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Ironing

Steam Iron Vs Dry Iron – Which Is The Better Buy?

When it comes to keeping your clothing items wrinkle-free, ironing is always the best way to go.

But since there are different types of irons out there, finding the right iron can be a bit confusing, so which one should you go for?

Steam Iron vs Dry Iron:

Both steam and dry Irons have their advantages and drawbacks, so the choice here depends on various aspects, such as the type of fabric you use, the performance you expect, and the features you’re looking for.

In today’s guide, we’ll help you pick the best iron for your needs by putting the two options in a head-to-head comparison.

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A Quick Look at Steam Irons

As the name suggests, a steam iron is a collective term that describes all types of irons that utilize steam technology. 

The main idea behind using steam while ironing fabrics is that steam triggers the break down the polymer bonds that the fabric molecules create, making it pliable and more effective at removing stubborn wrinkles.

In addition to the standard iron design, steam irons also come in other forms for different applications.

Looking to buy a steam iron? Our top pick is the Rowenta DW5280 Soleplate Steam Iron

A Quick Look at Dry Irons

Dry irons, also known as regular irons or hot irons, have been around for ages, but they’re still quite reliable and do a great job at removing wrinkles.

Unlike steamers, this type of iron mainly relies on heat to break down the fabric polymer bonds and flatten wrinkles. However, you can also combine dry ironing with a spray bottle to create a mist of water for some fabrics.

The top advantage of dry ironing is reliability and simplicity at a reduced cost all the while working with a variety of fabrics.

Looking to buy a dry iron? Our top pick is the Panasonic NI-A66-K Automatic Dry Iron

How Do Steam and Dry Irons Compare to Each Other

To help you pick your choice of iron, let’s have a brief comparison that puts traditional iron vs steam iron in a direct comparison in terms of key differences between the two.

Overall Design

If you’ve used multiple ironing tools before, you’ll know that they come in a wide range of designs, especially steam irons.

Some of these irons are designed mainly for vertical ironing while others are meant to be used over a flat surface and ironing boards.

While both dry and steam irons share an overall similar design, dry ones are usually not as bulky as steam ones because they don’t have a steam tank, but more about this in the following sections.

Power Consumption

Both dry and steam irons are powered electrically, and wattage makes a huge difference in each one’s performance.

However, steam irons tend to consume more power than a standard iron box, which is necessary to heat up water molecules and turn them into steam.

Keep in mind that both irons also come as a cordless alternative, although they’re still electrically powered.

Faceplate

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a regular and steam iron is by looking at the metal plate at the bottom.

In the case of dry irons, you’ll find a solid soleplate with no holes, which can be made from materials. 

However, we recommend going for stainless steel and ceramic soleplates and avoiding aluminum soleplates because they start sticking at high temperature settings. 

Steam irons, on the other hand, will have holes to distribute the steam over the fabric. But again, you should stick to nonstick options like stainless steel and ceramic-based soleplates.

Suitable Fabrics

Both dry and steam irons can work with an array of fabrics. However, each one of them will typically work better with certain fabric types.

For instance, the chances of burn marks with dry heat are higher, so dry irons are usually avoided with delicate fabrics, such as silk, linen, lace, and velvet.

In fact, steam can help retain the texture of many types of fabrics, such as cotton, denim, and corduroy.

On the other hand, some fabrics are not recommended to be used with steam, as contact with water may damage them, especially at high heat. This includes synthetic fabrics, such as rayon, polyester, and nylon.

That being said, temperature is the major deciding factor when it comes to fabric and has a major impact on the performance of the iron type you use.

Water Tank and Steam Function

It goes without saying that steam irons are the only type that comes with a water reservoir. Unlike dry ironing, you’ll need to refill the water tank whenever it runs out of water.

Additionally, you should avoid using tap water and opt for soft water (filtered, clean water) because calcium and other minerals in hard water may leave residue on the fabrics after the ironing process.

One thing you should know here is that steam is a major time-saver when it comes to ironing many fabrics, as it speeds up the process significantly, making it ideal if you’re always in a hurry.

Shrinkage

Some fabrics shrink when they come in contact with steam, such as wool, cashmere, and polyester. 

In that case, steam ironing can shrink these fabrics, which is why you should stick to dry irons if the fabric is prone to shrinking. (check the label for more information about that).

Versatility

When it comes to versatility, steam irons are usually the clear winner. This is because they can function as dry irons on their own if you turn off the steam option.

On the other hand, you can also mimic the spray mist function in dry irons but you’ll need a separate spray bottle. 

Some might find this more of a hassle while others prefer the larger reservoir volume of water bottles.

Leakage

One major drawback of steam irons is that they’re prone to leakage, especially when you overfill the water tank or use the steam function before the iron reaches the maximum temperature.

On the other hand, since dry irons don’t use any liquids to do their job, they don’t have this problem.

Additional Features

In most cases, you’re more likely to find extra features in steam irons than in dry ones. This includes features like an automatic shut-off function, LED indicators, stream bursts, and more.

As for dry irons, they’re typically easy to work with but they don’t have various features apart from temperature control and overheat protection.

Durability and Maintenance

Ideally, you’ll need to get a new iron every 5 to 7 years, depending on your use frequency. However, in terms of durability, dry irons are usually the better pick.

Since these irons have fewer features and internal parts, they have a lower chance for things to break.

This also applies to maintenance, especially to the iron’s faceplate. It’s highly recommended that you clean the steam holes periodically because they can get clogged by minerals, but this shouldn’t be a concern of yours with dry irons.

Portability 

Both steam and dry irons come in a variety of sizes, ranging from full-sized options to highly compact ones to save you a lot of space while traveling.

Yet, when it comes to average size and weight, steam irons are usually slightly heavier and bulkier because of the water reservoir

Ease of Use

According to a recent report, ironing was rated as the most hated chore, so making it a smooth process goes a long way.

Technically speaking, both types are equally easy to use because each one addresses the issue differently. 

While steam irons have an all-in-one package to save you the back and forth, dry irons usually keep things straightforward by having a single dial and limited features.

Cost

The cost of irons can vary significantly depending on several aspects, such as:

  • Power (wattage)
  • Size 
  • Features 
  • Brand

Yet, it’s typical for dry irons of similar build quality and properties as another steam iron to come at a more affordable price, which makes it a better pick if you’re on a strict budget.

For example, typical dry irons can cost you anywhere between $15 to $100 while average steam iron can cost you upwards of $200. That being said, you can still find cheaper options that come at $20 or less.

Dry Iron vs Steam Iron: What’s the best option?

This wraps it up for today’s guide which walks you through the main difference between steam and dry irons. 

As you can see, both of them are quite reliable and easy to use, so the choice here will depend on several aspects. These include your budget, expected features, portability, and desired versatility.

That being said, a quality steam iron can double as both a steamer and dry iron, which makes it the winner and the better option in the ‘steam iron vs dry iron’ debate.

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