Help me improve my ironing technique
April 3, 2012 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Clothes lovers and metafilter others, help me find a better iron or come up with an alternative.

I have a cheapo iron that is falling short of the mark. It is basically fine for getting the most glaring wrinkles out cotton shirts, but is really ineffective on mixed fabrics or silk (I find this puzzling since the non-cotton fabrics don't require as much heat, and you would think that the problem with a cheaply made iron is that it wouldn't get hot enough). I'm tired of having to pay a dry cleaner to get wrinkles out properly, and wonder if

a) I'm doin' it wrong. My ironing technique, that is. Current procedure is to hang stuff up to dry as soon as the wash cycle is finished and to use copious amounts of steam while ironing.

b) A higher-quality iron would solve my problems (suggestions welcome and encouraged)

c) I need a different kind of equipment. I'd hate to start using a steamer- they seem cumbersome and require a chunk of time for the water to heat properly- but if they are more effective than an iron perhaps I just need to suck it up and get one.

Thank you for your advice!
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Rowenta is the king (queen?) of irons.
posted by jenny76 at 9:23 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually find that the problem with cheap irons isn't that they don't get hot enough, but that their temperature is not consistent. One moment it'll be too cool, the next it'll be burning your clothes.

I don't have a particular brand to recommend, but I've never had problems with my (higher end) Black and Decker. The cheaper B&D irons are garbage, but if you pay a bit more for their better quality ones, they should do you fine.
posted by asnider at 9:41 AM on April 3, 2012

I got a slightly higher end iron a few years ago and it made a world of difference. On cheap ones, the iron surface would eventually become non-stick and cause all sorts of problems, including the iron sticking to the garment. The glide, in general, would be poor. -- I'd try to pass it over whatever I was ironing and I felt like I had to push it along. Also, the water chamber would leak like crazy.

I switched to a T-Fal similar to this one (this is a newer model, mine doesn't have the Easycord business going on) about, oh, 5 or 6 years ago, and it's still going strong. No leaks, no sticking.

One thing - I learned not to go by the temperature recommendation on the iron itself (well, my husband did), I go by what the garment recommends. My husband set the iron once to the temp recommended for cotton and it turned out to be too hot for this particular shirt.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:58 AM on April 3, 2012

Pressing tools make a huge difference, but they are fiddly and time-consuming. Spritz bottle. Tailor's hams (necessary for sewing, but really helpful for ironing), pressing cloths, sleeve rolls, mini irons for cuffs and collars and other places your iron is too big to go. A stable ironing board, with mini board inserts for sleeves and pants, rather than just a narrow end that's never narrow enough is great, too. note, I personally never actually iron anything. I just learned this from a seamstress roommate in college. It was amazing.

But Rowenta does make awesome irons and just having an awesome iron with even heat and decent steam is usually enough.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:03 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Rowenta, and the use of pressing cloths. Pressing cloths are really essential for fabrics like silk and synthetic mixes. I also have a sleeve ironing board that is very handy for a variety of ironing tasks, but I think it's more of a nice to have kind of thing.
posted by needled at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2012

Steamers are awesome. I'm beyond incompetent when it comes to ironing and manage to walk around looking semi-put together after steaming my clothes. Steam starts coming out in just a few minutes, so time has never been an issue.
posted by eisenkr at 10:34 AM on April 3, 2012

Rowena gets my vote too.
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:39 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get a steamer. So easy and super quick. Depending on your space you could get a little hand held one or one of the larger more professional ones. I live in a tiny apartment so I had to get a little one (which works just fine) but I bet a larger one would be better!
posted by twoforty5am at 10:59 AM on April 3, 2012

I love my Jiffy steamer.
posted by donovan at 11:20 AM on April 3, 2012

Have you ever tried a spray starch? Lots of aerosol cans on the market, lots of DIY recipes on-line. Wrinkles come out more easily, and you end up with a crisper end result.

I have an older Rowenta travel steamer and, being wee, it takes no time to heat up. Disadvantage, obviously, is frequent refilling, but if you are dealing with small numbers of garments at a time anyway, no worries there.
posted by kmennie at 12:01 PM on April 3, 2012

One problem with most modern irons is that they don't weigh enough -- it's called an IRON because it needs to be heavy to do its job well. I have an iron that's >50 years old -- it had to be rewired after its cotton-covered cord shorted out, but other than that it works fine, better I think than any iron you could buy today. When that thing presses, it PRESSES. The steam function on it gave up the ghost decades ago, but a water bottle and press cloth do better anyway.

If you buy a new iron, choose the heaviest one you can find. If you're feeling cheap +/or adventurous, try buying an old one at a yard sale (replace the cord if it looks at all dubious).
posted by Corvid at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The old ways are best. Or the old weights: I have a vintage GE iron that is AWESOME. It looks like this one. (That's not actually my iron nor my etsy listing.) My point, besides gloating, is that IMO the weight of old irons is superior to modern steam in effect. It's faster and easier, as long as you have a sprinkle bottle or iron the clothes damp. It's not heavy like the cast iron antiques that you heat on your wood-fired cast iron stove, but it's heavier than a modern one. Try it! You should be able to find a cheap one on eBay or at a thrift store.
posted by scratch at 12:35 PM on April 3, 2012

Another vote for a higher-quality iron (Rowenta is the iron I use, too) and starch. I'm a bit of an ironing nerd and have starches in three different weights and it really does make a difference.
posted by heathergirl at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2012

damn you, corvid!
posted by scratch at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2012

Rowenta. I don't know nothin' about no ironing, but in some organizing book I read, the woman author said how she hated ironing until she tried her friend's Rowenta, and that made all the difference and now she almost loves to iron with her Rowenta.

So since I hated ironing and knew nothing about it, I got a good Rowenta to replace the old crap Sunbeam I had. The Rowenta works well and I still hate ironing but the Rowenta is much better.
posted by caclwmr4 at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2012

I don't use irons, but on the basis of watching the prep for many fashion shoots, I would recommend a steamer anyway. That's what the pros use when they want clothes to look amazing!
posted by limeonaire at 6:17 PM on April 3, 2012

Massive difference between using a higher end iron and a really cheap one...ranging from feels nicer to hold, has different settings which actually do change temperature, level of steam etc (as opposed to the cheaper irons where it often seems to make no noticeable difference what setting you use) to gliding so much better and having longer cords/larger water tanks...
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:49 AM on April 4, 2012

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