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Steam Iron vs Dry Iron Compared

ironing dry with a steam iron

When you’re in the market for a new iron, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you should get a steam iron or a dry iron. Considering what sort of ironing you’ll be doing and how easy you want the process to be can help you decide which type to buy.

First, though, it makes sense to understand what each of these iron styles is all about. Let’s take a look so you can make an informed decision about your next iron purchase.

All About Dry Ironing

You could think of dry ironing as the most basic form of this chore. Dry irons have flat soleplates that conduct heat.

With a dry iron, the soleplate’s warmth is the primary tool for wrinkle removal. You can boost its effectiveness by pressing down firmly while sliding the iron across your garment.

You might want to spray water on the item that you’re ironing to further help with the de-wrinkling process. A dry iron doesn’t have a built-in spritzer, though, so you’ll need to keep a spray bottle on hand for this.

All About Steam Ironing

Steam irons are more complicated tools than dry irons. As with a dry iron, there’s a soleplate that gets hot when you turn on the unit. In addition, a steam iron has a water reservoir for steam production.

Just like spritzing a garment with a water bottle helps with the ironing process, steam production is beneficial too. A steam iron has small holes in the soleplate for emitting steam while the iron is slid back and forth over the garment.

There may also be a built-in sprayer on the iron so you can spritz extra water on stubborn wrinkles.

Comparing Steam Iron vs. Dry Ironing

Understanding the parts of a steam iron and a dry iron helps you know more about these two options. The next step is to learn more about the benefits or drawbacks of these features and how they’ll make a difference in your ironing process.


If you’re the type of person who hates fiddling with different settings on your various household devices, then you might appreciate a dry iron’s ease of use. While you’ll still need to select the right temperature level for your ironing job, there probably won’t be many other buttons or knobs to adjust.

A steam iron is usually more complicated. For example, there might be a switch for turning steam on and off or a button for blasting extra steam.

One thing to note, though, is that some advanced steam irons can actually be the simplest devices because they boast state-of-the-art technology for maintaining a consistent temperature or sensing the correct steam level.

Water Considerations

There are both pros and cons to the water reservoir on a steam iron.

Obviously, one of the top benefits of a water tank is that steam and a built-in spritzer can make ironing less of a chore. With these assets on your side, you might not have to press the iron down as hard or make as many passes over the material.

On the flip side, water tanks sometimes leak. You may run the risk of getting drips of water on your clothes as you iron them. Splashes on a cotton shirt are annoying but not critical. Water spots on a silk shirt can be a much bigger problem.

Ironing Modes

With a dry iron, you can only do dry ironing. Sure, you can spritz water here and there on your fabric, but that’s not the same as using steam.

Steam iron is much more versatile. it gives you the option to iron with steam, of course, but there’s usually the option to turn the steam off for dry ironing as well.

The steam feature on this type of iron provides an additional mode of removing wrinkles — vertical ironing. That’s when you move your iron up and down next to a hanging item without touching the soleplate to the fabric. Instead, you simply rely on the iron’s steam to loosen creases and wrinkles. Vertical ironing is helpful for draperies and selecting delicate fabrics.


Some textiles are quite suitable for steam ironing. For example, denim and other cotton fabrics do quite well with steam. Linen is another type that can stand up to steam ironing.

Many other fabrics shouldn’t be ironed on steam settings. These include silk, wool, polyester and nylon.

If you have a dry iron, you won’t have to worry about accidentally using steam on an unsuitable fabric. On the other hand, a steam iron gives you greater versatility since you can use it in dry mode or steam mode.


It’s quite easy to clean a dry iron. The flat plate can easily be wiped down with a damp cloth to remove dust or residue.

A steam iron’s water reservoir requires more upkeep. Hard water causes limescale buildup that must be cleaned occasionally. You also have to guard against rust formation since it could stain your clothes.

The soleplate of a steam iron can be tricky to clean as well. The flat base can be wiped down in much the same way that you’d clean a dry iron. To complicate matters, though, the small holes for emitting steam may become blocked. Then you’ll have to clear them one by one.

Steam Ironing vs. Dry Ironing: Which Is Best for You?

If simplicity is your highest priority when iron shopping, then you might consider a dry iron. You’ll have limited settings to adjust, and you’ll find maintenance nearly hassle-free.

A steam iron will give you much more versatility, however, and that makes it the best option for most shoppers. You can turn on the steam setting when it will help your ironing process and turn it off when dry ironing would be more appropriate. As an added bonus, many of today’s steam irons are quite simple to operate and maintain.