Don’t slave over a hot iron: pick one of the best steam generator irons from our recommendations
The best steam generator irons can transform your ironing experience. If you always find yourself wishing for a larger water tank and more steam to tackle those big creases, a steam generator iron is going to be your dream come true. These turbo-charged steam irons give effortless, speedy results, which can help you blow through the biggest piles of ironing faster than ever before.
There are a lot of brands and styles of iron to choose from and many seem identical on the surface. To help make that decision easier, we’ve put the best models to the test against a weighty pile of creased clothing. If you’re not sure a steam generator iron is for you, our buying guide below will shed some light on the most important factors to consider. Below this, you’ll find reviews of all the best steam generator irons we’ve tested.
Best steam generator iron: At a glance
|Best for all-round
|Philips PerfectCare Elite Plus GC9682/86 (~£600)
|Check price at John Lewis
|Best budget steam generator iron
|Tower T22023GLD Ceraglide (~£69)
|Check price at Amazon
|Best for hard water areas
|Russell Hobbs 24420 (~£69)
|Check price at Amazon
|Best for ease of use
|Philips PerfectCare Elite GC9650/80 (£367)
|Check price at Amazon
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
- 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.
- 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
How we test steam generator irons
At Expert Reviews, we know the best way to test a product is to use it in everyday situations. To test steam generator irons we look at various factors to ascertain how well they performed. The most important factors are how well the irons remove creases and how much steam they produce. We also look for irons with a good steam “shot” to remove stubborn creases and as well as decent pressure to push out plenty of continuous steam. Finally, we consider weight, tank capacity, anti-scale functions, how easy the iron is to use and the smoothness of the soleplate.
READ NEXT: The best clothes steamers to buy
Tefal’s Pro Vision Express is expensive but if you’ve got a big family or lots of ironing to get through, you’ll love what light work it makes of everything. This is an extraordinarily powerful iron that glides through any fabric with ease.
We particularly loved the auto steam function, as it means you don’t need to keep your finger on the trigger to generate steam – this “Smart Steam” system releases steam automatically when it detects the iron is moving, and stops when it’s upright. The iron produces an impressive 180g of steam a minute, with a whopping 750g/min steam shot to remove stubborn creases. And you can also steam vertically, as you would expect from a premium model.
Another clever feature of the Tefal iron is the Smart LED Vision light at the tip of the iron. This comes on automatically when the iron is horizontal or if you’re holding down the steam button for more than two seconds, making it easier to see what you’re doing and ensure no creases have been missed.
The water tank is a good size, although the holes to empty it are a little small. The scale collector and anti-drip features help keep limescale out of your iron and off your clothes, and the Durilium Airglide Autoclean soleplate is particularly smooth, gliding over clothes with minimal effort. The cord is also a decent length, although we do wish it could fold away completely under the iron – a minor quibble with an iron that’s a pleasure to use and does a spectacular job.
Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.2l; Steam output: 180g/min; Steam boost: 750g/min
2. Philips PerfectCare Elite GC9650/80: Best steam generator iron for ease of use
Price when reviewed: £350 | Check price at 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
3. Tower T22023GLD Ceraglide: Best budget steam generator iron
Price when reviewed: £69 | Check price at Amazon
If your heart is set on a steam generator iron, but you lack the budget for the more expensive irons on our list, the Tower iron could be the solution. At well under £100, it’s an absolute bargain, but how does it perform?
Tower’s steam generator iron isn’t as powerful as its competitors on this list, only able to offer 80g/min of continuous steam. However, we found that it was still able to produce plenty of steam, and made light work of heavier creases with the added steam shot. That said, you can’t use continuous steam for more than about 15 seconds before the iron starts to splutter a little, so do bear this in mind.
We were also impressed by how lightweight the Tower iron was. The ceramic soleplate is smooth, ironing well with a nice glide across fabric, and there’s even a vertical steam option. Although the Tower doesn’t feel quite as solid as some of the more expensive models, it still does an excellent job, just don’t expect it to power through the ironing quite as quickly.
Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.2l; Steam output: 80g/min; Steam boost: 80g/min
4. Russell Hobbs 24420: Best for hard water areas
Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at Amazon
The Russell Hobbs 24420 steam generator iron is another reasonably priced offering that still manages to deliver great results. It heats up in just 60 seconds and offers 90g/min of continuous steam, along with a steam shot for the more stubborn creases.
The iron produces a good amount of steam and deals with creases and wrinkles quickly and easily. It’s also one of the lighter steam generator irons we tested, along with the Tower, and has a long cable meaning you can even place the tank on the floor while you iron. There’s also a vertical steam function for larger items such as curtains.
If you live in a hard water area, limescale can be a real issue for your appliances. Fortunately, the Russell Hobbs iron has a calc cleaning system inside the filters, which helps to purify the water on its way to the tank, and this helps enormously with preventing limescale build-up. Combined with the anti-scale and anti-drip features, this iron copes really well with hard water and limescale build-up. The only niggle with this iron was that the stainless steel soleplate isn’t quite as smooth as a ceramic option.
Key specs – Tank capacity: 1.3l; Steam output: 90g/min; Steam boost: 90g/min
5. Philips PerfectCare Elite Plus GC9682/86: Best all-round steam generator iron
Price when reviewed: £600 | Check price at John Lewis 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
6. Rowenta Silence Steam DG9249: A professional-grade appliance that eats up big ironing jobs
Price when reviewed: £349 | Check price at Currys
The Silence Steam DG9249 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 1.3l water tank is quite small. You will also need to know your fabrics when using this iron, since you will 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 160g/min, with a precision steam boost button on top of the iron that increases the output to 600g/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: 1.3l; Steam output: 160g/min; Steam boost: 600g/min