No doubt, you will see many different features and technical terms when you’re looking for your ideal steam generating iron and it can be difficult to know what the different terms actually mean, as well as the effect they will have on your iron’s suitability and performance. Before you buy your steam generated iron, this guide will explain the technical jargon you’re likely to come across, in order to help you decide which model to buy.
Functions and technical terms of steam generator irons
Adjustable temperature control/heat settings to suit different types of fabrics
In the same way as traditional steam irons have adjustable temperature controls, you will no doubt want to look for a steam generator iron with various heat settings to cater for a range of fabrics.
The water supplied to most households will eventually create a build-up of scale within your ironing system which can harm your steam generator iron. This is perfectly normal, in the same way as other kitchen appliances are affected, including kettles, which then have to be descaled. It’s a good idea to check what cleaning may be necessary and ensure that you will be able to carry out any care and maintenance which may be required.
When it comes to cleaning your iron, some steam generating irons are self-cleaning, some may be fitted with anti-calcium cartridges and others may have more complex cleaning requirements. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, you can ensure that your iron is kept in tip-top condition.
Furthermore, whilst most irons can be refilled with tap water, some manufacturers may recommend that you use distilled water, so checking instructions beforehand can preserve the life of your iron.
This can be a desirable feature for many when it comes to purchasing your steam generator iron. Whilst some models have to be left to cool before being refilled and time allowed for the iron to re-heat to the required temperature, ‘continuous fill’ models can simply be refilled whilst in use and therefore you are able to continue ironing, uninterrupted, should you need to refill the water tank.
This is an important feature of many steam generator irons as they do take longer to heat up than traditional steam irons. Some have heat-up times of just a couple of minutes and others may take 5-8 minutes. You might want to check the heating times of a particular model, to ensure you’re not waiting around longer than necessary.
Many manufacturers are safety-conscious and will include an automatic shut-off feature, which means that if you forget to switch the iron off, or leave the iron unattended, it will automatically turn off or switch to standby mode after a set period of time.
Depending on the material of the sole plate, you may find some irons glide easier than others. Both polished stainless steel and ceramic sole plates will glide easily, are durable and scratch resistant. For many people, this aspect can be a personal preference, although most sole plate technology now allows for ease of use.
The size of sole plate, as well as the location and number of steam holes, will affect the iron’s ability to glide and deliver steam to the right areas and high-end models will usually have especially effective designs. Some steam generator irons also have additional sole plate features which you may find useful, including a groove to assist in the ironing around buttons, as well as various non-stick coatings.
An ergonomically designed, soft-grip handle will be more comfortable to use.
Steam output – grams per minute (g/min)
This is one of the most important features of steam generator irons because it’s the steam output which creates the heat and moisture to penetrate through the fabric in order to remove wrinkles and creases. Steam output is displayed as grams per minute (g/min) and varies on different models, but will usually measure between 70 to 140 grams per minute (g/min) – the higher the steam output, the quicker you will get your ironing done. Generally speaking, a steam output of 120 g/min will be more than adequate for most families.
This is measured in bar and a rating of 3.5 or more will allow steam to penetrate fabrics without leaving them damp. A rating of 4.5 or 5 will allow you to dramatically reduce the time you spend ironing, as the powerful steam will penetrate fabrics and you should only have to iron one side of the garment.
Steam turbo boost
Some steam generator irons have a turbo/boost button which can deliver an extra shot of steam if required. This turbo boost can sometimes deliver as much as twice the amount of steam for those extra tricky fabrics.
This allows you to steam clothes whilst still on hangers, as well as upholstery items such as curtains, etc
Water tank size
This is another important feature to consider when purchasing steam generator irons. The high pressure steam which these irons deliver uses more water than a traditional steam iron and it’s best to go for a larger tank capacity, if you want to avoid the inconvenience of regular refilling. Generally, tanks which can hold 1.4-1.8 litres of water will be enough for continuous ironing of up to 3 hours.
Steam generator irons are equipped with many extra features, including the external water tank. This can make the weight of the iron and unit somewhat heavier than regular steam irons. However, the fact that the water tank is separate to the iron means that the iron, itself, is usually much lighter in weight and less effort is required whilst ironing. Some models come with longer cable between the iron, which means the base unit/water tank and can be placed on the floor or another area beside the ironing board. This is often a good idea so that the ironing board doesn’t bear the additional weight and there is no loss of actual ironing space by placing it on the ironing board.