Whenever I visit the U.S., I love browsing around the appliance departments in Walmart and Best Buy. America is always one of the first to incorporate the latest product innovations and hybrid designs. There also tends to be a much larger selection of brands and options than you could find on display in any UK shop.
That’s why I was shocked to suddenly realize that one key appliance is actually missing from the shelves. If you’re from the States, you might not even know of its existence, but if you’re from the UK, this might surprise you.
- Ever wondered what makes baking soda and vinegar so good at cleaning?
- Here's why cordless irons are a waste of money
What is a steam generator iron?
A steam generator iron is essentially a steam iron which comes with a larger, separate water tank. It produces more than twice as much steam at a higher pressure compared to a conventional iron, which means they’re better for removing creases and wrinkles. The design comes with different settings to suit different materials and the steam is controlled via a trigger.
Steam generator irons can also come with steam shot settings; however, it’s rare that they can spray water like a typical steam iron. These are a popular appliance for households which have a large laundry pile and want to get through it quickly.
Why doesn’t the US widely sell steam generator irons?
There seems to be a smaller market for ironing in the U.S. compared to the UK. In fact, ironing in general has grown less and less popular since easy care and non-iron fabrics came onto the scene. With the pandemic in mind as well, few of us have needed to dress up for events or care about our image so much.
Having said that, most households will still have a steam iron stored away and it’s bound to come out more as we return to the office and start going out again. I think quite a few consumers would be interested in upgrading to this appliance if they were aware of its existence and benefits.
If you want to know more about steam generator irons, here are the pros and cons.
The pros of a steam generator iron
- Excellent crease removal
As a steam generator iron uses a higher pressure and more steam, it’s naturally better at removing creases. It’s faster to use because of this as well — you won’t have to go over your work so much.
- Great if you have a large laundry pile
Because of its power and sizable tank capacity, it's the better choice if you have a large laundry pile. You won’t need to refill the tank so often as you would with a regular steam iron.
- Good for ironing thick materials
Thanks to its power, a steam generator iron is the one to use if you deal with thicker and tougher items, such as curtains or bed sheets.
- Better steam control
You control the steam output using a trigger, whereas with conventional steam irons, it’s much harder to control, as its continuous. With standard irons, I’ve also found that the continuous steam setting isn’t always responsive, whereas steam generator irons deliver on demand and give you ample steam by comparison.
When cooling, a traditional steam iron must sit open to the elements. This can make you uneasy if there’s children running around. The iron on a steam generator sits flush on its base and can be locked into place when cooling. This makes them harder to access.
- The iron itself is lightweight
As there’s no tank built into the iron, it’s very lightweight compared to traditional steam irons. This makes it much easier to use for longer periods of time without straining your arm.
The cons of a steam generator iron
- Heavy to move around
When filled with water, the entire product is very heavy compared to a regular iron. That’s why I’d recommend filling and emptying the tank from where you use it. You wouldn’t want to store it in an awkward space or high shelf because of this.
- Bulky to store
You will need a good amount of space on your ironing board or have a convenient countertop nearby. They’re much larger to store, too.
- More expensive
There are some cheaper options available, but most will cost much than you would expect for an iron. Some of the most premium models can cost around £450, or more than $600.
Where can I buy a steam generator iron?
You won’t find steam generator irons in most U.S. department stores which is a shame, but they’re widely available in the UK. There are a couple of options on Amazon, but there’s only really two to choose from — the Rowenta VR83421U1 (opens in new tab) or the Laurastar Lift Plus Steam Iron (opens in new tab). Hopefully, in the future, steam generator irons will finally make an entrance in the U.S., and show their potential.