We went to the shops bright and early and asked an assistant to explain all the various features on steam irons. That was why we had gone out early, so that we could find an assistant who was not too busy, we wanted advise so that we bought the best steam iron.
She was really helpful and told us that for anyone who is forgetful, auto shut off is a must. Most irons have it and it means that if the iron is not moved the iron is automatically shut off. This feature is common because whilst it won’t prevent fabric being scorched, it will prevent fire.
The steam gauge was pretty obvious as it adjust the amount of steam or allows it to be shut off completely. You can also get an anti drip feature that allows you to steam at low temperatures without leaks.
A burst of steam button is also common, it just delivers an extra blast of steam to help with stubborn wrinkles and it also helps to flush the vents out and keep them clean. Means you don’t need a self cleaning system – seems these don’t always work too well over a long period.
She then moved on to water reservoirs. Some are a small tube and some are a large chamber beneath the handle. If you have a transparent chamber it is easier to see the water level. You can also get a removable water reservoir which is really easy to fill.
Lots of water fill holes now have covers. Some are hinged, others slide. The idea of this is to prevent leaking. You have to watch that the cover does not make filling the iron harder by getting in the way and also that it is easy to open and close.
She told us that it was important to have the controls in places that were convenient for you. The temperature control should be clearly marked and easy to use. She said that very often on the front of the handle was best although on some digital irons these could be caught and changed accidentally.
Lots of irons have a non stick bottom. Some budget models have aluminium and others have stainless steel. There is no significant difference between them if you use steam and non stick surfaces are easier to scratch when they catch on fastenings on clothing and then the iron does not glide so well. This is what had happened to my sister’s old iron I think.
The assistant then left us to have a look at the various models which all had labels showing the features and the prices. There were lots of familiar names like, Hamilton Beach, Black and Decker and Sunbeam but there were also some others not so familiar. Rowenta, Panasonic, Bosch etc.
We looked at GE irons, but whilst they are a value brand they were a little basic. Proctor Silex irons were similar, this is the budget brand of Hamilton Beach. The T-Fal irons have a non stick sole plate and one of these has an enamel coating on the bottom. I had one of these a few years ago and didn’t like the enamel coating at all.
Sunbeam irons had a great range of features and at reasonable prices – vertical steam, drip free features, definitely to be considered. Hamilton Beach irons are more expensive and they have features that include electronic controls and vertical steam whilst Rowenta is a really premium brand of iron. Some of their irons have a ‘platinum’ sole plate and their irons are more expensive.
Black and Decker turned out to be a major brand and they offer a wide range of irons with differing types of sole plates, even ceramic. Some of their irons have steam available at all temperatures and there are a good choice of digital electronic models with LED displays and even a multilingual option.
We started narrowing our choice more. The Kenmore Sears KS400 was a really good price and had good performance ratings but it was not quite what my sister was looking for. Then we discovered something really interesting. A lot of the steam irons had ratings on them due to some consumer testing and two irons were rated the same. One was the Hamilton Beach Professional 14970 and the other was the Rowenta professional DM890. Seems the Rowenta was not as durable as the Hamilton Beach Steam Iron but the Rowenta iron had better steam but their overall rating was the same. The interesting thing was that the Rowenta steam iron was more than twice the price of the Hamilton Beach iron.
In the end my sister fell in love with a reasonably priced steam iron, the Black and Decker Digital Advantage D2030. She loved it. It has a very easy to read digital display and an audible tone tells her when it is ready to use due to something called the SmartTemp system that ensures no guessing. There is vertical steam, variable steam, spray mist and surge of seam. She loves the stainless steel sole plate and the pivoting cord and the snazzy flip open water fill door – hey I would have preferred a slide door! My sister is happy, the price was good and I think she made a good choice, it is definitely the best steam iron for her.