The Pressing Question
Which iron works best?
Ironing is the least popular of all household chores, according to a recent survey consisting solely of me.
But I'm not alone, am I? There must be others who regard ironing with the level of dread usually reserved for root canals or, say, death. Ironing is frustrating, time-consuming, and carries with it the genuine possibility of permanent disfigurement. Say what you want about dusting, but you're unlikely to emerge horribly burned.
I have, on a few occasions, met people who claim to love ironing. They revel in the satisfaction of an extra-crisp collar or well-pressed sleeve. They contend that the very act of ironing, the repetitive back-and-forth motion, is a kind of meditation. While I do my best in life to be nonjudgmental, I am certain these people are crazy, lying, or both.
It is with this unabashedly bad attitude that I tested seven irons to find out which among them was the least objectionable. I tried out the irons on a variety of fabrics—cotton, silk, polyester blends. I used different temperature settings, with and without steam. I ironed until my wrist became tired, my back achy, my soul deadened. I also enlisted the help of an expert with more than four decades of ironing experience who, conveniently, happens to be my mother-in-law.
Ease of Use (10 possible points): Is the dial or screen clear and readable? Does it heat up quickly? Can it maneuver easily around buttons and seams? Are the controls intuitive? Because they should be: I do not, under any circumstances, want to consult the manual.
The Feel Factor (10 possible points): Two factors: 1) How does it feel in your hand? 2) How smoothly does it glide across the fabric?
Full Steam Ahead (10 possible points): The flow of steam needs to be reliable and more or less continuous. The "burst of steam" feature that some irons have is also handy, especially for vertical steaming (which is useful for drapes or clothes on a hanger). Also, if the water drips all over when you switch the steam on—sorry, that's a deal-breaker.
ImPRESSive (20 possible points): It's nice, too, if an iron gets rid of wrinkles and creases. In fact, it's the only thing that matters, no? The key here is number of passes. One pass is ideal; two is passable. If I have to run the iron over the same area five or six times, we have a problem.
Here are the results, from rumpled to pressed:
Tom Bartlett is a writer in Mount Rainier, Md.