Why Use A Steam Generator Iron?
Ironing can seem like a never ending chore at times. Just when you’ve finished one pile, another heap gets added to the mountain of clean, but crumpled, clothes – and your ironing pile assumes even more Everest-like proportions.
You could send your clothes out to be laundered of course. You could employ a maid. However, for most of us, “the ironing” is a household chore which is a real time drain, and which is a regular feature in our weekly routine.
Anything which could help to reduce the time spent ironing each week would be eagerly received by most busy householders. So, using a steam generator iron, which can cut your ironing time by up to half, is a sensible step for anyone who wants to spend less time doing household chores and free up more time for having fun.
What Is A Steam Generator Iron?
At first glance, steam generator irons look much the same as standard steam irons. However, they have a different construction, a different mode of operation and offer numerous benefits when compared to normal steam irons.
The main difference is that the water is held in a large base unit rather than in the body of the iron. The base unit has a heater and heats the water to produce steam. The steam is transferred to the iron using a hollow connection tube.
The large water reservoir and powerful heater means that steam generator irons produce considerably more steam than standard irons. There is a lot of steam – and it is at high pressure. That means that the steam is able to penetrate deep into the fabric of the garment being pressed.
Here’s a short video which demonstrates the difference in power between a standard steam iron and a steam generator iron.
The end results are better and – more importantly for the majority of people – using a steam generator iron is much faster than a normal iron. Results will vary from person to person, differing according towhat types of garments/materials you tend to iron and how much ironing you do. Most users report a time saving of somewhere in the order of 50%.
Steam generator irons tend to cost a little more than normal steam irons, although you can often pick up a bargain. Even if you value your time at minimum wage rates, you may well think that it’s money well spent.
Even so, a steam generator iron is a major purchase, and it’s important to choose the right one to suit your needs. Fortunately, there are only a few points that you need to check on before choosing a steam generator iron. Check out the pointers below and you’ll be able to recognize a bargain when you find it.
At the risk of stating the obvious, you want steam – and plenty of it – at high pressure. It’s this large volume of steam, delivered at high pressure, which is going to give you professionally finished garments and – more importantly – half the amount of time it takes for you to get through your ironing each week.
Steam output is normally measured in grams of steam per minute (gpm). A value of around 120 gpm should be plenty.
In terms of pressure, a value of somewhere in the region of 4.5 to 5.0 bar should suffice.
Water Reservoir And Heater
All of that lovely high pressure steam has to come from somewhere – and with steam generator irons, the source is the water reservoir and boiler which is contained in the base unit.
You should choose a water tank that is large enough so that you don’t need to stop your ironing to add more water on a frequent basis. It depends to a certain extent on the type of items that you normally iron, but a water capacity of 1.4 to 1.8 litres should be sufficient for 1.5 to 2 hours of ironing.
Obviously, with such a large quantity of water, you will need a heater which is powerful enough to bring the water up to operating temperature rapidly. You don’t want to be waiting around twiddling your thumbs whilst your iron heats up.
A two minute heat up is offered by many steam generator iron manufacturers today. Look for a heater with a rating of 1.8 to 2.2 kW and you should be fine.
The soleplate of the iron should be scratch resistant, easy to clean and smooth so that it glides easily over the surface of the garment being ironed.
Stainless steel and ceramic soleplates are good choices.
The majority of domestic water supplies are “hard water”. That is to say, the water contains a relatively high mineral content – in particular, Calcium and Magnesium are often present.
When you heat this type of hard water, some of the minerals are released during the heating and evaporation process. They are then deposited as scale as they cool and solidify. Unfortunately, this can seriously lower the operating efficiency and reduce the working lifespan of your iron if left unaddressed.
So, if you’re in a hard water area (you probably are), then you should choose an iron which incorporates some form of removable scale trap. These are very easy to use as they trap and contain the deposited scale, which can then be disposed of simply by removing the trap and holding it under running water.
The best steam generator irons will have a warning light that comes on so that you know when it’s time to empty the de-scaling trap.
HEre’s a short video that shows how to descale a Philips steam generator. Other manufacturers may use a slightly different system. e.g. a removable cartridge that is cleaned periodically under running water, but they are all pretty fast and simple.
Ease Of Use
Obviously, you will want to check that your steam generator iron is user friendly before buying.
Look for a reasonable size of water reservoir which can be removed and filled directly under a tap. That’s a very useful feature – and it’s certainly a good deal better than messing around with jugs of water.
A good length of hose between the iron itself and the base unit will give you the option of placing the base unit on the floor if you wish. You may find this useful if you have a relatively small ironing board.
Auto retracting power cables, no snag cords, auto power off, secure carrying handles and protective casings are all examples of user friendly features which may appeal – to a greater or lesser extent – to different people.
Steam Generator Ironing Board
Here’s a quotation from one new steam generator iron user:
After reading all the reviews I decided this was the iron of my dreams. so I got one, plugged it in, pressed a button and it shot from my hand, I managed to grab it by the cord. I soon discovered why, My ironing board wasn’t suitable for a generator iron , you need one with vents or mesh. So… I got one and had another bash at ironing. I do B&B so my linen has to be pristine. I’ve got lots of victorian tablecloths that are a nightmare to iron, this thing whizzed through them in minutes. Everything I ironed with it was perfect.
You can actually get ironing boards which are specially designed for use with steam generator irons. these have special condensation traps which collect the water produced as the steam condenses.
However, you will probably only require one of these if you tend to do a lot of ironing – or if you normally do your ironing in a small, poorly ventilated area.
For the vast majority of users, a standard ironing board with a mesh construction or a few holes will be perfectly acceptable.