I’m on the market for a new iron for sewing, friends. I’ve had a Rowenta Focus iron for pushing 10 years, and it’s time for a replacement. The precision tip is bent from drops on the floor, and water leaks through the soleplate. Oh yeah, the cat(s) gnawed on the cord, too. (The feline contingent is fine and still naughty.) I currently use it dry and spritz distilled water on my sewing projects for steam.
Sewists have good reason to sweat over buying an iron. A good iron for sewing is as important as a good sewing machine for professional results.
So, because I need a new iron for sewing, I did what I always do: research! And my research turned into this iron buying guide!
I stuck with irons from Amazon because I love to stalk reviews before I buy — and aside from Pattern Review, I can’t think of a place with more reviews on irons for sewing. A $100 ceiling I think captures the budget of many home sewists. For what it’s worth, this iron buying guide does not include the least expensive irons on Amazon, because sewists can’t get down with a lightweight appliance.
If you’re on the market for an iron for sewing, keep reading to discover which features matter most to sewists and my top five iron picks that won’t break the bank!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Choosing an iron for sewing: Features critical to sewists
Sewists need different features than your average civilian iron user. Here are the most important features in an iron for sewing, presented in alphabetical order:
Good if your tap water is hard/ish.
Most irons have auto shutoff to keep you from burning down the house. Rowenta’s Partner of Fashion Focus iron does not have auto shutoff, which the manufacturer says is ideal for DIYers and fashion designers. But one reviewer on Amazon said the iron melted on her, and that gave me pause. Now, that probably was a freak thing, but when you have an appliance that gets as hot as an iron, I don’t know if it’s a great idea to have it at a high temp for hours as a time (which easily could happen if you were deep in a sewing project). When I use my current Rowenta iron, the lights dim in other parts of the house. Sucker’s powerful.
Burst of steam
This is obviously critical to getting nice, flat seams and pleats.
Price matters, and you get what you pay for. For example, the Sunbeam Steam Master sells for $29.99 on Amazon. It weighs only 1.4 pounds. If you iron only occasionally and you’re only doing dress shirts, the Sunbeam probably is fine. But could you image trying to press denim with only 1.4 pounds? I think I’d crush my ironing board with downward force.
A narrow tip is good for pressing around buttons, collars, and other small areas.
This could be a good feature if you use tap water and need to keep funkiness at bay.
If you use starch (this is especially important to some quilters), investigate what it takes to clean the soleplate. Anything other than water likely will leave a residue on the soleplate and could add friction to pressing/ironing, along with possibly leaving funk on your sewing project (eek!).
Smooth sole plate
This critical feature of an iron for could be hard to determine without using. It could be wise to buy a couple irons to test. Read reviews to see if poor glide is a common complaint.
Based on my Amazon research, it seems like most irons have a 1-2 year warranty that’s valid ONLY if you use the iron as directed. So if your iron calls for distilled water, use distilled water. Otherwise if it craps out within a year, you’re SOL.
Does it use tap or distilled/demineralized? In my previous pressing history, I used tap water. Eventually I got calcification and yellow/brown spots on my sewing projects and ironing board cover. Check the manual to figure out what’s right for the iron.
A little squirt is good for stubborn wrinkles.
When it comes to water tanks, bigger is better. Steam empties a water tank veeeery fast. Minimize sewing interruptions with a big water tank.
Pressing is a physical business, and you want mass on your side. Mass + gravity + steam = you’re the boss of those seams/pleats/wrinkles.
RELATED: Bright Ideas: Lighting for Sewing Rooms
The best irons for sewing on Amazon
After taking the aforementioned features into consideration, I identified five irons from five different brands that I think would work swell for home sewists. They range in price from $32.99 to $64.99, and they’re all available at this time via Amazon Prime. (That’s an affiliate link for a free 30-day Prime trial… Two-day free shipping… c’mon, you know you want to!)
In this collection of five irons for sewing (presented alphabetically), I give a one-sentence summary for each iron, so you get the gist of what makes each unique. I also note their Amazon rating and number of reviews (because social proof is persuasive!). I intentionally chose irons with at least four-star ratings and a healthy number of reviews. You and I deserve the best iron for sewing, right? RIGHT.
Black + Decker D2030 Auto-Off Digital Advantage Iron
One-sentence summary: The No. 1 best seller in irons on Amazon.
Amazon stats: 4.5 stars, 4,200-plus customer reviews.
Anti-scale: No mention of anti-scale properties.
Auto turnoff: The iron shuts off after 10 minutes.
Burst of steam: Yes. And you can use this iron as a vertical steamer.
Narrow tip: It’s narrow-ish, but not super pointy.
Self-cleaning: Features an auto-clean system.
Starch: No comment about use of starch.
Smooth sole plate: The soleplate is stainless steel.
Warranty: Comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Water: Use tap water. Distilled water is recommended for extremely hard water areas.
Water spray: Yes, there’s a spray nozzle.
Water reservoir: Several Amazon reviewers commented on the iron’s large reservoir. One five-star reviewer said, “The iron has the largest water reservoir of any I’ve seen and I was able to iron several man’s shirts with the steam setting in the mid-range without using half the water.”
Weight: Shipping weight is 3.8 pounds.
⇒ Check out the Black + Decker on Amazon. ⇐
Hamilton Beach Steam Iron with 3-Way Auto Shutoff & Durathon Soleplate (19900)
One-sentence summary: Special soleplate has a 10-year warranty.
Amazon stats: 4.5 stars, 300-plus reviews.
Anti-scale: Not that I saw.
Auto turnoff: The iron has three-way auto shutoff, but it’s not described in the manual. A reviewer on Amazon timed shutoff at 10 minutes.
Burst of steam: Has variable steam for different fabrics and vertical steam.
Narrow tip: Yes, but not as narrow as some of the other irons in this post.
Self-cleaning: There’s a self-clean button, but the manual doesn’t describe how it works.
Starch: No mention of starch. To clean soleplate build-up, the manual directs owners to wipe with a sudsy cloth.
Smooth sole plate: Has Durathon nonstick soleplate. According to an Amazon description, “Durathon is an aluminum-coated soleplate coated with two layers of ceramic and then a nonstick top coat.”
Warranty: One-year warranty on the iron if purchased in the United States (five years if purchased in Canada),10 years on the soleplate.
Water: The iron uses tap water. If you have extremely hard water, the manual calls for alternating between tap and distilled water.
Water spray: Yes.
Water reservoir: Amazon reviewers seem pleased with the size of the water tank.
Weight: 3.3 pounds.
⇒ Check out the Hamilton Beach on Amazon. ⇐
Panasonic NI-W810CS Multi-Directional Steam/Dry Iron with Ceramic Soleplate
One-sentence summary: Use this double-tipped iron forward and backward.
Amazon stats: 4 stars, 500-plus customer reviews.
Anti-scale: Yes. Anti-calcium system prevents clogged steam holes.
Auto turnoff: The iron automatically shuts off in the upright position after 10 minutes. It turns off after 60 seconds when left on its side or on the soleplate.
Burst of steam: Yes, it has adjustable steam and vertical steam.
Narrow tip: This iron has two tips, and both are fairly pointy. The dual-tipped soleplate lets you iron in any direction and is supposed to make ironing go faster.
Self-cleaning: Sort of. Panasonic calls its burst of steam feature self-cleaning: “A powerful burst of steam helps remove stubborn wrinkles when ironing. It also helps clean the steam vents on the soleplate after ironing.”
Starch: The manual says, “Starch and other residue may be easily removed from the soleplate with a damp cloth.”
Smooth sole plate: The soleplate is ceramic with nonstick coating. On its website, Panasonic says it’s six time more durable than stainless steel.
Warranty: It comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Water: The manual says most tap water works fine with this iron. If you have very hard water, use distilled/demineralized water instead.
Water spray: Yes.
Water reservoir: 6.75-ounce tank that Panasonic describes as “oversized.”
Weight: 3 pounds.
⇒ Check out the Panasonic on Amazon. ⇐
Rowenta DW5080 Focus 1700-Watt Micro Steam Iron Stainless Steel Soleplate with Auto-Off, 400-Hole
One-sentence summary: 400 steam holes, a pointy tip, and lots of mass for this iron made in Germany.
Amazon stats: 4.5 stars, 3,300-plus customer reviews.
Anti-scale: Has an anti-calc system to “[prevent] calcium build-up and impurities.”
Auto turnoff: The iron turns off after eight minutes if left upright. It turns off after 30 seconds if left horizontal or tipped over.
Burst of steam: Oh heck yeah. There are 400 steam holes that deliver variable (think high-med-low) and vertical steam.
Narrow tip: The tip is quite narrow, making it good for small areas.
Starch: The user manual says to never use “ironing water additives” in the tank, such as scented water or starch, noting additives will permanently damage the iron. No talk about spray starch, but you can clean residue off the soleplate with a damp sponge.
Smooth sole plate: The soleplate is stainless steel.
Warranty: One-year warranty against manufacturer defect in materials or workmanship.
Water: Works with tap water. If your water is very hard, use half distilled, half tap.
Water spray: Yes.
Water reservoir: Rowenta reports a 10-ounce tank.
Weight: 3.4 pounds.
⇒ Check out the Rowenta on Amazon. ⇐
Shark Professional Steam Power Iron (GI405)
One-sentence review: Squeeze out extra minutes of pressing; the auto turnoff kicks in after 15 minutes.
Amazon stats: 4 stars, 300-plus reviews.
Anti-scale: Doesn’t appear to have an anti-scale system (but check out the self-cleaning feature below).
Auto turnoff: The iron shuts off after 15 minutes in the upright position or 30 seconds on its soleplate or side.
Burst of steam: Yes. Choose high or low steam. You also can use the burst vertically.
Narrow tip: Yup.
Self-cleaning: Yes. Self-clean flushes out impurities and scale. (So it sort of has an anti-scale system.)
Starch: Don’t fill the reservoir with a starch solution. You may use spray starch; wipe the soleplate with a soft, damp cloth to keep build-up at bay.
Smooth sole plate: Stainless steel.
Warranty: One-year limited warranty.
Water: The manual doesn’t say what type of water to use, which is weird. One reviewer had an issue with the iron spitting water, and Shark told the user to fill it with distilled.
Water spray: Got it.
Water reservoir: 10.14 ounces.
Weight: 3.31 pounds.
⇒ Check out the Shark on Amazon. ⇐
There you go, ladies and gents! Iron features that matter for sewists and five affordable irons for sewing on Amazon. I want to hear from you: What iron do you have? If you’ve switched to something more than $100, what is it and what are the benefits of it? Please sound off in comments! Thanks!
P.S. In case you missed it, my post last week was all about sewing knits with a sewing machine. I tested 90 combos of presser foot, upper thread tension, and needle. It’s intense and worth a read if you sew knits without a serger.
P.P.S. If you like this guide, check out these other sewing resources:
The over-researched sewing table buying guide for the Type A sewist
53 gifts for sewists: The ultimate guide to gifts for sewing lovers
How to press scuba knit and more: Tips for working with scuba fabric
P.P.P.S. Here’s a post about sewing shorts, because it’s getting on to be summer in my part of the world: Prefontaine shorts: A shorts story made long. These shorts only take ONE YARD of fabric!