The eternal battle. One dry, the other hot and steamy. Which iron comes out on top? It might seem like a fairly simple choice, but it all depends on factors like the type of material, how often you plan on ironing, and the kind of budget you have.
A steam iron is the best in terms of versatility, and you can use it as a dry iron. However, dry iron is a much cheaper choice and if you don’t plan on doing a lot of ironing it makes more sense. But remember the steam is there for those really stubborn creases.
Ready to learn more about what these irons have in common, the differences, and which is going to be best for you? Of course, you are, it’s time to scroll down and get immersed.
Dry Iron vs Steam Iron: What’s the Difference?
There are several key differences between a dry iron and a steam iron, as well as advantages (and downsides) to using each of them.
This is a pretty major difference when comparing the two. A steam iron has a water tank in order to produce, well, steam, and the size varies according to the model. A dry iron really sticks to its name here and you’ll find that it doesn’t have a tank at all.
The advantage to having no water tank is that you don’t have to worry about spitting and dripping while you are ironing. This means there is no risk of damage to your clothes caused by burning water (in memory of all the dress shirts we have lost) and it’s tidier.
However, a water tank means that you get steam, and steam is great at removing really stubborn creases and lines as well as pesky stains that you don’t see until you’re actually at the ironing board. For me, the steam iron wins this one.
Any hole’s a goal for a steam iron (too far?), and there are some steam irons that have hundreds of tiny holes on the soleplate for the most effective distribution of steam. The steam output means that your steam iron is generating as much steam as possible – is the word steam starting to feel weird to you? Just me?
If you do pick a steam iron, make sure you clean it regularly and check the holes for blockages. Limescale is a big issue for many people in the UK as hard water causes this mineral to clog up the holes and block the steam from coming out efficiently.
Since dry irons have no steam holes, the soleplate is nice and smooth. This makes it ideal for arts and crafts as well as ironing patches onto clothing and bags. A steam iron is not a suitable choice for these activities because the steam makes it damp and harder to stick.
This is only an option for steam irons, and if you have a dry iron you’ll need to throw some elbow grease into working those tough creases and wrinkles out. While this is all well and good, a steam iron can take some of the hard work out for you.
The spray mist allows you to dampen the clothes just a little, giving you the chance to work out tough creases and wrinkles with ease. It takes a lot less effort, and it also tends to have better and more consistent results than toughing it out with a dry iron.
If you have a lot of ironing to get through, you’re going to want to use a steam iron because this will get the job done better and is a lot less work for you. It is also more versatile, with a range of settings that truly allow you to customise the way you iron.
A steam iron can even be used on furniture and upholstery, which is pretty impressive, and you can iron a whole bunch of clothes at once. A steam iron just makes life easier, and a dry iron is only really suited to arts and crafts as well as the occasional big ironing job.
Which One Should You Buy?
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of each iron – it should make it a lot easier for you to choose which one. Plus, it’s exciting for me because I get to use tables again (yesss).
Dry Iron Pros and Cons
|You can iron pretty much every fabric||No steam or spray functions|
|Really easy to clean and maintain||Less effective on stubborn creases|
|Very affordable option (we like that)||No funky additional features|
|They are durable and last a long time|
|No marks on clothes for peace of mind|
Steam Iron Pros and Cons
|A whizz at removing creases and wrinkles||Heavy|
|Lovely steam and spray options||Uses more energy|
|Vertical ironing – you’ll actually use it||Can leave marks on clothes|
|Furniture, curtains, and upholstery benefit||Cannot be used on every fabric|
|It can be used as a dry iron when needed||Can be difficult to clean|
|Quick and easy to use minimal effort||Risk of leaking|
What About Materials?
You also have to think about the kind of materials you are going to be ironing. Which iron can be used on what? Well, you guessed it, I have a table for that too.
|Steam Iron||Dry Iron|
|Cotton (muslin, etc.)||Wool|
|Denim||Lace and embroidery|
Can You Use a Steam Iron as a Dry Iron?
Oh yes, you can. A dry iron might never be able to become a steam iron, but a steam iron can absolutely become a dry iron. But how? I hear you, and here’s a couple of tips for the transformation process.
First, you’re going to need to empty the water tank and ensure it is dry so that you don’t risk any moisture spitting out. This is ideal if you are planning on ironing any of the fabric under the dry iron section from the table in the previous section.
Next, you are going to want to change the settings on your steam iron. A lot of the time, your steam iron will have a dial or a button that will allow you to switch off the steam and go in dry. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go and can get started.
Dry iron, steam iron, they might seem similar but they are actually so very different. While we think the steam iron is the best way to go (and you can check out our guide to the best ones here), a dry iron is an affordable option for those quick and infrequent jobs.
Want to learn more about how to use your home appliances effectively, the right ones to choose, and how to care for them? Our team of experts have compiled countless guides on everything you need to know so stay a while and check the rest of the series we’ve created.
Last Updated on August 18, 2021 by Gemma Tyler
Gemma Tyler is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for consumer publications. She has tested and reviewed a wide range of household items from vacuum cleaners to washing machines and dehumidifiers to steam irons. Her attention to detail and exhaustive testing certainly makes her an expert in her field.