While irons can come with all types of bells and whistles, the one feature that is universal is the soleplate. What’s more, the soleplate is arguably the most important feature of an iron because it is the primary point of contact between the iron and your clothing. While there are several specialty soleplate styles to choose from out there, the big decision really comes down to ceramic versus stainless steel. Which option is the best? Take a look at what you need to know about stainless steel (chrome) and ceramic before you shop for a new steam iron.
First, it’s important to discuss the reason why iron soleplates are typically made from either ceramic or stainless steel. The truth is that these are both amazing conductors of heat. However, people definitely have their preferences based on glide performance, cleaning maintenance, and more.
A Closer Look at Stainless Steel
A shiny stainless-steel soleplate is the more durable option of the two. As you iron with your steam iron, you’ll notice the way that stainless steel glides so beautifully over your fabrics. This can make what might otherwise feel like a chore seem like a true pleasure. Next, there’s the benefit that stainless steel is really a dream to clean. Maintaining a stainless steel plate is generally very easy because you don’t have to worry about any coating peeling away.
From the performance angle, stainless steel does a great job with a wide variety of fibers that includes cotton, silk, linen, wool and more. There’s also the advantage that stainless steel does a beautiful job of putting deep presses into the sharp crinkles and creases that often form on sleeves and legs. You’ll love watching your iron cut through ripples like a knife cuts through butter.
A Closer Look at Ceramic
The big benefit of going with ceramic is that you don’t have to worry about static with this option! Next, ceramic wins out over stainless steel on the temperature front because it’s capable of reaching very high temperatures without scorching your precious fabrics. You’ll find that your clothes don’t stick to your iron at high temperatures when you have a ceramic soleplate. You’re also getting very even heat distribution with ceramic.
However, these perks do come with some downsides. One thing you’ll notice is that ceramic soleplates just don’t provide the same smooth, seamless gliding performance as stainless steel. There’s also something even bigger to know about. With a ceramic soleplate, you’re actually getting a soleplate with a ceramic coating. This can be a little disappointing for several reasons. The first is that the coating definitely has an expiration date.
You’ll often find that coated plates just age faster than stainless-steel soleplates. In addition, any damage that occurs due to accidental burns or scorching while you’re using your iron can really spell the end of your iron’s performance. Even just cleaning your coated iron soleplate wrong one time can really alter its performance. Any sort of wear or scratching on the surface of the temperamental coating is going to potentially create snags in your clothing.
There’s also the problem that ceramic soleplates are known to actually absorb colors from the fibers in clothing to become discolored over time. By contrast, easy-to-clean stainless steel does not stain or absorb colors. As many people find out after loving their irons for several years, that ceramic coating will eventually wear off. While you’ll need to be vigilant about maintenance with a ceramic soleplate, the truth is that all of the maintenance in the world cannot prevent the inevitable peeling that is going to happen with this style of iron.
Is Stainless Steel Better Than Ceramic?
Overall, stainless steel does win out over ceramic if you’re looking at factors like longevity, cost and ease of maintenance. Stainless steel offers both non-corrosive and heat-resistant properties that mean you never have to worry about stains and rust sullying the appearance and performance of your iron.
However, ceramic does get points for helping you to avoid any static at all during the ironing process. Of course, the final point of comparison may just be the most important one of all. Stainless-steel soleplates are actually much more common than ceramic soleplates.
That means you’ll generally have to go out of your way to find an iron that uses ceramic. Ultimately, you may find that it’s difficult to find an iron with all of the features you need from a mainstream brand that also happens to have a ceramic soleplate. Stainless steel also tends to be a more affordable option simply based on the fact that you have so many more options when you’re comparison shopping.