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The 8 Very Best Clothing Irons

Photo: Retailer

A good iron can make the difference between a dread-inducing, monotonous task and entering a flow state while you sweep a well-calibrated machine over your clothing or sheets. Unlike garment steamers, which perform many of the same wrinkle-lifting functions, irons apply direct heat to a textile, which lifts deep-set wrinkles more easily and creates sharp creases or a uniformly crisp surface. We spoke to eight experts, including historical costumers and dry cleaners, about their favorites.

Best overall | Best less expensive | Best upgrade | Best for safety features | Best titanium-ceramic | Best cordless | Best with water tank | Best splurge

What we’re looking for

Steam: “Fortunately at this point in our civilization, most people who create irons understand that they really need to have a couple functions,” says Zach Pozniak, a third-generation dry cleaner and the vice-president of operations at Jeeves New York. One of those is producing steam, which relaxes textile fibers and smoothes wrinkles. “The only reason to buy a good iron is for the steam function, honestly,” says costume designer and Strategist contributor Alison Freer. All of the irons on this list have a steam function, and we’re noting which have notably fine, responsive steam.

Temperature control: Another necessary function is a well-calibrated thermostat that consistently delivers the heat you specify “so you’re not scorching or putting burn marks on your clothes,” per Pozniak. Too-high heat is more of a problem than too-low heat, so “always do less heat than you think at first and then work your way up,” says Freer.

Mineralization management: Another one of Pozniak’s necessary iron functions is “a self-cleaning function for all those minerals in our water, unless you are a true ironing fanatic and use distilled water.” A steam iron you’re filling from the sink will inevitably see a buildup of the minerals found in tap water, which can clog holes and “eject this gross white grainy sand, and if you iron it into your clothes, now it’s stained,” says Pozniak. One way to avoid mineralization is to use distilled water (or, according to laundry expert and host of the Laundry Guy Patric Richardson, spring water, which allows water to heat up beyond the boiling point), but most irons will have a self-cleaning function to avoid gritty buildup.

Best overall

1,500 watts | Auto-clean function

“Maytag products are very solid,” says Pozniak. He says that the brand’s M400 iron in particular “heats up fast, self cleans, pretty precise thermostat … that’s a really good one overall.” The M400 is sold out at most retailers, but the M1400 has the same specs with a digital temperature display rather than a dial; its balance of function and affordability makes it our best all-purpose pick.

Best less-expensive iron

From $28

1,200 watts | Auto-clean function

If you’re looking for a less-expensive iron, Pozniak describes the Black and Decker ICR2010 as a “really solid” option that has “worked for me since I was in college.” It’s also a favorite of Marilee Nelson, a nontoxic consultant and co-founder of Branch Basics.

Best upgrade iron

1,725 watts | Designed to work with tap water

Three years ago, graphic designer and home sewer Tracy Ma upgraded irons from a “$10 leaky thing encrusted with melted polyester” to this Roweta Focus. “I’m very pleased with it,” she says. “Exhales big ole puffs of steam exactly upon trigger and never before or after.” She also appreciates its precisely calibrated temperature dial: “You know how cheap irons have these dials and they all seem fake? Well, the dials actually work on this one! The temperature gauges are very accurate and sensitive!” Freer is also a fan of Rowenta’s irons, which she likes because “the steam is very fine, very concentrated.”

Best iron for safety features

1,800 watts | Self-cleaning system

Christine Millar, an anesthesiologist, historical costumer, and parent of a young child, likes this Rowenta iron for its safety features. Although she says that many of her peers in the costuming community use a professional gravity-feed iron, “I can’t do that because this child will bump into this iron and hurt himself horribly.” She uses the Rowenta SteamForce iron instead, which “has every safety feature on the planet. If you leave it down for too long, it turns off; if you leave it alone for ten minutes, it turns off.” (Plus it performs — Millar says the model has “great steam” and “irons really well.”) In her guide to ironing sheets, illustrator Maira Kalman describes a similar Rowenta model as “a really good, basic, nobody-needs-more-than-that kind of iron.”

Best titanium-ceramic iron

1,700 watts | Self-cleaning

CHI, the maker of a cult-favorite hair straightener, makes an iron with the same titanium-infused ceramic plates. The plate “makes it super smooth and it glides really well,” says Pozniak, who describes it as a “very utilitarian” pick. “It also works as a handheld steamer, which is really nice.”

Best cordless iron

1,500 watts | Anti-calcium system

This cordless Panasonic iron is a favorite of pattern designer Angela Wolf, who first learned about it from a friend who works on costumes for Dancing With the Stars. Pozniak also mentioned it as a good option for ironing sheets or other large jobs: “There’s nothing worse than being tethered to an outlet” when “ironing something large,” he says. Plus it’s cute: “I think it’s the best-looking one by far.”

Best iron with water tank

1,500 watts | Anti-calcium flush system

For heavy-duty ironing and steaming jobs, Gwen Whiting, the co-founder of the Laundress, recommends Rowenta’s power-steam iron, which comes with a 57-ounce water tank. “I turned my husband into an iron aficionado,” Whiting says. “He will only use this model because the powerful steam creates the best results.”

Best splurge iron

1,600 watts | Includes anti-mineralization cartridge

“The thing I love about the Laurastar is the steam is so hot,” says Richardson. “Their steam dries on contact. I can iron a shirt in 60 seconds with their iron because you only go over the area once and it’s completely dry, so you can just keep moving.” He’s had this iron for several years and says that although it’s expensive, it can replace dry cleaning.

Some more ironing essentials we've written about

Our experts

• Alison Freer, costume designer and author of How to Get Dressed
• Maira Kalman, illustrator
• Tracy Ma, graphic designer and home sewer
Christine Millar, historical costumer
• Marilee Nelson, co-founder of Branch Basics
• Zach Pozniak, vice president of operations at Jeeves New York
• Patric Richardson, host of the Laundry Guy
• Gwen Whiting, co-founder of the Laundress

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The 8 Very Best Clothing Irons