Appliances

Product overview

Welcome to New Zealand’s trusted, independent source of practical consumer information. Join us now to access all our information and Consumer advisers when you need them.  

Irons and steamers

14mar iron garment steamers steam stations hero default

Irons, steam stations and garment steamers.

We tested irons, steam stations and garment steamers on a range of fabrics and garments from delicate organza and silk to heavy-duty wool, cotton shirts, denims and linen.

From our test

Join us now for instant access

Join more than 100,000 members today and you'll get:

  • Independent info
  • Thousands of test results and research you can trust
  • Everything in one easy place
  • Expert support a phone call away if things go wrong


Steam iron, steam station or garment steamer?

Steam irons

Standard steam irons are the answer if you don’t do a lot of ironing and don’t want to spend much. They use the heat and weight of the ironing plate to stretch the fabric fibres, which retain their shape after cooling. Most have a steam function to aid the process.

Pros

  • Easy to store.
  • Much cheaper than steam stations. The irons in our test cost between $14 and $200.

Cons

  • Require more effort to remove creases than a steam station.

Steam stations

Steam stations have a separate tank and an iron that sits on it. They rely on large volumes of steam (rather than high heat) to get out creases. More steam means faster ironing which makes a steam station a good choice for bigger families, especially those who do large quantities of ironing at once.

Pros

  • Faster than a standard iron.
  • Require less effort to remove creases.

Cons

  • Bulky and awkward to store and move - suit being set up permanently.
  • You need a vented ironing board with space for the steam station.
  • Require good ventilation - our room steamed up during testing.
  • Expensive: the steam stations we tested cost between $399 and $499.

Garment steamers

Garment steamers are designed to be a gentler, safer way of removing wrinkles from clothing and are less likely to damage delicate fabric. This is because there is no pressure applied to the fabric fibres as there is with steam irons and steam stations. They’re commonly used in clothes shops, for refreshing garments to give them a soft, clean look.

Pros

  • Can be used on upholstery, rugs, curtains and drapes as well as clothes.
  • Compact models can be used for travelling.

Cons

  • Not a complete substitute for an iron or steam station, as some fabrics need these irons to remove creases effectively.
  • Fabrics can be left slightly damp or with water droplets on the material. So you need to wait between steaming and wearing.
  • Some are expensive: the models in our test cost between $99 and $679.

Steam iron features

If you're thinking about buying an iron, here's what to consider.

Soleplates

  • A polished aluminium soleplate is used on budget irons but may become sticky over time.
  • A "non-stick" soleplate is easier to keep clean but be careful not to scratch it on zips or buttons. "Non-stick" is marketed under a variety of names including Teflon, Dynaglide, and Durilium.
  • Stainless steel soleplates glide smoothly but may scratch.
  • Ceramic soleplates claim to be durable and scratch-resistant.

Steam

  • Drip protection stops the iron steaming if the heat is too low. Tip: Using steam at low heat can mean you get streaks – that's because the temperature's too low to vaporise the water. (An iron with drip protection stops this from happening.)
  • Variable steam gives extra oomph on heavy fabrics and less puff on light or sensitive fabrics.
  • A shot of steam provides an extra surge of steam that's useful for stubborn creases.
  • Vertical steam is handy for restoring respectability to a rumpled pair of trousers or suit, getting creases out of fabrics too delicate to iron, and avoiding that shiny look when ironing wool and some other fabrics. You simply hold the iron close to hanging fabric and press the "Shot of steam" button. The steam is not continuous (you have to keep pressing), so it can be tedious to do large areas. Not all irons have this feature.
  • The spray function may end up with water where you don't want it. Tip: Use a plant mister or spray bottle – its aim is more accurate than the iron's and it produces a better result.

Indicators

  • A thermostat light turns off when the preset temperature is reached.
  • The power-on light warns you that the iron's on.

Other considerations

  • Button groove: A gap between iron and soleplate makes it easier to iron around buttons.
  • Cord length is important for safety. Plugging directly into the power outlet is safer than using an extension cord.
  • Storage is easier if the iron has a "heel" that lets you wrap the cord around it. Some also have a clip to secure the cord.
  • Auto cut-off: Strongly recommended. If the iron is left lying down, it turns off at around 30 seconds. If it's standing up, it turns off after 8 to 15 minutes.
  • Weight: A light iron is easy to move but needs more downward pressure. A heavier iron needs less pressure but more effort to move and lift. Tip: Pick up a display model in the store (or take one out of its box) and check that its weight and balance are right for you.
  • Self-cleaning: This removes hard-water scale deposits that can clog the steam valve and soleplate holes. (If the inside of your kettle "furs up", you live in a hard-water area.)
  • Transparent water reservoir: This makes it easier to see the water level when you're filling the tank – and also when it's getting low.

Steam station features

In the market for a steam station? Here's what to consider.

  • A light iron is easy to move but needs more downward pressure. A heavier iron needs less pressure but more effort to move and lift.
  • We strongly recommend automatic cut-off. This turns off the iron at around 30 seconds if it’s been left lying down (horizontal) and after 8 to 15 minutes if it’s been left upright (vertical).
  • A "non-stick" soleplate is easier to keep clean than one that’s stainless steel – but be careful not to scratch it on zips or buttons. Ceramic soleplates claim to be durable and scratch-resistant.
  • The length of the cord is important for safety – plugging directly into the power outlet is safer than using an extension cord.
  • Storage is easier if the iron has a heel that lets you wrap the cord around it (some also have a clip to secure the cord).
  • Variable steam means you can get extra oomph on heavy fabrics and less puff on light or sensitive fabrics.
  • Thermostat lights come on when the iron’s heating up and go off when the pre-set temperature is reached.
  • A transparent water reservoir makes it easier to see the water level when you’re filling the tank – and also when it’s getting low.
  • A gap between the iron and soleplate (called the button groove) makes it easier to iron around buttons.
  • Shot of steam provides an extra surge of steam that's useful for stubborn creases. It can also help to clean the vents.
  • Self-cleaning removes scale-deposits that can clog the steam valve and soleplate holes.
  • Drip protection stops water from dripping through the soleplate (this is particularly a problem at low temperatures and could stain the fabric).

You need a vented ironing board with space for the steam station. But don’t use a steam station over a precious wooden floor or carpet without a protective covering. Drops of water may collect under the vented ironing board.

Garment steamer features

There are 4 essential features when it comes to garment steamers:

  • A telescopic pole helps make the unit more compact for storage.
  • Wheels let you move the steamer around easily.
  • A clothes hanger is essential for hanging the garments during steaming.
  • Variable steam lets you adjust the amount of steam to suit what you’re steaming.

Safety

What if a child does get burned by an iron or steamer? Here's what Safekids New Zealand recommends:

  • Run cold water gently over the burn for at least 20 minutes. Don’t touch the burn or burst any blisters as this could cause infection.
  • Remove clothing from the affected area once it has cooled. If the clothing sticks don’t pull it away – cut around the fabric.
  • Cover the burn with clean non-fluffy material – such as a sheet – or loosely cover it with plastic wrap to prevent infection. DON’T use ice, butter or oil on the burn.
  • Get medical advice immediately from your doctor or Plunketline (0800 933 922). Alternatively, call 111.
×