Product Promotion Network

2016

Is it worth spending more on your iron?

Ironing is Britain’s least favourite household chore, according to a YouGov poll released earlier in the year.* 50% of us dislike it – more than any other housework – and only 16% of us claim to actually enjoy it. Unless you fall into this minority of happy ironers, the temptation might be to spend as little as possible on an iron – but would parting with a little more cash make this chore easier and cut the time spent at the ironing board? In our most recent round of iron tests, we pitted some models costing as little as ?20 against some that will set you back ?85.

Interestingly, the cheapest ones didn’t always perform worst. If you choose carefully, you could find a cheap iron that does a faster job than a more expensive counterpart and saves you time as well as money. For our round-up of the best cheap irons that perform well, take a look at our top five cheap steam irons[1].

How to pick the best steam iron

So how do you choose an iron that will keep your time at the ironing board to a minimum?

You can’t tell how good an iron is just by looking at it, which is where our reviews – based on exhaustive tests – are invaluable. For something that’s quick and easy to use, start by looking at each model’s ironing performance star rating. This reflects the time and effort required to use each one, so opt for a five-star model for minimum hassle.

The steamier an iron the better, as the hot moisture relaxes fibres and makes them easier to iron. But irons that start off well can lose their touch as they clog up with limescale. To get our limescale-resistance star rating, we simulate three months of use and track the drop-off in steaminess – a high-scoring model will remain as quick and easy to use as it was when brand new.

Hard water contains minerals that form limescale, so if you live in a hard-water area look for an iron with a built-in anti-calc system or self-clean function. The cheapest iron we tested this time around is the John Lewis Steam Iron[2] (?20), which has a self-clean button to help keep the vents clear. If you’re willing to spend more, the Tefal FV5640G0 Turbo Pro[3] (?70) has a removable scale collector in its heel.

Our tests have found that not all of these measures work as well as they should, so we rate them for how well their descaling instructions work. Check our steam iron reviews[4] to find one that lasts.

Make ironing easier

If you’re not keen on ironing, it’s worth making sure it’s as simple as possible. Choose a handle that feels good in your hand – try it for size in the shop if you can.

A soleplate with a thin, tapered tip that fits under buttons will make life easier if you regularly tackle piles of shirts, while a water tank with clear sides means you’ll know when to top up. If you have a lot of laundry to get through, consider a steam generator. These can pump out more steam than an iron and don’t have to be topped up as frequently.

We’ve just tested the Morphy Richards Jet Steam 333021 generator[5] (?60), which costs less than some irons, and steams for well over an hour on a full tank. Soft rubber inserts in the handle make it comfortable to use for long periods.

Latest steam generator and steam iron reviews

Follow the links below to read full reviews for the 15 irons and steam generators we’ve just tested and reviewed: Steam irons

Steam generators

Prices are correct as of November 2017.

* Survey in Oct 2016, published Feb 2017.

References

  1. ^ top five cheap steam irons (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ John Lewis Steam Iron (which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Tefal FV5640G0 Turbo Pro (which.co.uk)
  4. ^ steam iron reviews (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Morphy Richards Jet Steam 333021 generator (which.co.uk)

Which? reveals the best and worst online shops for 2017

In our huge survey of 10,500 members of the public, you’ve rated AllBeauty.com the best online shop in the UK, for the second year running. Sitting at the bottom of the list is Homebase.co.uk, although it still scored a reasonable 62%. Despite its ‘easy-to-use’ website, shoppers gave it an average score for price.

In June 2017, we asked 10,500 people about their experiences of shopping online over the previous six months. We asked them for star ratings between one and five for key areas of interest, including price, range, delivery, returns and ease of use. We then ranked each website by customer score – this combines overall satisfaction with how likely respondents are to recommend a website to a friend.

To be included in our list, a retailer needed at least 30 responses.

Best online shops

In a comfortable first place, AllBeauty.com scored an impressive 91%. Customers praised its wide range of products and quick delivery, and particularly liked its ‘very competitive prices’. RicherSounds.com, which came second, has made an impressive improvement since 2016 – it’s jumped up from 48th place.

The shoppers we surveyed liked its ‘easy-to-use website’ and ‘great quality’ electrical goods. Respondents praised third-placed AO.com for its returns process, and we received many positive comments about joint-fourth Lakeland.co.uk for its customer service. One person told us: ‘It’s brilliant – the website is good, has lots of info and all the items are of a good quality.’

In joint-sixth place, JohnLewis.com and AppliancesDirect.co.uk both fared very well. One customer singled out AppliancesDirect.co.uk for its ‘good choice of products’. We’ve listed the top 11 below – for more, see the full list of the 100 best and worst online shops[1].

1. AllBeauty.com (274) 91% 2. RicherSounds.com (96) 87% 3. AO.com (436) 85% 4. Lakeland.co.uk (286) 84% = Toolstation.com (264) 84% 6. FragranceDirect.co.uk (284) 83% = AbeBooks.co.uk (346) 83% = Superdrug.com (570) 83% = JohnLewis.com (832) 83% = AppliancesDirect.co.uk (104) 83% = LookFantastic.com (168) 83%

(sample size in brackets)

Worst online shops

Homebase is at the bottom of our table, with customers giving it a middling three stars for its choice of DIY items.

However, it still scored a fairly reasonable 62%, and customers found its website ‘easy to use’. WHSmith.co.uk came in 99th place under the scrutiny of our participants, but still scored a satisfactory 64%.

94 LauraAshley.com (132) 67% = Maplin.co.uk (274) 67% = Office.co.uk (156) 67% = DIY.com (B&Q) (600) 67% = UrbanOutfitters.com (168) 67% 99 WHSmith.co.uk (312) 64% 100 Homebase.co.uk (278) 62%

(sample size in brackets)

Where to shop online

While price is the most important factor for many of you when shopping online, reliable delivery and wide choice can make or break an online shopping experience. Which? editor, Richard Headland, said: ‘We can still see a big gap between the top and bottom of the table, with people generally rating the top online shops better for their prices and range of products.

Consumers are expected to spend millions online during Black Friday this year, so we encourage shoppers to do their research and pick their deals – and where to buy – with care.’ We also ranked shops by category, awarding Which? Recommended Provider status to websites that scored highly for price and delivery and meet our requirements for satisfactory terms and conditions.

To find out more, see our rankings for the best sites for buying electrical items[2], the best DIY websites[3] and the best websites for baby and child products[4].

References

  1. ^ best and worst online shops (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ best sites for buying electrical items (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ best DIY websites (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ best websites for baby and child products (www.which.co.uk)

Can first-time buyers snag an ‘affordable’ home?

Around 41,000 new homes were built under the government’s affordable housing drive last year – but less than 11,000 were put on the market for buyers, the second-lowest figure on record. The stock of affordable housing[1] increased by 27% last year, but the vast majority of the stock went to social housing or rent schemes. If you’re hoping to get a helping hand onto the property ladder, how likely is the affordable housing scheme to help?

Which? looks at the latest affordable housing figures and explains how the scheme works for buyers.

25% of affordable homes for buyers

Overall, around 41,000 new houses were completed under the government’s affordable housing drive in 2016-17. Compared to the previous year, the number of these houses built in 2016-17 increased by 27%.

But 2015-16 also marked a record low for the scheme in terms of completions. While the most recent period has been an improvement, the number of available properties remains well below previous peaks. Of the new homes built this year as affordable housing, the majority – 24,350 – were for rent schemes.

These allow people to rent on the private market at 20% below market value. A further 5,380 went to social housing, where properties are owned by the local authorities, and another 900 were for intermediate rent, which allows housing associations to let properties on the private market. As such, just 11,000 were earmarked for buyers to become home owners at a below-market rate.

Since 2010, this has been split between shared ownership, where buyers purchase a portion of the property from a housing association, and below-market-value properties.

Find out more: our guide to affordable housing[2] explains how you can benefit

What is affordable housing for buyers?

If you’re looking to buy a property, the affordable housing scheme presents you with a number of options. Under shared ownership, you purchase between 25% and 75% of a property from a housing association, and pay rent on the remaining share. Over time, you’ll have the option of buying a larger share of equity in the property.

Just 2,060 homes built last year under other affordable housing schemes. The government is planning to make a number of properties available on a 20% discount on the market rate under its Starter Homes Initiative. As yet, none have been put onto the market.

  • If you’re thinking of buying your first home, you can get impartial, expert advice on how to find the right mortgage by calling Which?

    Mortgage Advisers[3] on 0808 252 7987.

How can I get on the property ladder?

The number of affordable homes built under the government scheme is well below demand from first-time buyers – but you may have other options for getting on the housing ladder. If you have a small amount set aside from a deposit, you may be able to buy using a 95% mortgage[4]. Alternatively, the government’s Help to Buy scheme[5] allows buyers to purchase a new-build home with a 5% deposit, and offers an equity loan of up to 20% (or 40% in London).

If you’re able to get help from your family, a bank may consider granting you a guarantor mortgage,[6] where a parent or family member guarantees your debt. And if you need help saving, you could consider using a Help to Buy Isa. On savings up to ?12,000, the government will give you a 25% boost, provided you use the money towards your first home.[7]

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which?

Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029).

Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which?

Financial Services Limited.

Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.

References

  1. ^ affordable housing (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ affordable housing (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (mortgageadvisers.which.co.uk)

  4. ^ 95% mortgage (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Help to Buy scheme (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ guarantor mortgage, (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ Help to Buy Isa (www.which.co.uk)

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