Thinking of buying a steam generator iron? You will be so happy you did because these powerful irons can make ironing a much less painful experience. This steam generator iron buying guide will help you to identify some of the main things you should look for when choosing a steam generator iron.
Steam Generator Irons vs Regular Steam Irons
It’s a common misconception that steam irons and steam generator irons are the same things. While they both use steam in some capacity, they are very different. Here’s a quick overview of their main differences:
This is a traditional iron that has some limited steam capabilities. Steam irons tend to have a very small reservoir for water and can only produce steam in limited quantities and at limited levels of intensity.
Some steam irons do allow for continuous steam output (though this is limited by the amount of water available) while others only let you use steam in short bursts. Steam irons offer some of the advantages of steam but nowhere near the same level of power as a steam generator iron.
Steam Generator Iron
In contrast, a steam generator iron has a large water tank and produces a continuous output of steam.
Highly pressurized steam leads to much better results and cuts down on total ironing time significantly. Steam generator irons can be seen as a serious upgrade to traditional steam irons. Put simply – if you iron a lot then a steam generator iron would be your best option.
Understanding Steam Generator Iron Terminology
When buying a steam generating iron, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the commonly used terminology. This will ensure that you are fully informed about potential irons. Below you’ll find some of the common terms you’ll encounter when looking for a steam generator iron.
There are a few numbers that measure the power and speed of an iron’s steam output.
Bars: This is a measurement of the steam’s pressure. High pressure is what gives steam the power to quickly get rid of wrinkles.
The typical range of pressure for a steam generator iron is 4-6 bars, though you will see irons outside of those averages. The higher the number, the more powerful the iron will be.
Grams/Minute Another important measurement is the size of the steam output. This is measured in grams per minute. Again, the higher the number, the better.
Many steam generator irons will have two separate g/min numbers, one for the continual steam release and a second for the steam burst mode. The burst mode lets you give an additional concentrated burst of steam and is particularly helpful for deeper creases in thicker fabrics.
The amount of water is another important number to pay attention to. This is typically measured in millilitres or litres. You will see steam generator irons with tanks in a range of sizes, typically from 500 millilitres to 1.5 litres.
The more water the tank holds, the longer you will be able to iron without refilling. If you do a ton of ironing, it’s wise to choose one with a larger tank so you don’t have to constantly stop to refill. The water tanks are typically removable but not always. In some cases, it’s possible to fill the tank while the iron remains on.
The soleplate is the metal bottom of the iron that connects with the fabric you are ironing. The material this is made from or coated with may impact the iron’s performance. Some common soleplate materials are:
- Aluminium: distributes heat well but is easily scratched and can be hard to clean
- Stainless steel: quite durable, has great glide, and distributes heat evenly but is easily scratched
- Ceramic: very durable, non-stick, great glide, distributes heat evenly
- Palladium: an advanced non-stick metal that offers durability, good glide, and an even distribution of heat
Some other terms you will see in relation to soleplates are:
- Non-stick: much like a frying pan with a non-stick surface, a non-stick soleplate will ensure the iron has a nice smooth glide and that it won’t stick to fabrics
- Scratch-resistant: usually due to a special coating, there will be a much lower chance of the soleplate getting scratched over the course of normal use
- Self-cleaning: this minimises the risk of rust or scaly deposits building up on the soleplate and hurting the iron’s overall performance
There are several terms related to settings and features on steam generator irons. Many are self-explanatory but it always helps to be sure you understand what each one means.
- Anti-drip: this setting prevents any extra water dripping or leaking from the iron’s vents
- Anti-scale: this setting minimises the risk of mineral deposits like limescale and calcium forming on the iron
- De-scaling cleaning system: some irons have an auto-clean feature to get rid of any mineral deposits or scales
- Auto-shutoff: this is a safety setting that means the iron will automatically turn itself off after a period of non-use
- Wattage: the amount of energy it takes to use the iron; irons with a higher wattage will heat up faster and often will perform better
- Vertical Use: an option that lets you steam fabrics vertically, like curtains or hanging garments
Other Things to Consider
The most important things to consider when buying a steam generator iron have been discussed above but there are a handful of other factors that are also worth thinking about.
Need to buy additional products: Some of the cleaning systems included with certain models require you to buy extra products like filters and cartridges. These may be necessary to remove the damaging mineral deposits.
These would be needed over the life of the iron. Some people also prefer to purchase de-ionised water to use instead of tap water, as an alternative way to minimise this scaly buildup.
Ease of storage: Steam generator irons are quite a bit larger than traditional irons because of the large water tank. Some steam generator irons are designed in a way that is a bit less bulky and others have storage-friendly features.
Some irons have an easy cord storage system or even an auto-rewind feature. The cord can sometimes be stored within the iron. It’s a simple detail but a messy cord can be a headache when you have limited storage space.
Noise: The power of a pressurized steam system isn’t always whisper-quiet. Without question, steam generator irons are louder than traditional irons, but the noise is never out of control loud.
However, if noise bothers you or if you tend to iron while others are sleeping, you might want to choose an iron that is known for being a bit quieter than the others like the Philips GC9550 PerfectCare Silence Steam Generator Iron.
Guarantees & Repairs: When making an investment in something that you hope to use for many years, it’s natural to want some kind of trustworthy promise. Many irons do indeed come with guarantees or limited warranties.
Some make it easy and painless to get parts and get repairs done should something happen to the iron. If something like this would give you peace of mind, you might want to select an iron with a good guarantee and/or warranty.
Ironing Boards: It’s hard to iron well without an ironing board. You may want to purchase a larger ironing board for use with a steam generator iron. Because the base of the iron is so large, there may not be enough room on a standard or small ironing board to both fit the base and have enough room to properly iron.
I hope you found this steam generator iron buying guide to be useful, if you did then please have a look at my recommendations for the top 5 best steam generator irons for 2018 or you can check out our recommendations and tips for finding the best ironing boards for steam generator irons.