Sara Lawson from Sew Sweetness is the author of the upcoming Big-City Bags: Sew Handbags with Style, Sass, and Sophistication. We’ll share more about Big-City Bags later this month! Today Sara stopped by to share some iron reviews. If you sew you probably have some iron experiences to share!– The expensive iron that didn’t live up to the hype? The time your fusible interfacing fused to, well, the iron?! If you’re thinking about a new iron this is the post for you!

Be sure to stop by Sara’s Sew Sweetness pattern shop, where all of her beautiful bag designs are offered in PDF format. You should also check out Purse Palooza 2013 which runs on the Sew Sweetness blog for the entire month of October. There are daily pattern reviews, giveaways, prizes and more!

Don’t miss the giveaway with today’s post below. You can comment for a chance to win one of two new irons, and we’d also love to hear from you about your iron. Answer the questions below on your site and add a link!
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Hello everyone! My name is Sara Lawson from Sew Sweetness. I am a handbag designing fiend, and so my iron takes a lot of wear and tear. Don’t get me wrong, I love making quilts too, but I feel like making bags takes an especially trustworthy iron because I need to utilize all of the features of the iron in order to fuse bag interfacing to my fabric; steam, water spritz, sometimes higher temperatures– the whole she-bang.

Last month, my iron started leaking water out of the bottom of the iron in large amounts. It ruined one of my husband’s work shirts (which he was ironing himself, as I don’t iron clothes!). I thought how could this be? I received the iron only 18 months ago as a Christmas gift, and it was a $100 iron. The warranty for the iron was only for 1 year, so I was out of luck.

When I emailed the manufacturer they asked what kind of water I had been using, and they stated a different type of water was suggested in their manual. I felt extremely let down by the product. In my quest to find a new iron, I decided to compare a group of irons to see how they would initially stack up against each other. Here are my results!

The Contenders

Black and Decker The Classic iron (model number F67E) – Retail price $29.99, found on Amazon for $24.94

Sunbeam Turbo Steam Master (model number GCSBCS-112) – Retail price $49.99, found on Amazon

Shark Ultimate Professional iron (model number GI568) – Retail price $59.99, found on Amazon for $53.99

Singer Expert Finish iron – Retail price $89.99, found on Amazon

Rowenta Professional iron (model number DW8060) – Retail price $125.00, found on Amazon for $84.71

Oliso Pro smartiron (model number TG1600) – Retail price $199.99, found on Amazon for $146.84

The Warranties

What type of warranty a product has is always an important consideration when purchasing a new product. This is your insurance that, if something goes wrong with the product, the company will either repair your iron or provide you with another iron.

Black and Decker – 2 year limited warranty (in the U.S. and Canada only)
Sunbeam – 1 year limited warranty
Shark – 1 year limited warranty
Singer – 2 year warranty
Rowenta – 1 year warranty
Oliso – 1 year warranty

Customer Service

How a company handles consumer questions is also important to me. In this digital age, I feel like any company should be available to handle questions over the computer (who has time to sit on the phone and wait “in line”?). I contacted each of these companies via email or on a form on the company website, and here is my experience about their customer service:

Black and Decker – On their website there is a button on their top navigation that says “Contact Us”; when you click, it takes you to a form that either has an email to a particular department (as Black and Decker manufactures a lot of different types of products), or an automated form to answer a question. I contacted them, and never received any type of response. Rating: F

Sunbeam – I received a prompt response to my question from someone in the applicable department. Response was friendly and personable. Rating: A+

Shark – I did not see an area on their website to contact them. There was a tiny link on their website for “Feedback” and I tried that link, which supplied me with some sort of email address. I received an automated response that my message had been received, but I never received a response. Rating: D-

Singer – There is a contact form on their website, as well as an actual email address to contact. I emailed them, and their customer service is apparently very well set up, as my email was forwarded to the appropriate person to answer my question. I received a response from an actual person a couple hours later. The email was very friendly and personal. Rating: A+

Rowenta – On the Rowenta site there is a contact form, as well as an email address for media and press. I tried both the contact form and the media email address that was provided. I received an automated email response (i.e. Thank you for contacting us, we will respond shortly…), but never received an actual response to my questions. Rating: D-

Oliso – Oliso has a contact form on their site, as well as an email address to contact them. I contacted them twice, receiving a friendly email from an actual person both times. I never got a resolution to my emailed question, but I appreciated the time the customer service rep took in answering my initial emails (and it was actually the same person both times, so she remembered me). Rating: B+

Water

A major point of confusion for me is what type of water to use in my iron. Each type of iron and, it also seems, each person, has a different point of view. My answer for each iron was taken directly from that iron’s user manual. The Oliso, the Shark, and the Black and Decker irons came with little plastic pouring cups, which made pouring water into the irons a bit easier.

Black and Decker – Tap water.
Sunbeam – Tap water.
Shark – Tap water is okay unless you have hard water, then use distilled water.
Singer – Tap water, unless you have hard water, then use cheap bottled spring water.
Rowenta – Tap water.
Oliso – Tap water, or if you have hard water, use cheap bottled spring water.

Features

I read each iron’s user manual, and here are some of the special features that were talked about in the manuals.

Black and Decker – 3-way auto shut-off, anti-drip.
Sunbeam – Vertical steam, motion smart auto-off feature, self-cleaning.
Shark – Anti-drip feature, anti-calcium (prolongs life of the iron), self-cleaning.
Singer – 3-way Smart auto-off, anti-drip, anti-scale, self-cleaning.
Rowenta – Anti-drip, 3 position auto-off, anti-scale cartridge, self-clean function.
Oliso – I-touch function (this iron allows you to keep it in the down position at all times; the user touches the iron handle and the iron senses your hand and lowers against your fabric; let the sensor go and the scorch guard raises the iron above the fabric). This is a neat feature and seems exclusive to the Oliso irons.

First Impressions

These are my first impressions about the irons, their appearance and about how they felt in my hand. These are clearly just my opinions. This is with the irons unplugged, before I even used them.

Black and Decker – This was the smallest iron out of the group. It felt heavy in my hand. There is a manual turn dial to choose your fabric setting, and a bright orange button for steam. Due to the small size, the water tank appears to be very small.

Sunbeam – The iron feels very light-weight. It has an electronic face for choosing fabric type. There is also a button for steam.

Shark – Has four different settings for fabric. There is a button for steam, and also for a stream of water.

Singer – This is the only iron with a digital setting for choosing fabric type, etc. There is a button for steam, and also for a stream of water. This is the lightest iron of the group.

Rowenta – There is a round dial to choose from many fabric settings. There is also a horizontal button in which you can choose the strength of the steam output. There is a button for steam and one for stream of water.

Oliso – There is a horizontal button which allows you to choose what type of fabric, from 3 different settings. There is another horizontal button for the amount of steam output, as well as a button for steam and one for stream of water. The water tank is clear plastic, which allows you to easily see how much water is left.

The Experiment

I plugged each iron in, added some water to the water tank and got ready to iron! I washed and partially dried (to make sure they were extra wrinkly) a piece of quilt shop quality cotton, as well as a piece of silky apparel fabric, to test how well the irons did in a real life situation.

Black and Decker – The iron was hot and ready to go in about 2 minutes. I was thoroughly impressed with how quickly the iron got all the wrinkles out of the quilting cotton. I mean, both fabrics were perfectly flat. I did not need to use a spritz of water to get these results. The iron felt very heavy in my hand, as it feels like all of the iron body parts (except the handle) are metal. I feel it did not glide as smoothly across the fabric.

Sunbeam – The iron got hot quickly. It was easy to press the electronic dial and choose “Cotton”. It was very clear and simple. The iron got all of the wrinkles out of the fabric without having to use water, despite that it felt light-weight compared to the others.

Shark – The iron heated up in less than a minute. It glided smoothly across the fabric, but I needed to use a little spritz of water to get the wrinkles out. The water sprays out from about 2″ above the iron plate.

Singer – I like the digital display on this iron a lot. It is a good-sized display, and there is no question about what kind of fabric type you have chosen as a number and fabric reads on the display. The iron beeps when plugged in, and beeps when heated up, which is a great feature. The iron has a tiny awkward glide when going across the fabric; I can’t really put my finger on it. It doesn’t really bother me but I did just notice it when I first tried it out. The iron gets all the wrinkles out, even before spritzing.

Rowenta – The iron heats up quickly. The iron plate has an elongated pointy tip area, which is longer than the other irons. This tip is very useful when ironing open seams of quilt blocks. I needed to use a bit of spritz to get all of the wrinkles out of the cotton fabric. Super smooth glide.

Oliso – The iTouch feature is *awesome*. As soon as I put the plate of the iron against my ironing board and took my hand off the handle, the little feet came up, lifting the iron off my ironing board. It’s not a super-smooth glide; I would just say that it is moderate. I felt that the iron got the fabric almost all the way flat without use of spritz of water.

Conclusion

Here are some of my thoughts after researching and actually using these irons. Again, I want to stress that these are just my opinions. Of course, I have not tested the irons for long-term usage.

I feel like any of these irons would work well, depending on your usage and needs. For example, if the user had arthritis or pain in their hands or wrists, I would probably gravitate toward an iron that glided smoothly and was not super heavy, or even one like the Oliso where you did not have to rest the iron at all, minimizing your hand movement. I liked the fact that the cheapest iron, the Black and Decker, produced the smoothest fabric. In addition to that, the Black and Decker had the longest warranty of the group, although the lack of customer service worried me. Sunbeam did better than I expected; this was a very good and light-weight iron! For people who have trouble learning to use new devices I found the Singer to be the most user-friendly, with the digital display and beeping when plugged in and when heated up. I like the pointy tip of the Rowenta; for ironing open seams on quilts, I feel like this is a small yet awesome feature. Although the Shark did not perform poorly, it didn’t have any features or output that wowed me.

I think budget also plays a part when people choose which iron to purchase. The prices for these irons are a very wide range. Some you can find in most big-box stores (like the Black and Decker), and some are only available in specialty stores (like the Oliso).

When purchasing a new iron, I think it’s important to rate which features you think are most important to you (glide? weight? price? getting it smooth on the first go? other features? customer service?). You can use some of the observations I have made here, and rank them according to importance.

With these recommendations I think I will be making my husband purchase his own iron… Because an iron is like your sewing scissors– it’s only meant to be used on your good fabric and nothing else!

I invite you to link back to this post with a blog post of your own, and let me know the answers to the following questions about your iron usage! Since you’ve had your iron longer than I’ve had these review irons, I’m curious to see what your long-term opinion is about your iron:

1. What brand of iron do you use? How much did it cost (approximately)?
2. Do you use steam or no steam?
3. Do you use a pressing cloth? Wet or dry?
4. Do you use spray starch?
5. Do you use any tools (to open seams, etc.)?
6. Do you use your iron differently when you’re quilting than when you’re sewing?

We are also giving away TWO Sunbeam irons, one to each winner (sorry, U.S. only)! The Sunbeam Turbo Steam Master Professional and the Sunbeam Steam Master will be awarded to one randomly-drawn winner each. Comment below for a chance to win!