastic smart mode, which automatically adjusted steam output depending on the fabric.
Breville PressXpress VIN410 Steam Generator Iron
Steam generator irons aren’t usually things of beauty, but this 2400w offering from Breville comes close. It has a curved, sculpture-like handle and a delicate gold trim which reminded us of the go-faster stripes on our favourite supercars. This is somewhat apt, because this bad boy steamed (excuse the pun) through our ironing in record time. It’s quieter than many generators (even when pumping geyser-strength jets of steam into garments) and we loved the fact that the 1700ml water tank simply slots out when it needs refilling – no jugs required.
Tower CeraGlide Cordless Iron
Tower’s 2400w capability makes it one of the most powerful cordless irons available, with the added bonus of minimal preparation time – it took under 30 seconds to heat up. We appreciated the smooth-sliding dial which allowed us total control over steam output, and the release switch on its base provided peace of mind when the iron was recharging. Although we were sceptical about the benefits of its multi-layered soleplate (designed for maximum glide), the CeraGlide certainly had a satisfying slipperiness which slashed ironing times.
GoTravel Travel Steam Iron
Travel irons are hard to get right – they need to tackle the job in question, while being compact and lightweight, too. Luckily, Go Travel has nailed this particular brief, with a dual-voltage iron which weighs just 553g but still made light work of an incredibly wrinkled stack of shirts. An extra-long cord puts even the most awkwardly-placed hotel socket within easy reach, although one minor (although perhaps inevitable) disadvantage is that the cord’s weight means it can sometimes destabilise an iron of this size - on a couple of occasions we found ourselves lunging as it skidded across our ironing board.
Breville Diamond Express Steam Iron
There’s something wonderfully extravagant about this fantastically-priced iron, whether it’s the diamond-themed trim, the generous three-metre cord or the fact that It’s reassuringly weighty without feeling cumbersome. The hatch atop the 400ml water tank was sturdy and easy to open, and the large hole made it easy to fill. We were dubious about the benefit of adding crushed diamonds to the ceramic soleplate, but it was certainly one of the most manoeuvrable irons we’ve come across, and the extra-wide base made the Diamond Express feel significantly more stable than its rivals.
Morphy Richards Turbo Glide Iron
Quite simply, this is an iron which smoothed the creases many other irons can’t reach. It has a three-metre cord, a precision-shaped ceramic soleplate capable of smoothing the slimmest of collars, and a large 400ml water tank. The latter is complete with clear sides so we could keep tabs on water levels. Its wide footprint allowed us to cover more material in less time - and without the fear of a stiff arm as the iron weighs in at just 1.43kg.
Philips PerfectCare Elite Steam Generator Iron
Spending £250 on an iron might seem extravagant, but Philips’ Elite steam generator is worth every penny. It fits wonderfully snuggly into its water tank base, where it’s held in place by a sturdy lock. The tank itself gets a gold star due to the ease with which it slides out. Favourite features include the OptimalTEMP technology, which works out the ideal temperature according to material, the DynamiQ sensor, which shuts off the steam when the iron is raised (but delivers more when it’s called for) and the way we could fire continuous shoots of steam by pressing the steam trigger twice in quick succession.
The top spot has to go to Morphy Richards EasyCharge 360, a brilliant, thoughtfully-designed cordless iron with a fantastic price tag and the ability to power through piles of ironing without giving us an arm ache. Any one of the steam generators we tried would have been a worthy representative for the genre, although second place goes to the Breville PressXpress VIN410 Steam Generator Iron, simply because it offers the triple whammy of brilliant value, simplicity and fantastic crease-busting. A special mention goes to Russell Hobbs’ Diamond Elite - a powerful iron which gives some of the most popular steam generator-style irons a run for their money, and has a sleek, stylish design.