How to Choose an Iron

Is yours new? Old? A hand-me-down? For us, it was a quick and thoughtless, but necessary, purchase. We're talking about clothing irons. They're a bit of home tech that's under-appreciated and rarely given much thought—until now. Here's our best tips on how to choose the right iron.

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Before you wander the aisles of your favorite multi-purpose home store, check out these tips for getting the best iron for your buck.

Here's some hints: Bigger is better and cord management is key.

Check it out:

  • Figure out if you need a dry iron or steam iron. A steam iron can always be used as a dry iron, but not the other way around.
  • Budget for your needs. If you're going to be ironing several shirts each week, you can spend more than a casual dresser would.
  • While we're on it, an iron with a retractable cord makes storage simple for those infrequent iron-ers.
  • If you're left handed, make sure that your iron has a pivoting cord (a pivoting cord can also help keep wires out of the way for righties).
  • Before you buy it, try the iron out in your hand. A comfortable and well-balanced iron will be easier to use.
  • Bigger is better when it comes to weight. A heavier iron (around three to four pounds) will do some of the muscle work for you.
  • Automatic shutoff is a handy feature—it turns the iron off if it's left on it's heel for too long, or if it happens to tip over.
  • Look out for an iron with lots of steam holes. Steam is crucial to getting wrinkles out of cotton and linen; and more holes means more steam.
  • Find an iron with a high wattage (around 1,400 watts). Stronger heat will provide more effective steam.
  • Steam bursts get weaker as the water tank empties, so look for a handheld iron with a large capacity tank (anywhere from a 9-ouncer to a 12-ouncer).
  • Look out for a big plate. More hot-iron surface area means a much quicker job for you.
  • Irons with a shiny surface will usually glide effortlessly over fabrics. Surfaces with a dark gray, non-stick surface (like a frying pan) will grip the fabric a bit more. But either one works well, so go with your personal taste.
  • Check to see that the front of the iron ends in a compact point, making it easy to iron between buttons and pleats.

(Images: Flickr user David Robert Wright under license from Creative Commons, Flickr user Stefan under license from Creative Commons.)

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Taryn is a writer, maker, and designer in Atlanta, Georgia. Living in an apartment with her husband and their Boston Terrier, Bacon, she loves to entertain and hates having a tiny kitchen.