Go full steam ahead for easy ironing
Don't just choose any old iron if you're looking for a hassle-free way to remove those creases
Of all household chores, ironing is the one very often cited as the task people detest doing the most. Tedious, repetitive and boring, it can often seem like there's never an end in sight with ironing, particularly if you have a household with school-going children and their uniforms, or if your job demands that you don a freshly-pressed shirt every day.
For ironing haters, there are of course ways to circumvent it, including electing not to iron (although creases always tend to make you look grubby, no matter if your clothes are actually clean) or using tricks like folding everything as soon as they're out of the dryer and still warm; separating heavy and light garments in the wash or investing in wrinkle-free clothes. But if ironing is necessarily a daily or weekly part of your domestic routine, it makes sense to invest in an appliance that will make the job as easy as possible.
Steam irons are the most popular type of irons on the market. Self-contained, with a built-in tank, its steam output allows for deep creases to be quickly removed. Prices vary hugely. For a basic model you could pay €5.99 at Argos for its Value Range steam iron, or you could shell out €122, for a Tefal Aquaspeed FV5339, which has double the power and, as reflective of the price, much greater functionality, including an anti-drip system to protect clothes from water spillages and a scratch resistant soleplate (the metal underside).
A steam iron is not the same as a steam generator iron. A steam generator iron typically has a much higher price point, ranging from anything between €200 and €400, is made up of two units, with the iron separate to a steam generator that supplies pressurised steam, which means a higher powered steam and also a lighter iron, because it's separate to the water supply.
A garment steamer, often used by stylists on fashion shoots, is another option and this is ideal for items that wouldn't work well on an ironing board - a wedding dress or a coat, for example - and on delicate fabrics, although it's not great if you need to get rid of heavy duty creases on a garment, which need the weight of an iron.
There are several factors to consider before you invest in a steam iron. One is the iron's capacity; the greater amount of water the iron can hold means less time refilling for you. 300ml is a good size for a steam iron, while 1.5l is preferable for a steam iron generator.
Power is also important - look for wattage of 2400 - as well as the iron's weight (if it's very heavy, ironing will become an exhausting task) and the length of the power cord, as the longer it is, the greater flexibility it provides in terms of where you position your ironing board.
Soleplates can vary and range from aluminium, more likely to be found on cheaper models, to ceramic, which spreads heat well, and polished stainless steel, non-stick soleplates, which are considered to give the smoothest result.
In terms of the shot of steam to remove difficult wrinkles, look for an iron that has 100g per minute and for continuous steam output, this should be at least 40g/min in a regular steam iron and 100g/min in a steam generator iron.
Features that could also make your life easier are built-in anti-limescale systems, which filters the water; the all important automatic shut-off function for safety reasons; and most steam irons will have vertical steam function, which will allow you to steam hanging garments. Something like the Philips PerfectCare steam iron makes the chore even easier and quicker with its OptimalTemp technology, which means you can iron cashmere, polyester, silk and cotton without having to adjust the temperature and wait for the iron to heat up or cool down.
If you're trying to decide between a steam iron or a steam generator iron, Sam O'Keefe, store manager in Harvey Norman Drogheda, advises to consider the latter.
"If you have a family of four and you're constantly ironing, it's going to be a lot quicker. You won't have to keep refilling the iron because you're going to have a larger tank and you're not going to have to wait like you would with a regular steam iron," he says. "The steam generator will generate steam throughout and you can continuously iron without having to stop."
Of course, looking after your steam iron is vitally important if you want it to last. It's important to drain out any remaining water after use, and to use the self-cleaning or anti-calc system if the iron has one and to run this as often as the manufacturer suggests. If it doesn't have a self-cleaning system, pour white vinegar into the water temperature and turn the heat to high. Let it sit for 3-5 inutes before turning off, unplugging, pouring the vinegar out and letting the iron dry out, before rinsing it with cold water.
According to Sam O'Keeffe: "It's going to come down to usage but if you invest in a good one, there's no reason why it shouldn't last you four or five years. If you invest, you will get your money's worth."