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Pain Free Shopping Guide to Buying A Steam Generator Iron
We try to keep our Pain Free Shopping buying guides as concise as possible, but a steam generator Iron can be an expensive purchase (the best models cost around £400) and can break down in under 6 months with the manufacturers refusing to repair or replace them. Please take 5 minutes to read this guide before buying, it will save you time, money and a great deal of frustration.
The iron has a seperate base which holds a water tank
Also called steam pump irons, steam generator irons are midway between a steam iron and steam press.
They give better results than a standard iron and can handle the difficult materials and large fabric areas that presses can't, including ironing hanging curtains.
They work by boiling water in a separate tank and pumping the steam to the iron through a hose.
Un-Pressurised steam generator irons deliver a steady flow of steam which can be turned on or of at the iron, these work like a standard steam iron but with much more steam.
Pressurised ones will deliver steam at high pressure forcing it into the fabric smoothing out creases very quickly.
Steam generator irons can be expensive but are worth the investment if you have loads of Ironing to do, these are the Iron of choice for small B&B's, guest houses and anyone washing the local footie, rugger etc... team kit.
These irons are lighter than standard irons as the water tank and other components are in the base unit, not onboard the iron.
limescale build up in a pipe
Steam generator irons are a good idea but as they constantly boil water to produce steam and most users will fill them with tap water there is going to be limescale build up.
This can cause, blockages, water drip and gunk deposits on laundry, the limescale build up will wreck you ironing experience and reduce the life of the iron.
Because the majority of UK households have hard water the bottom line is how effectively the manufacturer deals with preventing limescale build up in their irons. Despite the latest technology it still causes issues. If you live in an area with very hard water, no matter how good your iron is, unless it's a Beldray, it pays to use demineralised water.
See table at the bottom of this page for very hard water areas
Using the Phillips anti-calc replacable cartridge
Apart from Phillips (whose irons will not work unless you replace the anti-calc filters regularly) and Beldray (who advise using tap-water in their irons).
At this time we are not aware of any other steam generator iron manufacturer who will guarantee their products against damage caused by limescale build up when using tap (or any) water.
This would be reasonable if the descaling is left to the user, but when a manufacturer boasts about the automatic descaling or 'anti calc' properties of their irons then why not guarantee the technology? Phillips do for 5 years!
Why you need to check your guarantee carefully
Morphy Richards have a range of steam generator irons with a really good auto clean function which automatically flushes out limescale into a container.
All the user has to do is wash out the container when the indicator lights up This is one the irons big selling points :
Power Steam Elite control panel
Limescale Management System
This steam generator has an easy-to-maintain flushable boiler system which frees you of the cost of replacing anti-scale filters. The control panel alerts you when descale is required and when it is time to de-scale, and the unit can be maintained quickly and simply.
Morphy Richards give their usual 2 year guarantee on these new Steam generator irons, but and it is a very big but, they do not guarantee for any period (not even a week) faults caused by limescale build up whether or not you use distilled or demineralised water, this is clearly stated on the front of the instruction manual of the Power Steam Elite Steam Generator Iron models 330017, 330012, 330013 and the rest of the autoclean models.
IMPORTANT: To prevent limescale problems which would not be covered by
the guarantee, we recommend the use of a mix of 50% tap water and 50%
distilled or demineralised water (available from most large supermarkets).
Just in case you think using the recommended 50/50 mix will ensure you are covered for limescale related damage the exclusions clause of their guarantee reads:
Morphy Richards shall not be liable to replace or repair the
goods under the terms of the guarantee where:
1 The fault has been caused or is attributable to accidental
use, misuse, negligent use or used contrary to the
manufacturer’s recommendations or where the fault has
been caused by power surges or damage caused in transit.
2 The fault is caused by limescale build-up.
From the advertising, it looks like they have solved the limescale build up problem.
We are not saying it doesn't work at reducing limescale build up, these are quality products, but if Morphy Richards use their auto clean system as such a major selling point, then expressly state that any limescale build up is not covered in the guarantee just how does that inspire confidence?
You can see the full Morphy Richards steam generator iron range here.
No lime scale guarantees, no recommendation
We are not singling out Morphy Richards here.
This is one example of how most steam generator iron manufacturers will boast about their limescale control technology then fail to guarantee your iron if it is damaged due to limescale build up, even if you follow their usage instructions.
It pays to read the small print!
This is why we cannot recommend certain steam generator irons until the manufacturers come up with limescale solutions they themselves trust enough to guarantee them.
You dont pay £400 for an appliance to end up here in 6 months
Then we can start recommending some of the otherwise really good steam generator irons on the market.
For now, how can we ask you to buy an iron we suspect you may start cursing in a month and skip in 4?
That doesn't sound like PainFree Shopping to us.
The Steam Generator Irons we Recommend
Look at the difference with our Recommended Best Buy budget steam generator iron the Beldray Steam surge pro, Beldray recommend using tap water, they claim their iron works better with it.
The Beldray Steam Surge
They provide a limescale filter and tell you to take it out every 2 - 4 weeks, soak it in vinegar for a few hours and put it back in.
This might be an old school way of dealing with the limescale, but it's an effective and honest solution rather than high-tech solutions manufactures won't guarantee.
Take a look at the Beldray Steam Surge Pro user manual. This iron also has a ceramic soleplate and a 2-litre water tank, it may be un-pressurised but delivers 100g of steam per minute and will outperform standard steam irons costing a lot more.
Apart from the Beldray we only recommend 2 makes of steam generator irons
The Phillips PerfectCare range:
These have a replaceable hard water filter, which shuts down the irons steam function when full, making sure you don't get limescale build up in the iron.
Looking at Phillips own figures the cartridges will last for about 1 month in a very hard water area and 2 in a hard water area, if you iron for around 1 hour per week.
Phillips guarantee their PerfectCare steam generator irons with PureSteam anti-calc cartridge technology for 5 years against limescale build up.
What makes these irons so good to use is their 'Optimal Temp' system which detects the material, sets the temperature and guarantees never to burn your clothes. You never need to adjust the temperature and can iron a silk shirt right after a pair of jeans. This makes these irons incredibly easy to use.
With the entry-level models the 'Optimal Temp' system means they can be slightly underpowered, so get the most powerful model you can afford. We recommend the GC9630/20 or the top of the range Phillips GC9650/80 (pictured at the start of this page) really is a fantastic iron but expensive, the whole range has a 2-year guarantee plus the 5-year limescale guarantee.
They advertise themselves as the 'kings of steam generator irons', we have to agree as they outperform anything else on the market.
Instructions are sketchy and the heat settings will take getting used to if your budget stretches to it we advise getting one of their pro-express models the Tefal GV9563 Pro Express or preferably the top model is Tefal GV8976 Pro .
Like Morphy, Richards Tefal do not guarantee their irons against scaling, like Bosch they use both an auto descale feature and a scale collector, but these are much more effective than the Bosch efforts and we have verified reports of Tefal irons lasting 5+ years
Bosch Nearly made it:
They are a great company with many well designed and superbly manufactured products, they also offer 2-year guarantees as standard and claim you can use tap water in their irons.
Unfortunately, we cannot recommend any Bosch steam generator irons because despite their best efforts (they use an auto descale feature and a scale collector) they don't seem to be able to handle the limescale problem as effectively as we would like.
With all the irons we tested we had issues with water dripping from the sole plate and gunk seeping out and soiling the clothes
Some people do swear by their Bosch irons, claiming 5+ years use from them and say the occasional soiled garment is a small price to pay, you can see the Bosch Steam Generator Iron Range here.
We are keeping an eye on Bosch and as soon as they produce something we feel worthy, we will be recommending it
Please note that the steam generator irons we recommend are, in our opinion, the best domestic ones you can buy. But even if you follow the manufacturers descaling procedures there is a possibility that occasionally you will still get gunk deposited on your clothes.
What to look for in a Steam Generator Iron:
A limescale filter: No matter how good the iron is if Limescale builds up really quickly it will kill your Iron in under a year.
Most guarantees will not cover this, even you follow the small print and use distilled water. Most of us will use tap water anyway. If the iron cannot deal with limescale do not buy it.
Variable steam control: A continuous steam output (it puts out steam constantly, not in short bursts) and a 'steam burst' button which can pump a quick high-pressure steam jet to help with stubborn creases.
Pressurised: More expensive but they boost the steam so it penetrates the fabric more deeply for faster ironing.
Un-pressurised will release more steam than a conventional iron and if you are not doing high volume ironing may be the solution for you.
Bar pressure: With a pressurised iron the higher the better. A 5-6 bar is the most effective.
Grams per minute: This is a measure of how much steam the iron puts out, the more Grams per minute, the shorter your ironing time.
The steam burst is also measured in grams per minute, the higher this is the easier difficult creases are dealt with.
Auto shut off: This switches it off if it is unused for a certain time, or the iron may sit there pumping out steam until the tank runs dry.
Tank size: Bigger the better, you don't want to have to stop to refill it every 10 minutes, but you don't want a huge tank you have to carry to and from the tap.
1 litre of water weighs 1kg (2.2lbs) the same as a standard bag of sugar. A 2-litre tank is about right, it gives you lengthy ironing time and is not too cumbersome.
Continuous fill: This allows you to remove the water tank to top it up without switching the iron off so it cools down.
Good quality thin soleplate: With a tapered nose, as these are easy to slide under buttons and into tight pleats. Thick soleplates snag on buttons & zips and can rip pleats.
Some have various slots and grooves designed to deliver steam more effectively to the fabric some have curved sides and back-ends allowing the iron to glide easier backwards and sideways.
Nonstick & non-scratch soleplate: Ceramic soleplates are the best, then stainless steel.
Nonstick and palladium soleplates glide easily but also scratch easily, Aluminium are the cheapest but they scratch easily and are hard to clean.
Some manufacturers call their soleplates by weird and wonderful names, diamond, Saphir etc... But the soleplates are usually made of one of the materials we've just mentioned.
We have tried enamelled soleplates which perform quite well until the enamel chips then they can snag the cloth.
Vertical use: This means you can Iron curtains while they are still hanging and run it over suits and dresses on their hangers, using the steam to get out the wrinkles and creases without lugging them to the Ironing board.
A Soft comfortable handle: You may be holding your Iron for some time, you don't want a hard uncomfortable handle which can give you blisters or creases on the handle that irritate or cut into your palm.
Additional useful features:
Preset programming: Tell the Iron which fabric you are using and it automatically sets the correct temperature, this reduces the risk of scorching or melting fabrics.
Auto controls: Some better (and more expensive) ones have automatic cloth detection and will sense fabric types and set the required amount of steam and heat, you can iron silk and then cotton without making any adjustments.
Now you've seen the options you should have a better idea if a steam generator Iron is what you need. Have a look at our Best Buy Steam Generator Irons
Hard water areas
- Bedfordshire – Hard to very hard water
- Berkshire – Hard to very hard water
- Bucks – Hard to very hard water
- Cambridgeshire – Hard to very hard water
- Dorset – Hard to very hard water
- Essex – Hard to very hard water
- Gloucestershire – Hard to very hard water
- Greater London – Moderately hard water
- Hampshire – Hard to very hard water
- Hertfordshire – Hard to very hard water
- Kent – Hard to very hard water
- Oxfordshire – Hard to very hard water
- Surrey – Hard to very hard water
- Sussex – Hard to very hard water
- Wiltshire – Hard to very hard water