Whether it's a basic no-frills type, a cordless model, a compact travel take-along, or an electric wonder loaded with features, all steam irons work the same way. They press out wrinkles in fabric using moisture, pressure and heat.
There are some useful features found on higher-end models. An automatic shut-off turns off the iron if you haven't used it within a certain amount of time. A burst-of-steam feature blasts badly wrinkled or hard-to-iron fabric with extra steam. A spray mechanism moistens fabric. Self-cleaning vents help keep the soleplate free of mineral deposits. Dual voltage capacity and a plug adapter allow you to use the iron in foreign countries.
Here are some tips on using an iron safely and getting the most from it:
* An iron draws a lot of electricity. Don't plug one into a circuit with other high-wattage devices--it could blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.
* Make sure the switch is off when you plug in an iron. Always plug an iron into a wall outlet, never an extension cord.
* Unplug the iron before refilling the water tank.
* When not in use, keep the iron on its heel rest with the steam button off.
* Turn off the iron and unplug it before leaving the ironing area.
* Don't fill an iron with water that has been processed through a home water-softening system. The added minerals could harm the iron and your clothes.
* Never iron over buttons and zippers; they can scratch the soleplate. Don't touch the iron to any plastic material.
* To prevent pitting of the soleplate, drain all water from the iron after each use, while the iron is still hot. Store the iron in an upright position.
* Before storing the iron, make sure it is cool. Wrap the cord loosely around it. Wrapping the cord too lightly can damage the wires.
* To keep a steam iron in good condition, clean it often. As tap water evaporates inside a steam iron, it leaves behind mineral deposits that can clog the iron's steam and spray mechanisms.
* If you have a self-cleaning iron that blasts out sediment at the touch of a button, use this feature after every ironing session.
* If your iron doesn't have this feature, clean the iron at the first sign of mineral buildup. Use a commercial steam iron cleaner or flush the tank with a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water.
* If your iron needs frequent cleaning, use distilled water instead of mineral-laden tap water to fill the tank each time you iron.
* The iron's working surface, the soleplate, may be plain metal or coated with an easy-to-clean nonstick material. A clean soleplate glides over fabric; a dirty, rough one will drag or snag. Inspect the soleplate regularly for scratches or burned-on-starch. A badly scratched soleplate can sometimes be resurfaced at a service center. But get the estimate first; it may be cheaper to buy a new iron.
* Wipe off buildup on the soleplate with a sponge and a commercial soleplate cleaner. Mild detergent and baking soda and water also work. Keep the cleaner out of the steam vents. Never immerse the iron in water.