dry iron vs steam iron

Dry Iron vs Steam Iron: Everything You Need to Know

The decision to choose between a dry iron and steam iron can seem difficult depending on the approach. However, it is as easy as snapping fingers if you have a clear picture of your ironing needs.

Firstly, let us understand the difference between the two.

Dry iron

A dry iron is the traditional type of ironing box that presses clothes without releasing steam to them. Accordingly, eliminating creases and wrinkles is more difficult and time consuming.

All the same, its efficiency can be improved by using water from a spray bottle or placing a damp cloth beneath or on top the garment you intend to iron.  

A dry iron comes in handy for clothes that are made of silk and other fabrics that do not require exposure to moisture. It is also excellent when you intend to use low heat settings because most models have wattage that is much lower when compared to steam irons.

Features to look for when buying a Dry Iron


I believe this is the most important feature when buying a dry iron. Ideally, you want an iron that heat properly for clothes that require high heat settings. Alternately, it becomes very difficult to remove creases and wrinkles from tough fabrics and heavy duty materials such as curtains.  


The beauty of soleplates designed for dry irons is that they are smooth and flawless. They do not have the holes like the ones found in steam irons. Nonetheless, you have to be careful about the material because it determines the usability, weight and longevity of your iron box. Materials such as stainless steel and aluminum are highly reputably because they favor most of these factors.

Some models come with a non-stick coated bottom. The primary danger of such a design is that low-quality coating can begin to peel after sometime thereby causing the bottom to stick on the surface of your clothes during pressing

Another important soleplate feature is scratch-resistance. A delicate bottom will most likely develop scratches when cleaning sticky gunk from burnt fabric.


A lengthy cord comes with more freedom of movement when ironing your clothes. You do not want to be restricted to a small area especially when ironing large garments.


The weight factor is not a major issue for dry irons because they are relatively light. They have less features and the absence of a water tank takes away the much there is in regard to the weight aspect. Nevertheless, some people prefer heavy models because their weight speeds up the ironing process. Therefore, the weight factor is mostly a matter of choice and preference.  

Temperature Control Feature

Just like wattage, this is another fundamental feature that you should never ignore. A temperature control feature allows you to determine the right ironing settings for different fabrics. Accordingly, it becomes much easier to iron all kinds of clothes without damaging them.

The advantages and Disadvantages of a Dry Iron

Just like with every other home appliance, dry irons have their advantages and disadvantages. The section below provides a highlight of both.

Suitable for silk and other fabrics that are moisture-unfriendlyMost models do not heat enough for some fabrics
Excellent for quiltingSlow at eliminating creases and wrinkles
Easy to CleanLimited features
Easy to use
Does not stain or leave chalky marks on clothes
Good for low-heat fabrics
They do not get damaged easily

Steam Iron

A steam iron is more like an improved version of a dry iron. The main difference results from steam features that create an added advantage in terms of performance.

Ideally, it is much easier to iron creased and wrinkled clothes with a steam iron. The moisture released from the steam holes improves the texture of fabrics thereby making it easier to create a smooth and flawless finish.

It is also easier to iron heavy duty fabrics because steam permeates their fibers.

Features to look for when buying a Steam Iron

Water Tank

Since the use of moisture is a critical feature for this kind of clothes iron, it is important to look at the size of the water tank. The reservoir should be big enough for good performance.

 In some cases, tanks have additional features that create a considerable difference in the user experience. For example, there are models that provide a water-level viewing window. Accordingly, you are able to determine the level at a glance and make a decision on the best course of action.

Other features that you can find in a water tank include safe locking system and detaching features.


Dry iron vs steam Iron

The bottom of steam irons features steam holes that release moisture to the clothes. The design and functionality of these holes differs with brands and models.  On one end, there are iron boxes that offer perfect steam distribution while on the other, there those that lean towards regular performance.

In terms of construction material, steam and dry iron bottoms are more or less the same. The secret is to choose the soleplate that is likely to serve you in the best way possible, and for a long time.

The main disadvantage of steam holes is the tendency to accumulate dirt as a result of mineral deposits. Most brands tackle this problem by advising their buyers to use distilled water.

A second challenge arises during cleaning. Cleaning products such as baking soda paste and salt tend to find their way into the holes. They later become a problem when released to the clothes together with steam during ironing.

Self-Cleansing Mechanism.

With an ordinary steam iron, you have to go through the trouble of cleaning the inside and bottom sections regularly. Failure to cleaning results to the buildup of rust and chalky deposits in these areas. Consequently, the dirt is transferred to your garments during ironing.

Advanced models with self-cleansing features clear out the dirt thereby preventing the vents and steam holes from clogging up.


Most steam irons have very high heat settings. The feature increases their efficiency thereby cutting on the effort and time invested in ironing. High heat settings also makes them better at dealing with the toughest fabrics and wrinkles.

Temperature Control Feature

A good steam iron will iron out cotton, linen, polyester and a wide range of other fabrics efficiently. However, there must be a heat control feature that allows you to choose the right setting for each type of fabric. Some models feature an LCD screen that provide a clear view of the preset mode.


With steam irons, you have the option to choose between a corded and cordless model. If you decide to settle on a corded version, look at features such as, swivel cord, cord length and vertical ironing. A long swivel cord offers more flexibility especially when engaging in vertical ironing.

Auto Shutoff Feature

Generally, steam irons are safe but safety features provide the much needed confidence when using them.  Most auto-shut features function depending on the position of the iron. If it is resting on its soleplate but not in use, the auto-shut engages in a few seconds. If it is resting in an upright position, the feature initiates an action after a few minutes.

Steam Burst

The steam burst feature allows you to release extra steam to the fabric so that stubborn wrinkles and creases can be smoothened out with more ease.

Vertical Ironing

 The vertical ironing functionality allows you to iron curtains and related items more conveniently. It is enabled by the presence of a vertical steam feature.


Steam irons can either be lightweight or heavy. A lightweight model is much easier to handle but it also gentler when smoothening out clothes. On the other hand, heavier models are fast but they can easily ruin the user experience especially if you intend to iron multiple garments all at once.

Additional features

Other features that should guide your buying decision include spay mist, anti-drip function, the design of the water entry point, the presence or absence of a calcium collector and steam control functionality. In essence, most of these come at extra cost, but they are also meant for performance enhancement.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Steam Iron

Feature-rich and versatileDifficult to clean
Excellent at smoothening out wrinkles and creasesCan leave rust and chalky deposits on clothes
Suitable for heavy-duty purposesDifficult to use
Powerful and reliableNot suitable for fabrics that are not moisture-friendly
Cuts down the ironing timeThe auto shut-off feature can be destructing when in use
Efficient for high-heat fabrics

Bottom Line

Considering the fact that the price range for both dry and steam irons is relatively the same, I think that personal ironing needs should act as a buying decision guide. On a different note, it is possible to get a model that serves both purposes.

Dual function models provide adjustable steam settings. Essentially, this allows you to transition from high to low steam, and dry when a garment requires just that.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better? Dry iron or steam iron?

The question of the better option between a dry and steam iron narrows down to personal taste and preference.

Ideally, a steam iron can also function as a dry iron. You only need to switch off the steam feature. However, it is important to note that most steam irons have higher wattage compared to dry irons.

Most people tend to choose an iron on the basis on how they intend to use it. For example, some people in the quilting world prefer a dry iron.

Which iron is best for home use?

Both dry and steam irons work well for home use. Most steam irons are quicker because of higher wattage. On the other hand, dry irons are gentler on clothes.

Can a dry iron be used with water?

Although a dry iron does not have an automatic steam function, it is possible to use it with water. Put distilled water in a glass and transfer it into a spray bottle. Spray small amounts on your garment during the ironing process. Water improves the process and pace of straightening wrinkles.

Can you steam instead of iron?

Yes! You can steam clothes instead of ironing them. A steamer is relatively quicker compared to an iron. However, an iron provides better results in terms of crispness.

Is it ok to leave water in an iron?

No! You should not leave water in an iron. Always empty the tank and use a solution of water and vinegar to clean it if possible. This is prevent minerals from building up inside your iron. Further, emptying the tank protects the inner components from getting damaged in case the iron leaks.

Can I use tap water in my iron?

It is not advisable to use tap water in your iron. In most cases, it contains traces of minerals that can cause buildup in your iron over time. Always use distilled water to preserve your iron in good condition. However, you can use tap water safely if your iron has an anti-calcium feature.

How do you stop a steam iron from spitting water?

An iron is supposed to produce steam instead of spitting water. Spitting makes clothes excessively wet. This has a negative effect on the ironing process. You can stop your iron from spitting by ensuring the reservoir is not overfilled. Further, you can adjust the iron to higher temperature settings.

Why is my steam iron leaking brown water?

Your steam iron is leaking brown water because it contains mineral and dirt buildup inside the tank and steam holes. Consider cleaning it thoroughly to prevent it from staining your clothes permanently.

How do you clean a steam iron with vinegar?

Mix vinegar and water in the ratio of 1:3. Empty the iron’s reservoir and add this solution. Turn the iron to the highest heat settings and iron a cloth with the steam setting on. Keep ironing until the solution is almost completely used up. The iron will descale gradually during the ironing process.

What is the basic difference between a steam and a dry iron?

The basic difference between a steam and a dry iron is the steam feature. A steam iron can produce steam whereas a dry iron cannot. However, there additional differences that stem from this. For example, steam irons have features such as a water reservoir, anti-calcium component and steam holes.

Can a steam iron be used as a dry iron?

A steam iron can be used as a dry iron after turning off the steam feature.


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