Steam irons available for consumer use and have many more features than in the past. Although ironing will always be a chore, the right features can make it less bothersome as well as more effective and safe.
Most steam irons come equipped with an automatic shut-off feature. This will suspend the heating function after a preset time that the iron is not in use. Most steam irons will not continue to heat if left still for too long. Most steam irons have a light that indicates the power is on and flashes when the automatic shut-off has been engaged. This is not only a standard safety feature but an energy-saving one.
A dial or lever-type switch should be easily accessible and clearly indicate the heat settings for different fabrics. There should also be a switch to enable or disable the steam option as it is not always needed and can even cause damage to some fabrics.
Usually, there is a button that can be pressed for a stream of water onto the fabric or a burst of steam. This makes ironing out tough creases and wrinkles easier and more convenient. There should be no need for a spray bottle with modern steam irons.
There should also be a gauge to set the amount of steam required. This setting should work in tandem with the anti-leak mechanism which stops water from dripping out of the iron when the steam is low or disengaged.
It is best if the water gauge is transparent. It will usually have a bobber that floats on top of the water which indicates the water level when viewed through the marked plastic or glass.
To accurately see the water gauge during filling, it is usually best for the iron to be in the upright position on a flat surface. There are some irons that have a removable water reservoir which can be taken to the water source and filled without dripping on the iron or having to wait for the heating elements to cool down to avoid damage.
The water supply held within the steam iron is usually sealed by a hinged cover over the filling hole. Some steam irons have an internal sealing hatch not visible to the user but that stops the water from leaking when the iron is in use.
Iron cords used to be wrapped in fabric for insulation of the high current and heat that the iron demands. This is not very common anymore because the fabric usually frayed after time and use and caused more hazards than it prevented. Steam iron cords are now made with a very heavy plastic that is also very flexible.
Many current models of steam irons have retractable cords which make storage much easier. Care has to be taken to ensure the cord wraps properly and does not whip into place.
There are also many models of steam irons that are cordless. Although these models offer convenience in manoeuvrability, they have to be returned to the charging cradle frequently which has an electrical cord for charging the handset of the iron.