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Best steam generator iron 2021: The best irons from Philips, Rowenta, Tefal and Bosch

Rachel Erdos Derek Adams
1 Dec 2021
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Don’t slave over a hot iron: pick a winning steam generator from our recommendations

Ironing can be tiresome. Most irons are heavy in the hand and rarely produce enough steam pressure to flatten creases efficiently. Worse, their small water tanks require constant topping up to keep the steam going. Thankfully, there's a solution to these problems: a steam generator iron.

It may sound like a piece of industrial machinery, but the best steam generator irons can transform your home life. This lightweight appliance makes ironing almost effortless (with the emphasis on "almost") and also speeds up the job considerably – useful for those who do a lot of ironing every week.

Choosing the right steam generator iron can be complex. There are a lot of brands and styles, and many of them seem identical on the surface. To help make that all-important decision a little easier, we've put the very best models to the test against a weighty pile of creased linen, jeans and delicate silks. 

Similarly, if you're not sure how to best choose a steam generator iron, our buying guide below should shed some light on finding the right one for your needs and budget.

READ NEXT: The very best steam irons you can buy right now

Save £85 on the incredible Philips PerfectCare Elite Plus

For anyone who faces huge piles of ironing every day, either professionally or at home, the PerfectCare Elite Plus is arguably the best steam generator iron you can buy. And right now, you can save a decent chunk of the average £435 price.
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Best steam generator iron: At a glance


How to choose the best steam generator iron for you

What is a steam generator iron?

The standard steam iron has an internal water reservoir – usually around 300ml in capacity. However, a typical domestic iron may offer only low steam pressure and the reservoir will need regular refilling.

A steam generator is a type of iron that works on the same principle, except the water tank and heating element are stored in a separate base unit that’s connected to the iron by a length of rubber hose. The average water tank is around 1.8l in capacity, so you can do six times as much ironing before needing to visit the tap for a refill.

What's more, a steam generator iron is also capable of punching out a much greater volume of steam than a traditional iron. Many generators can produce a constant steam volume of 120g/min, whereas even a decent traditional iron will struggle to produce more than 55g/min.

Steam boost figures are even more impressive: you might get 230g/min from an iron, while the best steam generators approach 500g/min. They’re also capable of pumping out steam at much higher pressures – on average, a whopping 6.5 bars. That’s enough to very quickly defeat even the deepest creases.

Pros and cons of a steam generator iron

Pros

  • The hand unit is lighter and easier to use because it doesn’t need to contain a water reservoir.
  • Ironing time can be cut by up to a third.
  • Large volumes of high-pressure steam.
  • The steam boost function makes light work of even the heaviest creases.
  • No need for constant water refills.
  • With some fabrics, you can get away with ironing on just one side.

Cons

  • Takes longer to warm up – sometimes up to three minutes.
  • More expensive than a traditional iron.
  • The base unit is comparatively bulky.
  • You may need a larger ironing board or one designed for a steam generator.
  • The hose from the base unit to iron can be annoying.
  • The noise of water being heated and circulated is louder than a traditional iron.

READ NEXT: The best ironing boards to buy

The best steam generator irons you can buy

1. Philips PerfectCare Elite GC9650/80: The best steam generator for efficiency and ease of use

Price: £420 | Buy now from Amazon

If you can’t quite stretch the budget to Philips’ flagship model below, consider this equally efficient but marginally less costly model. It comes with an identical removable 1.8 water reservoir and the same small, lightweight hand unit (0.8kg) for effortless crease obliteration. Indeed, the only difference between the two models is their respective steam outputs. Where the more expensive GC9682/86 model produces 165g/min of continuous steam and a 600g/min steam boost, this one boasts a marginally lower output of 150g/min and 500g/min boost. It’s a pretty negligible difference unless you regularly iron swathes of heavy linen.

As is the case with most steam generator models in the Philips range, this one also features the company’s unique “no burn” OptimalTEMP technology. This means you can safely iron any fabric (from silk to denim) using just one temperature setting and even leave the iron face down on the ironing board, instead of putting it in its cradle. Although we wouldn't advise it, you can also leave it face down on a silk blouse and it won’t burn a dirty great hole in it. This is groundbreaking stuff for anyone who has no idea what heat setting to apply for a specific fabric.

All steam generators take a while to warm up, but this one’s quicker than most – it takes just two minutes. Its anti-calc system works brilliantly well, too. Simply turn off the iron, wait until things have cooled down a bit and carefully unscrew the rear cap of the generator unit to release any calcified water.

Along with vacuuming and washing up, ironing is one of life’s least pleasurable chores, but this system helps the task fly by, leaving you more time to pursue the stuff that really matters, like collapsing exhausted in front of the telly.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.8l; Steam output: 150g/min; Steam boost: 500g/min

2. Bosch Serie 8 VarioComfort TDS8030GB: A very decent Philips alternative

Price: £299 | Buy now from AO

Like the Philips PerfectCare system, this new steam generator also features a single temperature setting for all fabrics. Bosch calls it “iTemp” and it works extremely well, whether you’re ironing a pair of heavy denims or a silk shirt. However, you don’t have to stick to this do-it-all mode because Bosch’s designers have also included a rear temperature selection panel for those who feel happier choosing their own fabric settings (wool, silk, cotton, synthetics, jeans, linen and AntiShine).

The Serie 8’s hand unit isn’t as svelte or light as the Philips PerfectCare but it’s a lot less clunky than the Tefal Pro Express X-Pert. Its Ceranium Glissée Pro soleplate, meanwhile, is remarkably smooth on all fabrics.

Like the Philips, the Serie 8’s removable 1.8l tank should provide enough steam for several hours of constant ironing. And speaking of steam, this one produces a not insubstantial 120g/min of constant steam and an ample steam boost of 480g – more than enough to deal with any amount of creasing. At a shade under two minutes, it’s also quicker to reach operating temperature than the Philips.

Given the option, this writer would still choose one of Philips’ PerfectCare models simply because of the better-designed hand unit. But one can’t ignore this model’s extremely keen price, more-than-acceptable specs and general efficiency.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.8l; Steam output: 120g/min; Steam boost: 480g/min

Buy now from AO


3. Tefal Pro Express Ultimate GV9569: An ultra-high-pressure steam generator iron for unwieldy fabrics

Price: £429 | Buy now from Currys

If you’re looking for a steam generator that packs as powerful a punch as the top-of-the-range Philips Elite Plus below, stop right here. The Tefal GV9569 may not be as slickly designed nor as light in the hand as the Philips, but it's cheaper and its stats are well on par.

Its steam output is rated at 155g/min, with a steam boost raising this to a crease-terminating 600g/min. The removable water reservoir holds up to 1.9l and the whole thing heats up in about two minutes. Given that the cord with most steam generators is actually a rubber tube that carries the steam from the main unit to the hand iron, cord storage is always a bit of a faff and this one’s no exception. In fact, some users have pointed out that its cable storage tabs are too flimsy and awkward to use.

On the plus side, the Durilium AirGlide Autoclean soleplate glides effortlessly over all fabrics, and its tapered tip is narrow enough to iron between buttons and flatten tight areas such as blouse pleats and trouser pockets. Temperature and steam settings are similar to what you’ll find on a traditional iron: at the rear of the base unit, you’ll find a row of pretty icons marked “eco”, “delicate”, “normal” and “max”. Simply tap your setting of choice and the processor will select the appropriate temperature and steam strength. While this isn’t exactly rocket science, it’s still not as easy as any of the Philips models, especially if you don’t know your cottons from your linens.

The Tefal also features an efficient anti-calc system. In fact, according to Tefal, it “collects ten times more scale”, while its Protect System is said to prevent annoying stains. If you can’t stretch your budget to Philips’s premium model, this equally well-equipped but cheaper option is worth a whirl.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.9l; Steam output: 155g/min; Steam boost: 600g/min

Buy now from Currys


4. Philips PerfectCare Elite Plus GC9682/86: Arguably the best steam generator iron on the market

Price: £520 | Buy now from Amazon

For anyone faced with a large volume of laundry on a regular basis, this stylish, albeit extraordinarily pricey, steam generator is unequivocally the best on the market. However, there are other, cheaper, models in the PerfectCare range that perform almost as well.

The Philips’ futuristic hand unit is as light as a feather and beautifully fits the contours of the hand. Its T-ionicGlide soleplate, meanwhile, floats over even the most obstreperous fabric like a curling stone on an ice rink.

It’s hugely powerful, too. This model produces a constant 165g of steam per minute, while its boost function (activated by double-tapping the finger trigger) ups that to a mind-boggling 600g/min – ideal for dealing with heavily creased fabrics such as starched linen. The removable water tank has a substantial 1.8l capacity and an easy-to-use anti-calc system means you can fill it with regular tap water: to clear out the limescale, you simply unscrew the rear cap and pour away the cloudy contents.

The PerfectCare Elite Plus has another trick – and, if you’ve ever experienced the horror of burning a hole in your favourite Hermés chiffon top, this next part will make you jump for joy. The iron has no adjustable temperature settings at all. Philips’ OptimalTEMP technology lets you iron any fabric – from jeans to silk – without having to adjust any temperature settings. You can even leave the iron face down on your favourite shirt and it won’t burn, or simply leave it on the ironing board while you turn the clothing. It’s a truly groundbreaking innovation that other manufacturers are only now starting to adopt themselves. The Philips’ DynamiQ smart sensor, meanwhile, monitors the iron’s movement and adjusts the steam delivery accordingly. And when you stop ironing, the steam stops too.

While there’s very little to quibble about with this model, the warm-up time is pretty long at over two minutes, and the base unit is made from a brittle plastic that easily cracks if dropped when full of water. Also, the whole thing shuts down if not used for a period of time – this is a sensible safety feature but also an annoyance if your ironing session is interrupted for any reason.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.8l; Steam output: 165g/min; Steam boost: 600g/min

5. Rowenta Silence Steam DG8962: A professional-grade appliance that eats up big ironing jobs

Price: £282 | Buy now from Amazon

The Silence Steam DG8960 has been on the market for nearly three years, but why change a good thing? Rowenta’s “steam station” is a true workhorse that just keeps on giving. Indeed, this writer handed one over to a London-based fabric shop for a long-term test over two years ago, and to this day it hasn’t skipped a beat. It’s sailed through daily use on all types of fabric, including delicate Indian cottons and thick Swedish linen. It’s been dropped a few times too, yet its tough plastic base unit remains unscathed.

In short, if you’re after a professional-grade steam generator iron that isn’t sold at professional prices, this one’s a very worthy contender. Granted, it’s not the prettiest steamer in the pack and its 1.4l water tank is quite small. You’ll also need to know your fabrics when using this iron, since you’ll want to dial the right steam selection setting on the rear of the base unit and set the right fabric type on the iron itself. But, as the moniker suggests, it’s very quiet.

The Rowenta has a standard steam output of 120g/min, with a precision steam boost button on top of the iron that increases the output to 420g/min – ample for dealing with heavy linen and denim creases. Periodic descaling is performed by unscrewing a tab and pouring the limescale contents into a sink.

From a user experience point of view, the Rowenta excels. The hand unit is quite small and it doesn’t feel too heavy, while the stainless steel soleplate and contoured tip make light work of anything you throw at it. If you know your cottons from your synthetics, the Rowenta is a strong choice: it’s compact, light, efficient and very quiet.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.4l; Steam output: 120g/min; Steam boost: 420g/min

6. Braun CareStyle 7 Pro IS7056BK: A keenly-priced model with a unique soleplate design

Price: £300 | Buy now from CS Suppliers

The Braun CareStyle 7 produces a continuous output of 125g/min and a commendably powerful 450g/min steam boost. It’s an ideal model for medium-to-large sized piles of laundry, although its ironing unit is nothing like as sleek as those in the, albeit much more expensive, Philips PerfectCare range. It does, however, come with iCareTec, which utilises a smart textile protection system to set the correct temperature for every fabric. And that means no more scorched delicates.

But maybe the most useful innovation here is the slippery Eloxal-coated 3D BackGlide soleplate, which is comprised of a smooth, rounded rear section that allows the iron to hover over fabrics, whether it's moving forwards or backwards. That means no more reverse snagging and bunching, especially when ironing lighter fabrics.

This steam generator heats up in a respectable two minutes, is pretty quiet in operation and comes with a two-litre reservoir (one of the largest on the market) and a decent cord storage and locking facility. It's great value – for a steam generator, that is.

Key specs – Tank capacity: 2l; Steam output: 125g/min; Steam boost: 450g/min

Buy now from CS Suppliers


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