Should You Choose a Dry Iron or A Steam Iron?

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Dry iron vs a steam iron — which one’s best?

You want to look your best, right? For dates, interviews, parties and meetings. The best way to ensure crisp and sharp clothes is to iron them. But when you’re in the market for an iron, you might notice you’re overwhelmed with choices.

A big one is how to choose between a dry iron vs a steam iron. In the world of irons, it’s important to choose the best one for your needs. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences, pros and cons of both a dry iron and a steam iron.

Dry Iron vs Steam Iron

A dry iron has a soleplate that heats up. You can press it onto clothing to get clean, smooth garments. Whereas a steam iron has steam holes and outputs that emit hot steam to get out stubborn wrinkles, faster and easier. But it doesn’t work for every type of fabric.


Dry vs Steam Iron

You’re probably wondering what the differences are between a steam iron vs a dry iron. We cover the important basis when it comes to these ironing tools.

Water Tank

The first big difference is the water tank. A steam iron has one so that it can produce steam. Meanwhile, a dry iron obviously does not have a water tank.

Because of this, dry irons don’t leak, spray or spit water onto your clothes. If you want to avoid that, then a dry iron would be a better choice.

On the other hand, having a water tank allows a steam iron to emit proper steam. This allows for easy and effective ironing. Steam is great for removing stubborn wrinkles!

Steam Output and Steam Holes

Steam irons have a steam output and steam holes. Some have a steam output made up of hundreds of tiny holes which gives out a great amount of steam. This allows you to have wrinkle-free clothes that don’t need to be reironed often.

Dry irons do not have steam holes. The soleplate will be flat and smooth. This is a good choice of iron if you’re into arts and crafts that require ironing.

If you choose a steam iron, make sure the holes aren’t blocked. That way, you get the correct amount of steam for your clothes.

Spray Mist

A good steam iron will come with an option to spray mist. Sounds fun, right? Well, it is. This function lets you dampen the clothes so that it’s easier to iron out wrinkles.

If you use a dry iron, you won’t have this option. You have to use some elbow grease to really press in to stubborn wrinkles. Of courses, you can use a spray bottle to dampen clothes first. It’s a little old fashioned, but it works.

The Soleplate

We’ve mentioned some differences to the soleplate. For example, a dry iron will have a flat soleplate. This makes it a breeze to clean!

A steam iron has lots of steam holes for the steam to get released. This does require some more hassle when it comes to cleaning, as you’ll need to work on each individual hole in case they get blocked up.

Versatility

A great feature of the steam iron is that it can double up as a dry iron. You don’t always need to use the steam function. If you keep the tank empty, you’ve got yourself a dry iron!

It’s important to empty the water tank on occasion anyway. Some clothes, such as satin and silk, require dry ironing.

Unfortunately, a dry iron can never double up as a steam iron. They’re not as versatile as the steam iron. If you want something that has extra features, a steam iron is a top choice.

Frequency of Usage

Finally, it’s helpful to think about how often you iron. If you iron often, then a steam iron is a great purchase. With the versatility of this iron, you can change the settings to work on most types of clothings. You can even use the steam setting for upholstery and furniture.

It’s also easier to iron a bunch of clothes at once with the steam iron. They are more efficient and once you get the hang of it, easy to use!

Should You Buy a Dry or Steam Iron?

When deciding between a dry vs steam iron, you should know the pros and cons. Plus, which iron is best for specific fabrics? We’ve got the answers.

Dry Iron

Woman ironing a shirt with a dry iron

Here are the pros and cons of the dry iron.

PROS:
  • You can iron most, if not all, fabrics with a dry iron.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
  • Budget-friendly.
  • They last long.
  • They don’t leave marks on clothes.
CONS:
  • No steam or spray function.
  • Not as effective on stubborn wrinkles.
  • No extra features, besides temperature control.

Steam Iron

Ironing clothes with a steam iron

When it comes to steam ironing, there are also pros and cons.

PROS:
  • Effective crease removal.
  • Steam and spray option.
  • Vertical ironing is an option.
  • You can use on furniture, curtains and upholstery.
  • Doubles as a dry iron.
  • Quickly and easily remove wrinkles.
CONS:
  • Heavy.
  • Requires more energy.
  • They can leave marks on clothes.
  • Doesn’t work with every fabric.
  • More difficult to clean.
  • They can leak.

Fabric Table

We’ve also made a super useful table to help you know which iron to use on different fabrics.

Dry IronSteam Iron
Wool (cashmere, flannel)PolyesterCotton (denim, muslin, etc.)
Embroidery and laceNylonCorduroy
SilkAcetateVelvet
RayonAcrylicLinen
Satin

Be Careful

Before ironing, check the clothing label to see if it can be ironed. For each individual garment, do extra research in case it requires special care when being ironed. For example, for velvet, you should only use a little steam while the item is on a hanger. Don’t hold it too close and keep moving it around.

Using a Steam Iron as a Dry Iron

By now, you know that a steam iron is a versatile little gadget and can double as a dry iron. We’ll give you some tips on how to use the steam iron as a dry iron.

You need to turn off the steam function and empty the water tank to use a steam iron as a dry iron. It’s best to do this when ironing fabrics like polyester, rayon or silk since they can’t be steam ironed. You don’t want to ruin your favorite clothes!

It depends what you need the iron for, but choosing a steam option means you get the best of both worlds. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper option, the dry iron will do the trick. Dry irons are also better for certain projects, like heat transfer.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re considering buying either option, it’s sensible to wonder about any cool features they may possess. We’ll answer some important questions for you before you decide to buy either a dry or steam iron.

What Is the Steam for on a Steam Iron?

The steam function is used mostly for getting wrinkles out quickly. Steam permeates through fabric fibres while the heat makes them stay in place (1). So for the most smooth, crisp results, try using the steam setting.

Does Steaming Shrink Clothes?

It can. If you use the steam setting on any fabrics that can’t be used with steam, they could shrink.

Yep, we’re talking about wool, silk, satin, cashmere, and polyester. So unless you are trying to shrink clothes on purpose, don’t use a steam iron on these fabrics.

Which Soleplate Coating Is Best for Irons?

There are a few different soleplate coatings for irons. These include ceramic, stainless steel and titanium.

Stainless steel is definitely the most common. It’s non-corrosive and heat resistant, making it ideal for ironing. However, things can stick to the stainless steel which can leave marks on the clothes.

Ceramic coatings work well, too. They can eliminate static at high heats, but they can also wear and tear more over time.

A titanium coating is great for fast ironing, an even transfer of heat and its ability to resist material particles from sticking to it. At extremely high heats, titanium soleplates can melt materials.

Each coating is best for different things, so you should consider your personal circumstances before choosing.

For a general guide, choose stainless steel if you iron natural fibres like cotton, rayon, wool, silk and linen. If you iron a lot of synthetic clothes such as spandex, use a ceramic coating. If you iron both frequently, try out a titanium coating as it works with pretty much any fabric.

Something to Note

If you do go for the common stainless steel, just make sure to clean it often so it doesn’t leave unsightly marks on your lovely clothes.

Can I Leave Water in a Steam Iron?

Yes, you can. However, if you live in a hard water area, it’s recommended you don’t leave water in the steam iron. But for soft water areas, it’s not a problem if you frequently reach for your iron.

However, it’s best to empty it after every use if you iron occasionally. This way, the water won’t leave a build-up in the tank.

Can You Use Tap Water in a Steam Iron?

The ideal situation would be that you can fill your steam iron up with water from the tap. However, that might not always be the case.

It totally depends on your iron, so check with the manufacturer before filling up the water tank. For the most part, you should be able to use tap water for ironing.

However, if you live in a hard water area, it’s recommended that you mix tap water half and half with distilled water. This is so that there’s no build-up inside the water tank.

How Can I Remove Scale Buildup on My Iron?

It’s normal for your iron to have a scale build up over time. But don’t worry, we can help you clean it.

  1. Use a limescale remover: For best results, use a limescale remover. You can make your own by mixing equal parts distilled white vinegar and water. Pour some solution onto a wet lint free cloth.
  2. Wipe the soleplate: In circular motions, wipe the soleplate with the cloth.
  3. Fill the tank: Now fill the tank ¾ full with the solution.
  4. Turn on: Turn on the iron and give it time to heat up.
  5. Steam: Press the steam button repeatedly so the solution can work through the iron. If your iron has a self clean button, press that now.
  6. Refill: Once that’s done, refill the iron with clean water.
  7. Steam: Press the steam button again a few times.

These simple steps will remove scale build up from your iron so it’s as good as new.


Decision Time

Now that you know the main differences between a dry iron vs a steam iron, it’s decision time.

In summary, a dry iron is great for most fabrics. They work great with delicates like satin, silk and wool. They’re easy to clean and don’t leave marks on clothes. However, they’re not as effective on stubborn wrinkles, nor do they have extra features for versatility.

You can always opt for a steam iron to get the best out of both irons, since it doubles as a dry iron. The steam and spray button helps with getting out wrinkles. You can also use on furniture, curtains and upholstery. The drawbacks include difficulty cleaning, leaving marks on clothes, and leaking.

With these tips, you’ll find the right iron for you.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!
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