The best clothing iron

Clothing

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After we spent more than 60 hours researching and testing irons (including talking with a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, an expert at German iron manufacturer Rowenta, and several avid quilters), we think most people will like the Maytag M400 Speed Heat Iron and Vertical Steamer. It’s the best affordable, lightweight, easy-to-use iron for anyone who needs to tackle the occasional wrinkled outfit or linen around the house.

How we picked and tested

We looked for affordable irons that heat up quickly, have a reasonably large water tank, produce plenty of steam for flattening wrinkles, and don’t leak. Photo: Michael HessionBased on nearly 400 responses to our reader survey, we took cost seriously. The majority of respondents—69 percent—wanted to spend between $30 and $75 on an iron. We also looked at smoothness of glide, size of water tank, rate of steam produced, and heat-up speed, among other useful features. Finally, we eliminated cordless models altogether, based on Consumer Reports’s testing.

We also wanted an iron that works fast. If the goal of most people is to press something quickly and move on with life, you want an iron that heats up in seconds. The irons we liked used 1,500 to 1,800 watts, which typically take about 65 to 75 seconds to reach 400 ºF.

Aside from soleplate material, wattage, steam rate, and auto shutoff, we recommend several other features common in mid-priced irons:

  • a “burst of steam” to flatten Himalayan wrinkles
  • vertical steaming to relax drapes or clothes on a hanger
  • anti-drip and anti-calcification mechanisms that allow the use of tap water
  • lights to signal the iron has reached its temperature
  • an 8-foot-long cord
  • inspection stamps such as “UL” or “ETL” that signify the manufacturer opted to pay for (and passed) rigorous third-party iron-safety tests
  • a one-year warranty, but longer is better

I set up boards and irons in my dining room and ran each iron through some basic tests: heat-up time, water tank size, and wrinkle-busting ability on a variety of fabrics. I used cotton quilt fabrics, acrylic sweaters (known to melt onto the plate of a hot iron), t-shirts, some synthetic fabrics, and a piece of silk for testing. Referring back to the feedback from our last testing with staffers in the Sweethome office, I noted how each iron felt to hold, how easy it was to use, and how much steam each seemed to release. And because durability is hard to gauge in one testing period, we’ll continue to use all of our picks to see if they maintain their great performance over time.

Story image for Clothing from Engadget

The Maytag M400 hits the best balance of a reasonable price and great performance that we’ve found. Photo: Michael HessionThe Maytag M400 Speed Heat Iron and Vertical Steamer packed the best combination of features in our testing: quick heat-up time, good steam, agility, reliability, and a great price. We also like that this iron comes with a longer-than-average two-year warranty.

Though it didn’t give off as much steam as our other picks, the M400 felt more powerful than many irons we tried with more wattage. It also heated up very quickly, producing steam on the highest setting in just 24 seconds. We also liked that the Maytag M400’s steam burst button was easier to push repeatedly than those on the other irons we tested, which helped produce a lot of steam quickly.

The Maytag was actually the lightest iron we tested overall, and it still managed to push out wrinkles with barely any pressure. It glided quickly and smoothly over every fabric we tested. But if you’re ironing something big and heavy, or something with stubborn creases (like linen), the Maytag may be too light.

We do wish the Maytag had a cord longer than 8 feet. Sometimes extra length helps you maneuver the iron around an ironing board. But this limitation is minor, and overall we stand by the Maytag as our pick.