Which Iron Is Best, Steam or Dry?

This is another one of those ironing debates that needs settling. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer. On one side we have “Team Steam” and on the other, “Team Dry”… and their spray bottles. We’re not taking sides, but we do want a finite answer as to which machine will get the ironing done faster.

Which iron is best, steam or dry? A Steam iron is infinitely more effective at removing wrinkles from clothing compared to the traditional dry iron. Steam penetrates fabrics and helps flatten creases in record time, where dry ironing requires more strokes of the iron, plus the help from a spray bottle, to get the same results.

Dry ironing is considered the classic or old fashioned way of ironing. Those who use a dry iron, and prefer it, generally do because it’s what they’re used to. We get that. If it ain’t broke, then why fix it, right?

Well, we’ve uncovered a few solid reasons why it may be time to switch to “Team Steam”.

What is Steam Ironing?

It’s pretty much as simple as it sounds. Steam ironing is the use of steam to remove wrinkles from clothing. The steam is released through the base or soleplate of the iron which smoothes away creases caused by wearing and washing.

What is Dry Ironing?

Dry Ironing is the use of a hot, dry iron to remove wrinkles in clothing. The machine generates no steam of its own. The garment should ideally be slightly damp to help remove the wrinkles or a spray bottle is used to moisten the fabric. Traditionally, dry irons were slightly heavier as the pressure of the iron also helped to flatten the material.

Steam Irons Can Be Used As Dry Irons!

Modern steam irons can be used as dry irons. Most steam irons give you the option of steam, or no steam, by simply flipping a switch. If you prefer to dry iron, you can fill your water reservoir and use the stray feature only. This way you won’t need to have a separate spray bottle and you can get more done with one hand.

We’ve reviewed a selection of the top steam irons for clothing, all with a dry ironing option, check them out if you’re looking for a quality, multi-purpose appliance.

If you’re hesitant to put water in your iron for fear of leaking or spills, you can also choose to leave the tank dry.

Steam Ironing vs Dry Ironing

When choosing an iron, a large consideration should be the exact function it serves. The appliance you choose should offer you more versatility and convenience in a single machine. Here’s a list of features to help you weigh up the benefits.

Ease of Use

How easy it is to use? With a dry iron, it basically has a single function and one dial controls how hot or cool you want your iron. Steam irons are equally easy to use. Once the water reservoir is filled, you only have one additional button to press to enjoy the ease of steam ironing fabrics.

Built-in Spray Mist

Having a spray mist nozzle on the front of the iron leaves your other hand free to flatten the fabric ahead of the hot iron. You never have to place your iron down on its heel to flatten and stray an area, so the process goes a lot smoother… and faster.

Vertical Steaming Option

This can only be done with a steam iron and if you ever want to freshen-up drapes or a hanging garment, only a steam iron will get this done.

For sewers who work with delicate fabrics, steam irons can occasionally drip and mark silk or satin. This is a strong instance where dry ironing is preferred.

Either way, it is not advisable for delicate materials to come in direct contact with the hot ironing plate. Vertical steaming can be a massive time saver in these cases. With dry ironing, placing an ironing cloth over the delicate garment and pressing in stages can be very time-consuming.

Soleplates Work Much the Same

Steam irons have holes in the soleplate where the steam is released from. If you use a steam iron (on its dry setting) for pressing, on rare occasions you may notice small bumps on the fabric where the steam holes would have been positioned on the material. This, however, can easily be remedied by resting and placing the iron once or twice at different angles for a shorter duration.

Dry irons have an even soleplate surface made of stainless steel and possibly coated with ceramic or a similar non-stick substance.


If fabrics or starch scorch onto the base of the soleplate, cleaning is somewhat easier with a dry iron. With a steam iron, holes can get clogged. In both cases, if the iron is coated, take care when cleaning to avoid scratches that can snag the fabric and create an uneven distribution of heat.

Appliance Care

With steam irons, comes the risk of hard water or calcium buildup if the steam iron is not properly cared for. This is not an issue with dry irons as the heating elements do not come into contact with water and this completely avoids any buildup issues.

If you choose steam, there is a little extra care required to avoid wear on the iron as well as damage to clothing. Make sure you use the correct water that will ensure your steam iron remains problem-free.


If you feel like you’re ironing ALL THE TIME, then steam ironing will get the job done twice as fast as traditional dry ironing. Most fabric can be ironed easier and faster with the use of steam. (source)

With a dry iron, more pressure and repeated passes of the iron are required to get the same effect, especially if you need to spray areas with a spray bottle to soften stubborn creases.

Cost Comparison

The cost difference between a steam iron and a dry iron is negligible. On average, you will be spending much the same on a quality iron, regardless if it’s a steam iron or a dry iron.


The weight of your iron depends on the make and size you choose so we can’t give you a definite answer here, although it should be a key factor in your decision process.

If you do a lot of lifting and placing of your iron, you’ll notice some shoulder strain at the end of the day. Although there are advantages to going lighter, you may want a heavier iron to help get some power behind your pressing.

With a steam iron, you need to factor in the weight of the water which the dry iron does not have. However, steam irons are increasingly lightweight in their construction so even this difference should not have a major impact.

In Conclusion

Steam irons are by far the more modern appliance and the versatility they offer makes them the obvious choice.

Many, who are anti-steam, have most likely had a run-in with a faulty of poorly cared for an appliance. We feel your frustration in this regard! A perfectly new white shirt met with a rusty old steam iron is heartbreaking stuff. But one fact you can’t argue, is that steam is the superior wrinkle remover every time.

The fact that you can use your steam iron as a dry iron makes this an easy choice in our book. Why not choose a product that meets your needs, and has some superpowers in its back pocket? You never know when you’ll need a little steam power to help you out of a pickle.