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Steam Irons and Steam Generator Irons Compared

steam iron with generator compare

Although standard steam irons are far more popular and the go-to choice for most households, when we compare them to the latest top-of-line steam generator irons, there are several advantages that put steam generators ahead. 

Firstly, steam generator irons hold far more water, meaning less refilling as you work your way through batches of laundry. They are also more powerful at removing stubborn creases and compressed wrinkles because they “generate” pressured bursts of continuous steam, and because the iron’s water is stored in a separate tank instead of a tank built into the iron itself, they’re lighter to use. 

But steam generators have some drawbacks compared to traditional steam irons. Nothing in the way of ironing performance, of course. 

Steam generators are more expensive than steam irons. In some cases, they cost two or three times as much. They’re also much larger, requiring more storage space and ironing boards designed specifically to hold the steam generator unit. 

In more detail, let’s explore how steam generators compare to classic steam irons.

How to Choose between Iron and Steam Generator

According to studies, ironing is the least fun household chore – no surprise there. With that said, some people enjoy ironing and find it quite relaxing – almost therapeutic. But for most of us, it’s a boring drag, and there’s no hiding from it.

Whether you love or hate ironing or are indifferent, the wrong iron can make your life difficult. 

An iron and a steam generator serve the same purpose but operate in slightly different ways. Unlike traditional irons, steam generators have their own separate supply of water – not attached to the handle. This makes moving a steam generator’s iron soleplate easier. 

As I mentioned, a steam generator is also more powerful because it generates hotter steam and blasts this wrinkle-wrecking steam deep into fibres, which means it is more efficient. A conventional iron, on the other hand, doesn’t push steam out with much force but is more compact and frequently less expensive.

If you just iron on occasion or are searching for a low-cost appliance, go with a classic iron. Are you a professional seamstress or frequently have a large load of clean washing to iron? Then go all in on a steam generator.

Let’s Talk Steam

steam from iron soleplate

The original flat dry irons of old smoothed out cloth by heating through a hot soleplate and applying contact pressure. These old irons “did the job”, but not very well, and are now well out of style. 

We’ve learned a lot since the 1800s. Probably the biggest advancement to the iron was adding the ability to generate steam and spray a fine mist of water over clothes.

Moisture permeates the fabric when steam ironing, causing fibres to swell and become more malleable, making ironing easier. That’s why dry clothes, curtains, bedding, textiles, and fabrics are sprayed with water or steam before ironing out the creases, as this hit of moisture takes the dry rigidity out of the fibres, allowing them to be more easily flattened.

A traditional steam iron produces steam directly on the hot soleplate without pressure; the steam chamber is located between the heating elements. When the valve is opened, steam flows through the solitary apertures, but only from temperatures around 130 degrees Celsius. 

Steam generator ironing stations have their own steam generator (generator). Water is heated to around 140 degrees Celsius inside this boiler, producing pressurised water vapour. This steam vapour travels along a hose and is forced out holes on the base of the soleplate. This extra heat, higher volume of steam, and the force it’s expelled with means much deeper penetration of fibres and more efficient ironing results.

The steam output is one of the main things that separate basic steam irons and steam generators. This is measured in grams per minute and ranges from as low as 60g/min for cheaper units all the way up to over 500g/min for a premium steam gen system.

Finish Ironing Quicker 

Everyone wants to get through that pile of ironing quicker. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who actually enjoy ironing, when selecting a steam generator iron, consider the three essential factors: the steam flow rate, the steam pressure, and the steam boost. That means you want to choose a unit with at least 6 bar of pressure or more.

And to get stubborn wrinkles out of clothes? Look for models with “steam boost” that will increase steam flow for a limited time. You can also use steam to straighten your garments vertically, although we recommend using an ironing board. 

To get through ironing quicker, buy a steam generator with a large water tank, high bar pressure, and high steam flow rate, with a “boost” feature, and you’ll fly through that stack of clothes. A steam iron without a generator just can’t complete as generators beat them with all of these features. 

Steam iron and Steam Generator Soleplates

The soleplate of the most recent generation glides better than previous generations. They are also easy to maintain because they scratch less easily. 

Both steam irons and steam generators come in a variety of soleplate material options, making them equal in this department. The primary distinction between the various kinds is the material from which they are crafted. Ceramic, stainless steel (most widely used), titanium, non-stick coatings, and cast iron are all materials that can be found on an iron soleplate, whether a steam iron or generator. 

The soleplates of stainless steel irons have excellent glide as well as are the easiest to clean. Ceramic soleplates prevent clothing from burn marks. However, due to their particular coating, they tend to wear out quicker. 

Water Tank Size

One of the steam generator’s key advantages is the water tank’s size. Most classic steam irons have an onboard water tank with a capacity of around 300ml, whereas steam generators have a minimum of 1 litre of water. 

Result? You can iron for a longer period of time without needing to refill your reservoir. Furthermore, your steam generator will heat up in 2 to 4 minutes.

But which size should you go with? If your ironing sessions are lengthy, consider a tank with a large capacity of at least 1.5 – 2L.

Also, a steam generator iron water tanks are removable and very light, making them much easier to fill compared to a standard steam iron, where the iron needs to be unplugged (unless it’s a cordless model) and carried to a tap. 

Limescale Removal

Your steam iron’s and steam generator’s worst enemy? You no longer need to manually descale your iron with a scrubbing and descaling agent, as most irons on the upper end of the range have a built-in anti-scale system. 

Generators and irons that use steam can accumulate scale over time. The speed with which scale impurities form and harden depends on the hardness of the water in your area. Brown stains on garments, discoloured water, and leaks can all be avoided with regular descaling. Maintaining a clean steam generator is essential for optimal steam output and iron longevity.

There are typically three types of anti-limescale systems:

  • Anti-scale bar or lime collector: collects all lime and is cleaned with water.
  • Descale cartridge: it works the same way as the scale collector but must be replaced regularly.
  • Descaling programme: This self-cleaning mechanism cleans the appliance of limescale. A light indication indicates when you can begin the application.

Philips steam irons have a Quick Cal release chamber that collects limescale and prevents it from clogging the steam holes and water system. Their steam generators use a Decal compartment on the tank. Both types of irons have an anti-limescale system, but they will require additional cleaning around the soles plates from time to time – no one is better than the other when it comes to limescale buildup and removal.

Who Should Buy a Steam Generator Over an Iron

An ironing generator station costs significantly more money than a good steam iron. Before making a purchase, you need to ask yourself whether you need this more expensive machine, or will a small iron work for you?

At this point, you know that a steam ironing generator makes ironing easier and faster than with a conventional steam iron.

A single or couple household would do just fine with steam irons since not so much ironing is required. In a large family home with many children, mountains of ironing are not uncommon; therefore, a generator station would be more suitable.

The more ironing you have to do, the more worthwhile it is to buy a steam generator. You can iron large amounts of laundry much faster and easier than with a conventional steam iron. If you want to get the work done as quickly and comfortably as possible in a smaller household with less ironing, there is nothing to be said against purchasing generator iron.