Steam iron vs handheld steam cleaner – which should you buy?

We put three different steam irons to the test to see which makes ironing a pleasure not a chore

Which steam iron works best? We put them to the test
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ever feel like your ironing pile is out of control? Yep, us too. Let's be honest, ironing isn't the most exciting chore, but unless you're cool enough to carry off the permanently dishevelled look, it's one you need to get on with. To help make ironing as smooth (sorry) as possible, we've put three different types of steam iron to the test. You can watch the test on the latest episode of the Real Homes Show below, or take a look at our findings: 

For the best prices on irons for every budget, check out our best irons for 2020 guide.

The contenders

We tested steam irons from Breville, Tower and Russell Hobbs

(Image credit: Breville, Tower, Russell Hobbs)
  • Tower 2in1 Ceraglide, RRP £26.99 (opens in new tab) – 2,400W steam iron with unique detachable base that means it can be used cord-free 
  • Breville PressXpress (opens in new tab), RRP £39.99 – 2,600W steam iron with extra-wide plates, large water tank and steam-shot function
  • Russell Hobbs Steam Genie (opens in new tab), RRP £44.99 – 1,650W handheld garment steamer that heats up in 45 seconds and means you don't need an ironing board

The results

We wanted to know how easy the irons are to use and how well they tackle creases on different materials.

1. Ease of use

Unless you've got guns of steel, you'll want a iron that's lightweight and easy to manoeuvre. It also needs to be simple to prop up on your ironing board while you're moving your clothes around. 

The Tower 2in1 weighs in at just 1.2kg but is even lighter and easier to move around once you detach the base to turn it into a cordless iron. The only issue we found was that the large base won't fit into the storage slot on a standard ironing board.

The Breville PressXpress is a little heavier, at 1.8kg, but it does have a bigger water tank, meaning less refills. It's wider than a standard iron, which takes a little getting use to, but means you can tackle a wider area with each stroke.

Our handheld steamer, the Russell Hobbs Steam Genie, is a middleweight champion at 1.6kg. It has a smaller 0.26-litre tank that provides 11 minutes of steaming time. It's super-easy to use, just hold down the button for steam, but it is easy to know over when the water tank is empty.

Winner = For getting the ironing done quickly, the Breville PressXpress (opens in new tab), with it's wider head, is worth the extra weight.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 WeightTank sizePower
Tower 2in11.2kg0.36L2,400W
Breville PressXpress1.8kg0.4L2,600W
Russell Hobbs Steam Genie1.6kg0.26L1,650W

2. Tackling those creases

There's nothing more annoying than an iron that snags on wool or hasn't got enough power for stubborn creases on linen. 

We found the bargain Tower 2in1 had the most responsive controls and adjusted its temperature quickly. 

The Breville PressXpress was the best on stubborn creases but got so hot it took a while to cool down for more delicate fabrics. 

The Russell Hobbs Steam Genie is great for getting creases out of curtains and bedding, and worked well on a wool scarf, but we found it fiddly for smoothing creases on the arms and collars of shirts.

Winner = If it's an all-rounder you're looking for, you can't go wrong with the Tower 2in1 (opens in new tab). It's a proper bargain, too.

Which should you choose?

  • If you want an affordable, multi-tasking iron, you can't go wrong with the Tower 2in1 (opens in new tab). We found the cordless feature unnecessary, but it's a great product for the price.
  • If you have a lot of ironing to tackle, then the wide head on the Breville PressXpress (opens in new tab) means you power through the pile more quickly. Plus, it's the best on stubborn creases.
  • It won't replace a standard iron, but the Russell Hobbs Steam Genie (opens in new tab) is great to have in the cupboard for steaming curtains, upholstery and bedding. The delicates head is great for silk clothing, too.
Laura Crombie

Laura is Brand Development Director for Real Homes, focusing on digital content. She has written about homes and interiors for the last 12 years and was Deputy Editor and Editor of Real Homes before taking on her current position. She's currently renovating a 1960s house in Worcestershire, doing as much as possible on a DIY basis.