I just asked Siri*, "How do most people relax?" She rattled off a list of activities including "Nosh on chocolate," "Rub your feet over a golf ball," "Count backward," "Meditate" and "Drip cold water on your wrists."
Siri completely missed my favorite way to relax. I iron (not to be confused with "I pump iron," which I do not). No, really. There's something soothing and instantly gratifying about a good iron with a heft of heat and steam gliding back and forth over wrinkled fabric.
That's why I was excited to get another request, this time from Marianne. She said: "I need a new iron. I've searched the Internet trying to find the best steam iron for the best price and all I get is terribly confused! Any suggestions?"
I kind of jumped for joy at that question because, yes, I do have suggestions — three to be exact, based on these criteria: steaming rate, ironing quality, features and price.
Here they are — my current top three steam irons:
BLACK+DECKER DIGITAL ADVANTAGE PROFESSIONAL STEAM IRON
This is hands down my choice for the Best Inexpensive Under $40 steam iron on the market today. This 1500-watt Black+Decker steam iron has an exceptionally heavy-duty soleplate, a variable temperature and steam controls.
The Auto Clean system works well, provided you use it often, which you should. And it has a three-way auto shut-off that's pretty cool, along with an anti-drip feature, a nonstick soleplate and an 8-foot retractable cord.
While it takes about eight minutes to fully heat up due to the lower wattage, it produces a good, constant heft of steam, has a good-size reservoir, uses tap water and has an auto-off feature. For the money, this is a really great option.
ROWENTA FOCUS STEAM IRON
This beautiful 1700-watt Rowenta steam iron is my choice for Best Inexpensive Quality Under $80. It heats up fast, has 400 micro-steam holes with a burst-of-steam feature and has a high-capacity reservoir. It uses tap water and has three-way auto-off, and the centered cord makes it ideal for either right- or left-handed operation.
The 10-ounce water reservoir is exceptionally large for a steam iron. The anti-calc cleaning system is good and, when used as directed, will increase the lifetime of the iron. I can't say enough good things about this iron. It's a beautiful thing. If this fits your budget, it is the better option.
ROWENTA PERFECT STEAM IRON STATION
This 1800-watt steam iron station is more than a steam iron, so it gets my Best Inexpensive Semi-Pro Under $300 rating. This iron produces amazing amounts of consistent heat and steam thanks to 400 micro holes that are well-distributed.
For the average home ironer, this is overkill. But for the serious person who needs a quality piece of machinery that will get the work done fast and efficiently, this may be a wise investment and the last iron you'll ever buy.
I've owned both Rowenta and Reliable Maven steam stations but come back to this Rowenta station, which has been greatly improved over much earlier models. Using this steam station is the closest I've come to experiencing ironing perfection. It uses tap water, and it has a simple-to-use anti-calc feature and an eco setting to save energy. Bonus: It's purple!
There you go, Marianne. I hope that clears away the confusion and helps you make a confident decision.
For details plus resources for the irons mentioned above, go to EverydayCheapskate.com/steamirons.
*the voice-activated software for iPhone
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.