A consumer’s guide to irons: Buying advice, new features, recommended models

August 24, 2011

You’d think no-­iron shirts and wrinkle releaser sprays would have killed off the iron. No way. Iron sales are heating up, with 13.1 million irons sold in 2010, an increase from 2009, according to HomeWorld Business.. They come in handy for putting creases in khaki pants or pressing heirloom tablecloths.

“It’s often one of the first home appliances you get when you set up a basic household,”says Carolyn Forte, director of home appliances for Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

A recent Riedel Marketing Group survey found that tough economic times have driven more consumers back to their ironing boards. Some iron shirts for work to save money on dry cleaning; others now press their clothes so they look extra crisp and professional for job interviews.

WHAT’S NEW?

Dual functions. Sunbeam’s Convertible Iron + Steamer, winner of the 2011 Good Housekeeping VIP Award for innovation, irons and converts to a hand-held steamer.

Soleplate designs. The elliptical shape of the Panasonic 360 titanium soleplate, pointed at both ends, saves ironing time.


Black Decker First Impressions ICR500: Cord reel automatically spools cord, comfort-grip handle, surge function provides blast of steam and doubles as a vertical steamer, $44.99. (Courtesy of BLACK AND DECKER)

Options for quilters and crafters. New models, such as Oliso’s Pro Smart, have longer auto-shut-off times to accommodate sewers.

OPERATING TIPS

Empty water. Never leave water sitting in an iron. Mineral deposits can clog steam vents.

Clean the soleplate. Starch and hard water buildup slow down performance and may snag your clothes. Buy a soleplate cleaning kit, which can generally be had for less than $10.

Put it away. Don’t leave your iron out on your ironing board when not in use. It’s too easy for it to get knocked over. Always unplug when finished.

LOW, MEDIUM, HIGH (see images at left)

Brian Hoke, Macy’s vice president and merchandise manager for electrics, chose three irons from the Macy’s small appliance department. Hoke, by the way, irons his own shirts.

—Black & Decker First Impressions ICR500

Cord reel automatically spools cord, comfort-grip handle, surge function provides blast of steam and doubles as a vertical steamer, $44.99.

—Rowenta Effective Comfort Cord Reel DW2090

Scratch-resistant stainless steel soleplate, large water tank, cord reel, $89.99.

—Rowenta Focus DW5080

Self-cleaning system, vertical steam function for drapery cleaning, thumb rest, comfort handle and retractable cord, $129.99

SHOP SMART

1. Look for an iron that steams vertically as well as horizontally. That way, you can also use it as you would a hand-held steamer, by targeting steam at draperies or a suit, says Forte.

2. Pick up the iron before you buy to see whether the handle is comfortable and that it isn’t too heavy. Keep in mind, however, that heavier irons tend to be better at getting rid of wrinkles.

3. Buy a model with a retractable cord reel for convenience as well as safety, Hoke says.

BY THE NUMBERS

44

Percentage of households that use an iron at least once a week.(Source: Riedel Marketing Group survey)

5-7

Average number of years after which an iron is usually replaced (Source: Rowenta).

3

Most frequently ironed items: 1: Shirts 2: Linens 3: Skirts and pants (Source: Rowenta).

WANT MORE HANDY GUIDES? Pick your appliance:

Ceiling Fans | Vacuums | Dishwashers | Dehumidifiers | Refrigerators | Toasters | Blenders

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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