Thanks for taking your time to read our detailed and extensive steam generator iron buying guide, that is written specifically for readers in the United Kingdom. This is a long and detailed guide, but we believe that if you have all the knowledge, then you can make a much better buying decision.
We have broken this guide into easy to read sections to make your reading experience a little bit easier. You can see these sections just below, with a quick jump to section guide. If you prefer you can simply scroll down the page for more information.
Generators are split into two categories which are steam generators and high pressure steam generators. Both types have a larger water tank than a traditional steam iron and most have some type of filter-based anti-scale system. In addition to being more efficient, a steam generator iron is also lighter as the main water tank does not have to be lifted.
That makes steam generator irons ideal for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis, or who has issues with lifting heavier objects.
Steam generator irons are not cheap, so we highly recommend reading our UK buyer's guide, before you make any final buying decision. With the information contained in this guide, we know you will be able to make a much better buying decision.
Which Brands Make Steam Generator Irons?
The main household names make most of the steam generator irons that are currently available on the UK marketplace. These include:
- Tefal - around 12 different irons with price points between £60 to £250
- Morphy Richards - around 17 different irons with price points between £60 to £220
- Philips - around 12 different irons with price points between £75 to £250
- Polti - around 10 different irons with price points between £70 to £280
- Bosch - around 5 different irons with price points between £100 to £375
There are a few lesser known brands such as:
- Russell Hobbs
All of the major brands have wide ranges of steam generator irons. The better ones will offer 2 and even 3 year warranties such as Philips and Morphy Richards. They will also have a UK based customer service team who can be reached using a local UK telephone number. Spare parts are also easier to get.
We have completed top 10 lists for each of the leading brands that you can click on to read just below.
How Much do Steam Generator Irons Cost?
At the cheaper end you can find steam generator irons for around £50-70. At the higher end these can average out at around £250-450 for a steam generator iron packed with features.
The average cost for a normal steam iron is around £30, so as you can see the steam generated irons are anything between 2-10 times more expensive. We consider these a big financial investment.
Most basic steam irons last around 2 years before they start to give problems, whereas these steam generators have a lifespan of 5-10 years.
Some buyers still prefer to buy a cheaper model at around £60 and replace it every 2-3 years.
Like most things in life the amount that you are willing to spend will come down to what you can afford. If money is not a constraint, then it is a question of picking the brand you prefer, or the iron that has the exact features that to think are important.
Advantages of Steam Generator Irons
Why spend so much money on an iron?
The reason these have become so popular is that they do quite literally reduce your ironing time by about a half. So if you hate ironing, or simply don't want to waste time doing it, then one of these irons will certainly reduce the time you spend standing behind an ironing board.
Less Trips to the Sink
Thanks to the large water tank, this does mean less trips to the kitchen sink to fill it up. The tanks on these are 3-7 times bigger than a normal water tank on a basic steam iron. So when you fill these larger tanks up, then you can generate a lot of steam for a much longer period of time.
More Ironing done at once
We were not actually sure that being able to do more ironing is actually an advantage. We do understand that people don't really want to spend any more time than necessary doing ironing. However, what a steam generator iron does is to speed up the entire process, and as a result you do get more ironing done.
Better Steam Pressure
You can choose to either dry iron, or iron with steam. Dry ironing is used best when the clothes still have some moisture in them. That moisture works with the dry iron to create a little steam and it is that combination that helps remove wrinkles.
Clothes that are dry however have no retained moisture. Ironing dry clothes with a dry iron will remove some wrinkles, but it will not remove them all. That is where steam can help. With a steam generating iron the steam pressure is measured in bars which is simply a unit measure of steam, and the higher that number is the more pressure you have.
This is often referred to as pump pressure and ranges between 3-7.5 bars.
Steam is also measured as constant steam and a steam shot. The constant steam is the amount of regular steam you have coming out of the iron. This is measured in grams per minute (gms/min) and allows steam to penetrate into the heart of the material fibres. This can vary from around 60-300 gms/min.
The steam shot is what can help take care of very stubborn creases, and is also measured in gms/min. The steam shot can vary between 140-500 gms/min. The general rule is the higher the better.
Key Features of Steam Generator Irons
Many of the brands advertise their irons in certain ways which can lead to some confusion. Just below we have identified those key features that you should pay attention to.
Wattage & Running Costs
All steam generator irons have a boiler inside them that heats up the water and turns it into steam. Watts are a unit of power and the higher this number is, then the faster your iron will heat up.
The majority of normal steam irons will use around 2,400 watts of power to heat the boiler, and the iron will be ready to use in about 45 seconds to a minute.
Some irons will have a higher wattage such as 2600, 2800 and as high as 3100 watts, so these will heat up faster.
Steam generator irons use a similar wattage to heat up, but in the higher end models this can be as high as 3100 watts.
You should also be aware that the higher the wattage is the more electricity it will use. Electricity is measured in a unit known as a Kilowatt Hour (Kwh) A Kilowatt hour is classed as one unit of electricity. It is based on an appliance using 1,000 watts of power for one hour.
The average cost of a unit of electricity in the UK is about 14p. (Rates vary qite a lot)
- So a 2400 watt steam generator iron being used for one hour would cost about 33.6 pence to run
- And a 3100 watt steam generator iron being used for one hour would cost about 43.4 pence to run
This is not a big issue for most people but we thought it was worth noting.
Larger Water Tank
A typical basic steam iron has a 300 millilitre water tank. That will last for about an hour of normal ironing before it needs to be filled up again.
There is a major difference with the water tanks in a steam generator iron. These range anywhere between 1 litre up to 2.2 litre capacity, and this forms part of the main generating unit, that the actual iron sits on.
That large water capacity means that you can quite literally iron for hours without needing to refill these large water tanks.
That will save you some time, but more importantly, it means you can get on with the ironing without lots of stops.
You also don't have the weight of the water tank to worry about as the water tank sits on the ironing board. Almost every water tank is detachable so as you can remove it quickly, bring it to the tap, fill it up and then reposition it again
Generator Iron Soleplates
This is probably the single feature that causes more confusion than anything else for potential buyers.
This is the part of the iron that touches your clothes. In simple engineering terms it is a metal plate with holes in it that allow the steam out.
Manufacturers talk a lot about the soleplates and their gliding properties.
They used to give problems but the process has become very refined and soleplates are all very good in almost every steam generating iron.
Most good quality steam generator irons have a ceramic plate. The reason ceramic is used is to help the iron glide smoothly over your clothes. It also gives a smoother finish to the sole and this prevents snagging of the clothes.
Some other brands such as Morphy Richards prefer to use stainless steel soleplates. Their preference for stainless steel is that they believe, stainless steel is better for removing creases.
You don't hear much about clothes getting snagged or tugged with modern irons, thanks to the many improvements over the years.
Steam Settings & Boost
As we mentioned earlier steam output usually comes in two ways. The first is a continuous steam rating and the second is a steam shot, sometimes called a steam boost. Both are measured in grams per minute. (gms/min)
There are dry irons on the UK market which don't use steam at all, and some people prefer to use those as it does keep the clothes drier.
However, the majority of irons use steam as a quick means of ironing out wrinkles and creases.
With steam irons there is usually a continuous steam and also a steam shot. It is the same with steam generator irons, except that the amount of steam created is much larger with a generator style iron.
This is not a term that is used with normal steam irons. Steam generator irons do have a bar pressure and it refers to the steam pressure of the iron. This can vary between 3-7.5 bars.
The higher this number is the better when it comes to purchasing a steam generator iron.
The continuous rate of steam produced by an iron has a technical measurement known as grams per minute. (g/min) Usually this varies between 30-50 grams per minute for a standard steam iron.
With a steam generator iron this increases significantly from around 60-300 gms/min. That can make a huge difference for removing wrinkles and creases. Not only will it remove those faster, but it also removes those very stubborn wrinkles easily.
Steam Shot or Boost
A steam shot is also measured in grams per minute. This will always be a higher measurement and is usually between 100 to 150 grams. At the higher end this can get up to 200 grams per minute for a higher specification of steam iron.
With a steam generator iron this steam shot can vary between 140-500 gms/min. That sort of shot simply blasts away creases or wrinkles in material such as denim.
Generally speaking, the steam shot is used for very stubborn creases in material like jeans or linen. It can be very useful and again the higher this number is the better.
For those who are technically minded 1 bar is 14.5 pounds per square inch (psi) and a bar refers to atmospheric pressure.
If you look at kettles or irons you will often see signs of a white residue at the bottom of the product. This is limescale and it happens when water meets with a heating element of any kind. Certain particles in the water react with the heat and form limescale.
This can be really bad in areas that have what is called hard water. (It is essentially any water that comes from soft rock areas of limestone)
Over time this can build up, and will eventually reduce the efficiency of the iron, and ultimately stop it from working altogether.
During the build up, the first signs are usually water spluttering and spitting out what look like rust spots. That is exactly what they are, and it has ruined many a piece of clothing. These spots come from dirty water in the boiler pushing out through the holes in the soleplate of the iron.
With most normal steam irons, you can descale the iron, and also clean up the soleplate. However, if the damage is permanent, then the iron will have to be replaced. This is what ruins most irons.
With steam generator irons almost all of them will have some type of anti-scale option. Morphy Richards for example use replaceable antiscale cartridges.
These help to maintain the life and performance of your steam generator by filtering the water you use, providing optimum performance for a much longer period of time.
Russell Hobbs also use anti-calc cartridges.
The Philips and Polti brands have in most of their irons a Calc Clean function which removes any build ups of limescale.
The type of limescale prevention varies from brand and indeed from certain model ranges within the brands. They do however have some type of limescale prevention or limescale cleaning options.
Adjustable Temperatures and Material Selection
This is another area of complexity. With normal steam irons, it is important to understand that different materials or fabrics react differently to heat levels.
For example a pair of jeans will take a high heat whereas a silk blouse would burn at the same temperature. That is why there are different temperature settings on a steam iron.
By selecting the appropriate temperature you can be sure that is the right one to use for a particular material. The temperature adjustment is usually a simple dial.
It is worth noting that by adjusting the temperature, you are actually changing the temperature of the soleplate. This can take up to 30 seconds to change so always be aware of that.
With steam generator irons this is done in a different way. Again this will vary by brand. Philips for example use what they call an OptimalTEMP processor in their irons.
That means there are no temperature settings required as their technology recognises materials and adjusts automatically. They guarantee no burning or damage to any fabrics with this technology.
The Tefal brand on their models usually have three temperature setting options which are Delicate, Normal and Jeans.
The Russell Hobbs brand and the Polti brand tend to stick to the normal and familiar dial style for their temperature options and fabric selections.
Many people in the UK who buy this type of iron, really love the vertical steam options that they get.
This can be used for items such as curtains, tablecloths and various types of bedding.
It can also be used for shirts, blouses and dresses.
The continuous steam function allows the iron to be used easily and quickly for this purpose.
All steam generator irons will offer some form of vertical steaming options. Some models are just far better than others.
These are models that have a higher continuous steam output, so you should look out for that setting if you like the idea of vertical steaming.
This feature on a steam generator iron works exactly the same way as a typical garment steamer.
Steam Generator Irons vs Steam Irons
Steam Generator Iron
As a general rule a steam generator iron will cut your ironing time in half, when compared to a normal steam iron. That said, these are a lot more expensive to buy, and they are much larger.
The iron itself is not heavy, but the base unit that holds the water has a much higher capacity, and is much bulkier. You will also most likely have to buy a larger ironing board as well, as the generator style iron will not fit on a standard ironing board.
Most buyers who make the switch from a steam iron to a steam generator iron are amazed by the difference is speed, and how fast they can accomplish the boring task of ironing.
Steam Generating Irons vs Ironing Presses
The steam press is mainly used in retail shops, some factories and in many professional ironing companies who do commercial ironing. They are also used in many hotels, some guest houses and some B&Bs.
Some people, and especially those with larger families will use an ironing press as a household appliance. They are very fast at ironing items such as table cloths, sheets, curtains. They are also very efficient at putting the creases into trousers and for ironing dress shirts.
The lower part of an ironing press is about the same size and shape of a small ironing board. The top of the ironing press is the same shape and acts just like a big iron. The actual surface area of the ironing press is much larger than a regular steam iron so it takes much less time to iron your clothing.
Iron presses are not that useful for detail such as collars or pleats.
Ironing Boards for Steam Generator Irons
You can use most standard sized ironing boards to hold a larger steam generator iron. That said, those standard boards are really not wide enough or designed to be strong enough to carry the weight of the bigger irons.
In the image above you can see the difference in the type of board that is available. This type of board is designed specifically to be robust and strong enough to cater for these heavier irons. The main weight does of course come from the water in the larger tank sizes.
The brands Minky and Brabantia make the best ironing boards for steam generator irons. They are made from good quality materials, and they are adjustable in height and don't rock on the ground.
Accessories for Steam Generator Irons
There are not a great deal of accessories for a steam iron. There are however a few and we explain your choices in this section.
Many of the brands and models will use cartidges to help protect your appliance from getting build ups or limescale. These do need to be replaced. You can buy these online but you will be tied to bying the right brand and type for your iron.
Replacement Water Tanks
There are replacement water tanks available because these can get accidentakky dropped and they may crack. Each brand and model will have a specific replacement type.
A lot of buyers like to have the electric cord raised and out of their way. A cord holder is a useful device for doing just that.