The Best Clothing Iron – The New York Times

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We’ve made the Chi Electronic Iron 13102 our new top pick, moving it up from the Competition section to replace our previous, discontinued top pick, the Maytag M400 iron.
We’ll be testing several new irons soon, including more budget-friendly options.
A hot, steamy iron is a crucial tool in your laundry arsenal. A steamer does a pretty good job of smoothing fabrics, but nothing creates sharp pleats or flattens stubborn wrinkles like an iron. We’ve tested more than two dozen irons and researched countless more, and we recommend the Chi Electronic Iron with Retractable Cord 13102 for its powerful steam, durability over time, and useful features for frequent ironers.
We looked for irons with forceful bursts and visible clouds of steam. The bigger the puff, the better the iron.
Our iron picks all have at least 1,500 watts, which is enough to get the job done.
We looked for irons that had comfortable handles and weren’t too heavy.
Ideally the cord should be at least 8 feet long so that you can comfortably work around the ironing board.
This durable iron flattens creases in no time, and it stays hot longer than any other iron we’ve tested, so it’s ideal for marathon laundry sessions and craft projects with lots of back-and-forth trips to the ironing board.
The Chi Electronic Iron with Retractable Cord 13102 is one of the best irons I’ve ever tested, and it’s been a reliable performer for three years of regular use on clothes, bedding, and sewing and craft projects (where it really shines). Its steam bursts are almost as powerful as those of our upgrade pick, the Rowenta DW9280, but smoother. It’s lighter, too, and it has a slightly larger water tank, so it can produce steam for a couple of minutes longer. It’s our only pick with a retractable cord, and it has a 30-minute auto-shutoff time when you leave it vertical, the longest of any iron I’ve tried; this is helpful for sewists and crafters who want an iron that stays hot while they’re working on a project.
This affordable iron produces more powerful steam than many other models we’ve tried (even pricier ones), so it removes wrinkles quickly. The company has strong customer service, too. The heating element, however, is prone to breaking.
The Black+Decker Allure Professional Steam Iron D3030 creates strong whooshes of steam, its stainless steel plate glides smoothly across a variety of fabrics, and its handle is comfortable to hold and use. It’s a fantastic, affordable iron—as long as it works. This iron was once our top pick, but after a year, the heating element in our test unit broke. Thanks to its two-year warranty, I easily traded it in for a replacement, which I’ve been using since late 2016 with no problems. We’ve seen similar reports of mixed reliability in reviews, as well. If you don’t mind possibly replacing this iron every so often, it’s still a top performer, and it’s almost half the price of the Chi 13102.
The SteamForce DW9280 is the most reliable iron we’ve ever tested for regular use, with the strongest bursts of steam, but it costs nearly three times as much as many irons we’ve tried and has only a one-year warranty, the shortest among our picks.
The Rowenta SteamForce DW9280 performs better than any other iron I’ve tested. It melts creases out of crinkled button-downs and flattens quilt seams with almost no effort. I’ve never seen an iron give off more steam. I’ve been using our original test model since 2015, and it still produces strong steam, with just a few minor water leaks onto fabrics. It’s heavier and much more expensive than the Chi and Black+Decker irons, but it’s worth the upgrade if you craft or sew (that weight is helpful for pressing seams), do tons of laundry, or want an iron with the best chance of surviving more than a couple of years.
This durable iron flattens creases in no time, and it stays hot longer than any other iron we’ve tested, so it’s ideal for marathon laundry sessions and craft projects with lots of back-and-forth trips to the ironing board.
This affordable iron produces more powerful steam than many other models we’ve tried (even pricier ones), so it removes wrinkles quickly. The company has strong customer service, too. The heating element, however, is prone to breaking.
The SteamForce DW9280 is the most reliable iron we’ve ever tested for regular use, with the strongest bursts of steam, but it costs nearly three times as much as many irons we’ve tried and has only a one-year warranty, the shortest among our picks.
I’m a senior staff writer at Wirecutter, and I’ve covered irons since 2015. I’ve also written our guides to ironing boards, sheets, blankets, and robes (among many others), and I’m a quilt designer with more than a decade of experience. I iron almost every day. I’ve talked about irons with Ingrid Johnson, a professor in the Textile Development and Marketing Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Tod Greenfield, co-owner of bespoke New York City tailor Martin Greenfield Clothiers; Kimberly Chaveco, senior product manager at Rowenta at the time of our interview; and members of the NYC Metro Modern Quilters Guild (I’m a former member myself but have since moved to the Seattle area).
Nothing I’ve tried—using a steamer, hanging things in the shower, or grabbing clothes right out of the dryer—combats tough creases like an iron. An iron is the most effective tool for busting wrinkles, for creating sharp pleats, and for sewing and crafting. If you hate to iron, though, and most of your clothes and linens just get lightly rumpled, choose a steamer instead; here are our favorite steamers.
In addition to testing irons for Wirecutter, as a quilter I’ve been a heavy iron user for years. I’ve also read hundreds of iron owner reviews on various major retailer sites, including Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Walmart, and I’ve checked review sites like The Strategist and Good Housekeeping for their recommendations, noting how they compare to my own testing experience. These are the qualities I’ve found that make the best irons:
Strong steam bursts: The amount of steam whooshing out of an iron’s soleplate affects how quickly you can press an item, especially with heavier fabrics. I look for forceful bursts and visible clouds of steam while ironing—the bigger the puff, the better the iron. I also look for irons that strike a good balance between lots of steam and a water tank that doesn’t need constant refilling.
Enough wattage: Every iron we recommend offers at least 1,500 watts, which is enough to get the job done. In testing, I’ve found that low-wattage irons don’t produce enough heat and steam to fight tough wrinkles. Higher-priced, more powerful irons—like the Rowenta SteamForce DW9280, which has 1,800 watts—produce bigger clouds of steam and make the task faster.
Comfort: An iron that is too heavy or has an uncomfortable handle makes the chore harder on your arms and hands. Some heft can be helpful for pushing wrinkles out of fabric, but having the right combination of weight, an ergonomic handle, and powerful steam makes ironing much easier.
A good warranty and responsive customer service: Testing irons for this guide has been particularly frustrating because we’ve found so many of them—even the top performers—to have reliability problems. We’ve been reporting on irons since 2013, and almost every year we’ve changed our picks after long-term testing and reader feedback revealed problems. The best irons we’ve tried perform beautifully, but we just can’t guarantee they’ll last long. If an iron is going to fail, it seems to happen within two years of purchase (based on my experience and all the reviews I’ve read), and that’s the typical warranty length I’ve seen. And if you do have to replace your iron under warranty, you need good customer service to make the process as painless as possible.
A long cord: A cord that’s at least 8 feet long offers more mobility for you to work along the entire length of an ironing board and makes the iron easier to use if you’re tall. A long cord is also helpful if your electrical outlets aren’t conveniently located.
After evaluating models based on the above criteria, reading owner reviews, and combing our own reader comments, I came up with a list of 16 irons in 2019. We narrowed the list to 13 irons that we brought in for testing, including brand-new samples of our three current picks for retesting, new-to-us irons, and a few options that we had tested and dismissed in years prior. (These were models that other publications, including The Strategist and Good Housekeeping, recommended—I wanted to give them a fresh look.)
In 2019, I set up the irons in my home with our top-pick ironing board, the Brabantia Ironing Board B, and ran them through a series of tests. I timed how long each iron took to heat up and to automatically shut off (a safety feature that’s standard on every iron I’ve seen). I measured the water tanks to their fill lines, timed how long the steam lasted before the tank needed a refill, and noted how powerful the bursts were. I also measured the length of the cords.
I tested each iron’s wrinkle-busting ability on a variety of materials that I kept in a laundry basket for a week to make sure they were good and wrinkly: button-down shirts, cotton pillowcases, silk tops, cotton-polyester tees, and denim. I noted which irons produced weak steam or leaked water from the holes in the soleplate, causing wet spots. I also noted how comfortable each iron was to hold and use, and I recruited another tester (my mom) to weigh in on comfort, too. For 2019, the top performers turned out to be the same three irons we’d been recommending and long-term testing for several years: the Maytag M400 (now discontinued), the Rowenta DW9280, and the Black+Decker D3030. In 2023, we replaced the discontinued Maytag model with the Chi 13102, which we had been long-term testing since 2019.
This durable iron flattens creases in no time, and it stays hot longer than any other iron we’ve tested, so it’s ideal for marathon laundry sessions and craft projects with lots of back-and-forth trips to the ironing board.
The 1,700-watt Chi Electronic Iron with Retractable Cord 13102 is a fantastic steam iron that has performed reliably for three years of continued testing. It’s a new top pick for 2023, but I originally tested it in 2019 and have continued using it regularly since. We’ve had several top-pick irons over the years, and this Chi model is the most expensive iron we’ve ever recommended as a top pick, but it is so pleasant to use, and so durable compared with our past top picks, that we’ve concluded it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s an effective everyday iron for eliminating wrinkles, it’s the most comfortable of our picks to use, and it has clever features that make it my favorite iron for sewists and crafters. It’s been consistently available since it was released in 2017, and it comes with a two-year limited warranty from the manufacturer (PDF).
The Chi 13102’s steam burst function is almost as powerful as that of our longtime upgrade pick, the Rowenta SteamForce DW9280. The Rowenta iron’s steam bursts are short and assertive—perfect for attacking the toughest creases—but the Chi iron’s bursts are long and smooth, so it applied more consistent steam to the surface of our test fabrics in our 2019 testing. The Chi iron also has a larger water tank than the Rowenta model (12 ounces versus 10 ounces), so it can produce steam for a few minutes longer before needing a refill. And in three years of semi-regular use of the Chi 13102, I’ve never had problems with drips from the plate’s holes, which are a chronic issue with most irons I’ve tested, including the Rowenta DW9280 and our budget pick, the Black+Decker D3030.
Since 2019, the Chi 13102 has become my go-to iron because it’s so comfortable to use. At 3.3 pounds, it is heavier than the Black+Decker iron but lighter than the Rowenta model. It feels well balanced, and its heftiness helps apply pressure to fabrics so I don’t need to push down as hard on wrinkles to eliminate them. Because of those long, smooth bursts of steam, I also don’t have to push the steam button as often, which is a thumb-saver during frequent use or long sessions at the ironing board. The ceramic soleplate (Chi’s marketing says it’s “titanium infused,” whatever that means) glides more easily across most fabrics than the stainless steel plates of the Black+Decker and Rowenta irons. Even little touches such as the water-tank cover, which has a sliding latch instead of a flip top as on most irons, and the retractable cord (it’s our only pick that has one) are less physically taxing to use, and they make the whole experience of ironing less of a hassle.
As someone with over 15 years of experience quilting and sewing, I love this iron for almost every craft project, from quilts to Halloween costumes. (For messier projects that might melt onto the iron’s soleplate, however, I’d opt for the cheaper, easily replaced Black+Decker model.) My favorite feature on this Chi iron is its 30-minute auto-shutoff time, the longest of any iron I’ve tried (most are about eight minutes). If you’re working on a project and constantly going back and forth to the ironing board, this feature is a time-saver, keeping the iron hotter for longer so it’s ready when you are—this is especially helpful for the Chi 13102 because it’s the slowest of our picks to heat up and produce steam. This Chi model also has the longest, narrowest tip of our picks, which helps it get into pesky tight spaces if you’re pressing, say, a complicated quilt block or working on a curved garment seam.
The Chi 13102 looks almost as new as it did when I opened the box in 2019. The buttons and mechanisms all still function smoothly, with no signs that springs or screws are starting to wear down. It heats up as well as it did on day one, and the auto-shutoff feature still seems to last as long as ever.
If you’re forgetful about shutting off your iron when you’re finished, or if you have young kids or curious pets around, the Chi 13102’s 30-minute auto-shutoff time might not work for you. Both of our other picks shut off after less than 10 minutes. And, as we mentioned, this Chi iron is the priciest top pick we’ve ever had in this guide. We were reluctant to recommend it in 2019 because of the price, but after observing several years of standout performance and consistent availability, we believe it’s an investment that should pay off over time.
This affordable iron produces more powerful steam than many other models we’ve tried (even pricier ones), so it removes wrinkles quickly. The company has strong customer service, too. The heating element, however, is prone to breaking.
The Black+Decker Allure Professional Steam Iron D3030 is the best iron I’ve found for about $50. It was once a top pick, and it’s one of the most powerful irons I’ve tried. It has the most unpredictable reliability of our picks, though, which is why we no longer recommend it in the top spot. This Black+Decker iron consistently produces stronger bursts of steam than most other irons I’ve tested, even though it’s less powerful than our other picks, with only 1,600 watts. It weighs 3.1 pounds, making it the lightest of our picks (the Chi 13102 is 3.3 pounds and the Rowenta DW9280 is 3.9 pounds), and it has a 14-ounce water tank, the biggest of our picks. As a result, it produces steam for longer than the Chi and Rowenta models, lasting about 22 minutes before needing a refill. In addition, the D3030 is the fastest to heat up of the irons we recommend, producing steam in 30 seconds. I’ve also tried the Allure D3040, a very similar iron with a digital display, but I’ve found the cheaper D3030 to be the better performer.
This Black+Decker model’s reliability problems are well documented in owner reviews. I also had to replace our original review unit when the heating element suddenly stopped working after a year (I used the iron two or three times a week). The two-year warranty covered it, though, and Black+Decker’s replacement process was straightforward—I didn’t have to send back the whole iron, just the plug. I’ve now been using its replacement since 2016 with no problems. That’s more than six years of steady performance, with semi-regular use, from the replacement, although over time the Chi 13102 has surpassed the D3030 as my favorite everyday iron because it’s more comfortable to use. That length of service would make the D3030 more reliable than almost any other iron I’ve tested if it were not for the breakage of our initial test model. Irons, especially cheap irons, are unpredictable, and the D3030 is a perfect example—you could end up with one that breaks quickly or one that lasts for ages. For the price and performance, we recommend it as long as you don’t mind the possibility of replacing your iron every so often. It’s excellent—until it isn’t.
These days, the Black+Decker D3030 looks and feels like a six-year-old iron. It doesn’t look as new and shiny as it did when it came out of the box, and some of the buttons make creakier noises than they used to. The iron still works perfectly, though, and I’ve managed not to melt stuff on the soleplate or stain it with anything.
The SteamForce DW9280 is the most reliable iron we’ve ever tested for regular use, with the strongest bursts of steam, but it costs nearly three times as much as many irons we’ve tried and has only a one-year warranty, the shortest among our picks.
If an iron can be dreamy, the Rowenta SteamForce DW9280 is dreamy. This German-made iron has been the top performer in our tests since I first used it in 2015—it has flattened every wrinkle I’ve tried it on. The stainless steel soleplate has about 400 holes (I haven’t counted; that’s from the manufacturer), the same number as the Chi 13102 advertises, so it releases big clouds of steam to melt creases away. Its steam burst function, which shoots out an extra punch of steam to target problem creases at the press of a button, is much more forceful than the Chi iron’s. When I’m ironing something I’ve sewn, I push the burst button constantly to flatten new seams, and that extra force does wonders to smooth everything into place. It is less comfortable to push than the Chi model’s steam burst button, though, so over time your fingers might get stiff from using it. This iron’s tip offers Rowenta’s Precision Shot, a group of holes that emit an even more concentrated blast of steam for tougher creases. The DW9280 has a good-size water tank (10 ounces) in comparison with several other irons I’ve tested, but it’s the smallest of our picks, and it produces steam for only 12 minutes before needing a refill. Because this Rowenta model is so powerful, though, it makes up for its thirst for water by getting the job done a little faster.
The Rowenta DW9280 is the most reliable of our picks, too. Our original test iron lasted for four years of regular to heavy use on quilt seams and a variety of other fabrics before the steam feature stopped working in late 2019. Although the Black+Decker D3030 I’m currently long-term testing has lasted for six years, that iron has been through less rigorous everyday use than our original DW9280 test unit, which I used into the ground (ironing became a low priority at my house over the course of the pandemic). I’ve been testing our replacement DW9280 test iron since fall 2019, with no problems after three-plus years (although, again, it’s getting less regular use). Rowenta covers the DW9280 with a one-year warranty in the United States, which is less generous than the two-year warranties accompanying our picks from Chi and Black+Decker, but since our test unit performed well for so long, the warranty might not be as important a consideration for the DW9280 as it is for other irons.
The DW9280 also drips a bit more water from its steam holes than our other picks do, so it might not be ideal for delicate, water-stainable fabrics. I’ve read enough reviews to know that leaks are a common problem with all Rowenta irons, but I’ve tested six of the company’s models, and the DW9280 is the best when it comes to leaks. This iron is also heavier than our other picks (3.9 pounds, in contrast to the 3.3-pound Chi 13102 and 3.1-pound Black+Decker D3030), and that weight can help it push out the toughest wrinkles. It may be too heavy for some people to use comfortably, but because it gives off so much steam, I’ve found that using it cuts down on ironing time overall, which is helpful if you have mountains of laundry. The cord is only 7 feet long, which is a little puny, and the DW9280 is expensive—usually almost three times as much as the D3030. But I know that it lasts for years, so if you want the most powerful, reliable iron available, I’m confident this is it.
I still love the way it feels to pick up the Rowenta DW9280 and blast a wrinkle with it. Our current test model is the same age as the Chi iron I’ve been testing, and over time the Chi model has come to feel a little sleeker and less noisy. But this Rowenta iron’s soleplate looks new, its steam functions all work as well as ever, and it still heats up the way I expect it to.
In early 2023 we’ll be testing several new irons under $100, including the Conair ExtremeSteam Pro Steam Iron GI300, the Rowenta Access Steam DW2459, and the Singer SteamCraft Plus. We’re also considering some cordless irons—a category we haven’t tested in years—as well as newer iron models from Chi. We’ll update this guide with fresh testing results soon.
The Black+Decker Allure Digital Stainless Steel Soleplate Iron D3040 is a slightly upgraded version of the Black+Decker D3030, our budget pick. The main difference is this model’s digital display, which is a flashy, fun add-on but is a little less intuitive than the controls of the D3030. The main reason we didn’t pick this iron is that it didn’t perform as well as the D3030 or the Chi 13102. It also now appears to be discontinued.
I hated the Black+Decker Vitessa Advanced Steam Iron ICR2020. It was hard to fill, it was uncomfortable to hold, and the steam was flimsy and ineffective. It’s only 1,200 watts, lower than we recommend—and in our tests, using it was a good reminder of the importance of a more powerful iron.
We brought in the PurSteam Professional Grade 1700 Watt Steam Iron for testing and then discovered that it was discontinued.
The Rowenta Everlast Anticalc DW7180 leaked right away during our testing, and there’s no excuse for an iron costing $100-plus to leak straight out of the box. It also was the least effective iron in our 2017 testing for getting out wrinkles.
I used to own the Rowenta Professional DW8061 and had major problems with it leaking. The unit we tested in 2017 was no different: It gave off a good amount of steam, but the leaks became too problematic for delicate quilt work or favorite clothes.
The Shark Lightweight Professional GI435 (now discontinued) was terrible, which wasn’t a huge surprise for an iron so cheap ($25 at the time of our research). As soon as I started testing, it left a scorch mark on a T-shirt, with hardly any pressure.
The Sunbeam Turbo Steam Iron GCSBCL-202-000 has a retractable cord, a great feature if you want easy storage. It’s one of the least-powerful irons I’ve tested, but if you can find it for less than $20, it isn’t bad.
In past years we’ve also tested the Black+Decker Digital Advantage Professional Steam Iron D2030, as well as these now-discontinued models:
This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.
Ingrid Johnson, professor, Textile Development and Marketing Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, email interview, October 28, 2015
Tod Greenfield, co-owner of Martin Greenfield Clothiers, phone interview, October 27, 2015
Kimberly Chaveco, senior product manager at Rowenta, email interview, January 12, 2016
Members of the NYC Metro Modern Quilters Guild, online group chat, October 14, 2015
Jackie Reeve
Jackie Reeve is a senior staff writer covering bedding, organization, and home goods at Wirecutter since 2015. Previously she was a school librarian, and she’s been a quilter for about 15 years. Her quilt patterns and her other written work have appeared in various publications. She moderates Wirecutter’s staff book club and makes her bed every morning.
by Jackie Reeve
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Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).
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