There is a seemingly endless selection of irons available online with so many brands and details to consider. One key feature they all share is the soleplate, but even this single detail creates confusion. Coated or uncoated, tapered or untapered, small or large, 10 steam holes or 400? As the soleplate is the number one point of contact between your clothes and the iron, its worth a little investigation.
Which soleplate is best for ironing? Stainless steel soleplates have excellent glide when ironing and are also the easiest to clean. Ceramic soleplates help protect clothing from scorch marks but tend to also wear faster due to their special coating that can wear over time.
We have found stainless steel to be the more popular soleplate finishes, check out our best stainless steel irons review article where you can compare the key differences side-by-side or go to our home page if you want to see more ironing tips and advice.
Stainless Steel vs Ceramic Soleplate Irons
Both stainless steel and ceramic iron soleplates are excellent conductors of heat, but there are some important differences too…
Stainless Steel Soleplates:
- Are more durable
- Smoother improved glide over fabrics
- Much easier to clean and maintain
Ceramic Coated Iron Soleplates:
- Have the benefit of eliminating static while ironing
- Can reach higher temperatures without scorching fabrics
- Their ceramic coating wears off after some time, no matter how well you try to care for it
- They just aren’t as smooth (in my opinion) despite the “non-stick” marketing campaigns
Are Ceramic Irons Better?
But hold on, don’t ceramic irons claim to be much better? Surely this isn’t all just marketing hoo-ha?
Look… some ceramic iron models like the T-fal Ultraglide claim that their ceramic soleplates “glide” smoother than stainless steel irons, but from using both the T-fal and other non-ceramic irons, I just don’t feel that’s true. In my opinion, the effortless cleaning and maintenance of stainless steel irons far outweigh the supposed benefits of ceramic soleplates.
Coated vs Uncoated
Traditionally, coated iron plates do not last as long as stainless steel soleplates and although technology is ever-changing and improving, stainless steel is more often the safer bet.
Coated ironing plates tend to age faster. In the event of an accidental burn or scorch, some coated surfaces take damage that they can’t come back from. Cleaning can cause damage to coated surfaces. Both wear and scratches can make the soleplate surface uneven, this will result in delicate fabrics snagging and you’ll notice that the glide of the iron becomes more difficult.
Non-Stick Soleplates – The term “non-stick” generally implies that a soleplate is coated, the non-stick material could be ceramic, titanium, Teflon, anodized aluminum, silicone, or enameled. Non-stick materials often don’t have the same glide as stainless steel but can reach higher temperatures without the risk of scorching
Hamilton Beach Durathon – Relatively new to me is the Hamilton Beach Durathon Non-Stick Coating. They claim their soleplate coating is 10 times more durable than traditional non-stick coatings. Plus, it’s durable and scratch-resistant. The impressive 10-year warranty that they offer on their soleplate makes me think we may have a game-changer here.
Large Soleplate vs Small
The size of your soleplate depends very much on what type of ironing you’ll be doing. If you plan to use it while travel, craft, or attend sewing classes, you will more than likely choose a smaller sized iron with a smaller ironing plate. However, for larger jobs and huge amounts of clothes ironing, a large iron that covers a larger surface area means the job gets done faster.
This quick guide will help you find the iron that best suits your needs.
- Traveling – For travel purposes, you need something small that can fit easily in your luggage. As you will most likely be ironing a single item at a time, a small soleplate with adequate steaming ability is all you need. Oh, and don’t forget to check for dual voltage if you’re traveling overseas.
- Sewing – Depending on what you’re sewing and the size of your project, your choice can range anywhere between small and large, you may possibly even need one of each. A smaller iron allows you to work with smaller details, like seams, without weight being an issue. The precision also means you’re less likely to burn your fingers.
- Quilting – If you are working on large quilts, a small iron will take forever to press the entire surface, so here, we’d recommend switching to a larger surfaced soleplate. A small iron plate will suit piece work and patching.
- Crafting – As with more detailed sewing, a smaller iron allows you more control. If you frequently working with adhesives, a small surface will make it easier to avoid sticky areas that could gum up your soleplate.
- Home Ironing – Here, a large iron with a precision tip is key. Especially if the ironing pile is frequent and large, you’ll want to power through it as quickly as possible. Lots of steam holes will mean faster wrinkle removal and the precision tip will help you navigate collars, cuffs, and in between buttons with ease.
- Professional Needs – Seamstresses and tailors need precision as well as powerful, even steam distribution. Consider a soleplate with more steam holes and possibly even a steam generator iron for high-pressure steam.
- Linen – Linen requires less precision, but the larger the surface area or your soleplate, the quicker you’ll get through the load. If you run a serviced apartment or Airbnb, then a professional steam generator iron will save you a lot of time. These machines have impressive steam ironing performance with infinitely less time spent filling the water tank.
How Many Steamholes Should a Soleplate Have?
There’s no perfect number, but the ultimate goal is to have the most even steam distribution possible, as steam power is what truly vaporized wrinkles and creases. The higher the steam efficiency, the less exposure your clothes have to the soleplate and this helps reduce “shine” when ironing.
Many soleplates only have steam holes in the top half of the iron’s soleplate but others like the Rowenta micro steam soleplate, for example, has 400 holes evenly spaced over the entire surface of the soleplate.
It’s obvious to see how this feature would vastly improve the amount of time you spend ironing. That’s a big plus in anyone’s book.
Tapered or Shaped Soleplates
There are several soleplate shapes and designs that vary from functional to potentially gimmicky, but then again, it could come down to your individual preference or what you’re used to.
- Traditional – The traditional shape generally tapers at the front tip of the iron. This helps with ironing more detailed areas like between buttons or over seams, collars, and cuffs. The back of the iron is generally squared off with slightly rounded edges.
- U-Shaped Soleplate – Panasonic is one example of a brand that has moved away from the traditional soleplate shape. The U-Shapes
- Multi-Directional – Again, we have pictured a Panasonic soleplate above which looks like two iron tips fused together. This is a clever addition to their portable iron as it allows you to iron in any direction and get into every detail without turning the iron around.
Soleplate Shoe Covers for Protection
Soleplate shoe covers are a great way to protect the surface of your soleplate from build-up. If you use starch this can cause a brown burn mark to form and grow on your soleplate if its not cleaned regularly. A soleplate cover or shoe-plate means you don’t have to risk any damage to the ironing plate itself.
The only drawback is it uses a lot of steam for ironing. If the steam holes do not align, the steam power of your iron will be negatively affected. The manufacturers of the Rowenta 400 hole soleplate have created a shoe cover that aligns with the soleplate’s steam holes. In this case, the steam release is not impaired and you can risk residue sticking to the shoe plate (which is affordable to replace), instead of the soleplate.
Should You Use a Soleplate Cleaner?
Yes, prevention is better than cure. As you use your iron, regular cleans will avoid buildup and the creation of a large burnt mess on your soleplate which is much harder to clean. Cleaning your soleplate of any starch or scorched fibers will improve its glide and avoid blockage of steam holes. A smoother glide means less wear on your clothing so they will last and look better for longer.
For coated soleplates, refer to your user manual to ensure you are using the correct cleaning method that avoids damaging it. When cleaning any type of soleplate, do not use rough scouring pads. Even fine scratches on the ironing plate create resistance when ironing as well as uneven heating of the soleplate. This can result in burns and ruined clothing.
The best soleplate for ironing is of course also a matter of personal preference. If you’ve used stainless steel or a coated soleplate for years, it will be what you’re most comfortable with. Just like the weight and feel of the iron, the smooth glide of a soleplate can make light work of ironing. Taking the above information into consideration will help you find the iron that’s the best fit for your needs.