The most important element of your clothes iron is the soleplate. Two materials are commonly used for soleplates today—stainless steel and ceramic. Learn more about each below and the cases that they perform best in so you can decide on which will best meet your needs.
Stainless steel, also known as inox, is the most common soleplate for irons, installed on both cheap and expensive varieties. The metal for the plate is an alloy steel engineered with chromium to make it non-corrosive and heat-resistant.
This type of soleplate is durable and very easy to clean. You can simply wipe it with a clean cloth to remove any debris after it has had time to cool. However, it may stick to and melt decals on clothing when on a higher setting.
Ceramic soleplates are actually a ceramic coating, rather than an entire plate made from the material. A layer of the substance is bonded to or baked on to an aluminum or plastic soleplate to form the final product. These are slightly less common than stainless steel, but they work just as well.
Also durable and good for even heat distribution, the main advantage to ceramic plates are their tendency to eliminate static even at high heats.
Naturally, where there are pros, there are also cons. If you choose an iron with a ceramic soleplate, be wary of the ceramic coating peeling and wearing down over time.
If you iron clothes several times a week, you will want a lightweight iron with a non-stick soleplate. Choose an appliance with a ceramic plate with a wide range of dry and steam-based temperature settings for best results when you’re using it often.
Ironing Synthetic Fibers
If you do touch-up ironing on synthetics and fabrics blended with spandex, a ceramic iron will suit your needs best, as ceramic does not stick to these fabrics. Ceramic does not create static electricity, as mentioned previously, so it helps keep synthetics from clinging. Always iron synthetics on a dry setting.
Ironing Natural Fibers
If you iron mostly natural fibers such as cotton, rayon, wool, silk and linen, you will want the maximum steam conduction of a stainless steel soleplate. Metal works better than ceramic for pressing in sharp creases on sleeves and trouser legs. Ceramic soleplates can pick up color from natural fibers and will become darker over time, but stainless steel is easy to clean and resists stains.
Whichever soleplate you choose, be sure that you read the manufacturer's instructions for proper care so your iron can have a long, productive life.