I’m sure we’ve all seen, or accidentally sent an iron crashing to the floor of our kitchen, laundry room, Dressing Room or Costume Shop. The only good thing I can say about that experience is that I’d soon be trying out a new iron; perhaps a new make or model, or just the one on sale at the time.
In this blog, I’m going to talk about Domestic irons, Industrial irons and Steamers. The term domestic iron refers to the iron you can use at home with your regular ironing board, the Industrial Iron refers to irons with separate water tanks (steam generators), and Steamers refer to vertical steamer units. I’ll note the important points about these tools and identify what makes the tool efficient. In a recent Consumer Reports Magazine article, it was pointed out that irons cost anywhere from $15 to $150; and testing proved that the most expensive iron was not necessarily the best product; the article stated that several of their top pics were around $50, and that’s good news. I’m not going to include cordless irons as I haven’t found one yet that is very efficient in the Costume Shop.
… it was a gift several years ago, but definitely love at first sight. But, as I get older, it seems to get heavier … It really throws steam with its wide selection of steam settings and I love the extra-long cord. The water reservoir is detachable, allowing me to let it drain overnight and it also has a spray feature. The large soleplate is non-stick but I think I would prefer a stainless soleplate for my next iron; however, this baby is a workhorse and Lynne and I both enjoy that it does not have automatic shut-off and remains a constant heat while we build our costumes.
Steam and heat work together to remove wrinkles; while most irons will eventually remove wrinkles, irons that produce only a little steam take longer to get the job done and that is certainly not efficient if our pressing or ironing call is a full day.
However, a good steam irons allows small amounts of hot steams to be applied to the fabric constantly when ironing, to make the creases and wrinkles disappear faster. At one time, steam was a special feature but thankfully, today most irons come with steam; some are just better than others. The Burst-of-Steam or Surge Buttons are great features to deliver an extra boost of steam if you press heavy fabrics or linen.
Soleplates come in stainless steel, anodized aluminum, ceramic and nonstick materials but the best gliders are usually stainless steel or ceramic; even though one would think the nonstick soleplates would be the best. The ideal soleplate should be tapered so you can press under buttons and into tight pleats but also scratch resistant.
Irons come with dials, sides or digital controls. Make sure the control settings and water level are easy to see and that the fabric settings are easy to adjust. Most irons have an indicator light to show that the power is on; and, its lovely if the cord is nice and long. If you have hard water, check out the limescale resistance.
Maintain Your Iron
Clean the Surface
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to remove residue from the soleplate. This is especially important after using starch. Self-cleaning irons flush mineral deposits from the vents, but are not always effective with prolonged use or if the water is very hard. Try the burst-of-steam feature to clean vents.
Leaking may occur when you press at lower temperatures. To prevent dribbles, try to press delicate fabrics first; before you add water and, empty the water after you steam press. This should reduce drips next time and the heat can evaporate remaining moisture; it should also help reduce any mineral deposits on the soleplate.
Most irons work fine with tap water because of anti-calcium valves or resin filters. If the water in your area is very hard, check the manufacturer’s instructions before using for the first time for special instructions.
Most new irons automatically shut off if the iron is motionless for a number of second or minutes, whether or not the iron is laid flat or propped up. Some irons will also shut off if the iron is laid on its side. Most costume shops require irons that do not shut off as it is more convenient.
When choosing an iron, pick it up in the store and hold it. If it feels heavy or awkward, try another one until you find one that’s comfortable to use. If the word professional is used to describe the iron, that usually means this iron will last longer and can handle prolonged use but make sure the build quality is good; no cheap parts. Do some research too, a good iron is worth its weight in gold and you’ll love it.
Steam Generator Systems
A steam ironing systems takes up a lot more space than a conventional or domestic iron and they take longer to heat up, and some don’t turn off automatically if you leave them unattended. However, some irons don’t automatically turn off either, so check out the feature you want before making that purchase. The more steam the iron generates, the quicker you’ll finish the job; heavy steam can easily remove wrinkles even from dry linen. Ironing systems don’t usually have a spray function, but you won’t need it if the steam flow is high enough.
Steam ironing a garment isn’t the end of the job, and most tailors know a secret about pressing. True, you need a quality steam iron, but the finish really comes with a vacuum.
It’s because we put all that gorgeous steam into the fabric, that we need to get all of it out. A vacuum works best to provide that crisp finish we expect from the pros; to dry the fabric as the last step. It would be great if we could build a vacuum motor right into our ironing table but that may not be an option for most of us.
In the old days, professional ironers used a piece of wood to literally whack the steam out of the fabric and still today, clappers are regularly used by tailors when pressing the steam into and out of jackets and trousers.
However, a clapper doesn’t work well with corduroy or velvet or anything with a nap. Rather than pressing down on these fabrics, a steam blower would fluff the nap and remove the wrinkles at the same time. Good suit makers use specially shaped blowing tables to press around trouser pockets to avoid leaving the mark of the pocket on the outside of the trousers. This same method is used to press jacket linings to avoid the pocket flap from appearing to being imbedded into it. Oh, in a perfect world ...
Just one more thing …
Bedbugs are so common, they can be picked up on the bus. Nasty, I know, and anyone can get them, from practically anywhere. In fact, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) noted that 21% of pest management professionals have treated public modes of transportation for bed bugs – public transport vehicles, carpets and seats.
These horrible pests feed on human blood, are highly resilient and are easily transported in suitcases, backpacks and can take up residence in mattresses, box springs, folded sheets, walls, baseboards and the list goes on. So, it turns out that the morning commuter’s bag could even be home to these bugs.
The GOOD NEWS is, that regular high temperature steam cleaning eliminates bedbugs. The City of Toronto, Public Health Department agrees that steam kills all stages of bed bugs. You need to steam, vacuum and seal the areas and gaps where bedbugs can hide. It’s important that the steam machine produces a dry vapor steam at a minimum temperature of 120°F or 36°C.
Thanks to Consumer reports cdn.org; Kate Hilpurn at The Independent for her articles on Steam Irons and Steam Generator Irons and an article by Robert Kahn from the Reliable Corporation. Happy November Monday, and please don't forget to rate the articles you enjoy. Thanks again for reading. Rae