You'd think no-iron shirts and wrinkle-releaser sprays would have killed off the iron. No way. Iron sales are up, with 13.1 million irons sold in 2010, an increase from 2009, according to HomeWorld Business. They come in handy for putting creases in khaki pants or pressing heirloom tablecloths. A recent Riedel Marketing Group survey found that tough economic times have driven more consumers back to their ironing boards. Some iron shirts for work to save money on dry cleaning; others now press their clothes so they look extra crisp and professional for job interviews.
Dual functions: Sunbeam's Convertible Iron + Steamer, winner of the 2011 Good Housekeeping VIP Award for innovation, irons and converts to a handheld steamer.
Soleplate designs: The elliptical shape of the Panasonic 360 titanium soleplate, pointed at both ends, saves ironing time.
Options for quilters and crafters: New models, such as Oliso's Pro Smart, have longer auto-shut-off times to accommodate sewers.
Empty water: Never leave water sitting in an iron. Mineral deposits can clog steam vents.
Clean the soleplate: Starch and hard water buildup slow performance and may snag your clothes. Buy a soleplate cleaning kit, which generally cost less than $10.
Put it away: Don't leave your iron on your ironing board when not in use. It's too easy for it to be knocked over. Always unplug when finished.
Low, medium, high
Brian Hoke, Macy's vice president and merchandise manager for electrics, chose three irons from Macy's small appliance department. Hoke, by the way, irons his own shirts.
Black & Decker First Impressions ICR500: Cord reel automatically spools cord, comfort-grip handle, surge function provides blast of steam and doubles as a vertical steamer, $44.99.
Rowenta Effective Comfort Cord Reel DW2090: Scratch-resistant stainless steel soleplate, large water tank, cord reel, $89.99.
Rowenta Focus DW5080: Self-cleaning system, vertical steam function for drapery cleaning, thumb rest, comfort handle and retractable cord, $129.99
• Look for an iron that steams vertically as well as horizontally. That way, you can also use it as you would a handheld steamer, for draperies or a suit, says Carolyn Forte, director of home appliances for Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
• Pick up the iron before you buy to see if the handle is comfortable and to be sure it isn't too heavy. Keep in mind, however, that heavier irons tend to be better at getting rid of wrinkles.
• Buy a model with a retractable cord reel for convenience as well as safety, Hoke says.