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The Kitchen Cabinet

Full Steam Ahead: Shopping Around for the Latest Thing in Irons

August 20, 1987|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Not too long ago, a reader called to ask if I "did irons." When told that irons didn't seem to fit in the kitchen category, she presented quite a good argument. "I need the iron to press out tablecloths and napkins," she said. "Besides, I have my ironing board in the kitchen; it's one of those old-fashioned ones that fold up inside a narrow cabinet."

To wrinkle out her problem, we succumbed and started shopping around for some of the hottest irons on the market.

Although the shape of irons hasn't changed much from beginning models, outstanding conveniences have been developed throughout the years for ease in ironing. Today, an improvement that draws the most attention is the automatic shut-off feature in the newer irons. It's a saving grace and provides peace of mind for people who tend to forget and leave their irons on. It would have been a perfect recommendation, I thought, to that woman in the phone booth the other day, whom I overheard calling home to check if she had turned off her iron.

The trend toward cotton and linen fabrics has also created a heavier demand for that powerful "burst of steam" in units. Competition is on again among manufacturers in trying to get the most efficient steam in an iron. It goes back to the "holy war" that started in the 1950s, when manufacturers were coming up with products with as many steam holes as possible in the soleplates.

Penetrating U.S. Markets

Backed by 65 years of experience and producing the world's top-selling irons outside the United States, Rowenta from Germany is quickly penetrating the American market with its innovations. Easy to use and surprisingly lightweight is the white and gray Rowenta Powersteam Iron DA-15 (suggested retail $62). This is the extra big iron that Europeans love to use for its good balance. Quick heating, this 1,200-watt iron has 27 steam holes. A unique feature is the cord storage on the heel rest; also, the body of the iron doesn't get hot. Like many contemporary models that eliminated the need for distilled water, the big iron uses tap water.

Garment Touch-Ups

Introduced about two years ago, the Rowenta Steam Brush ($40) will take care of garment touch-ups while on the road with its high-pressured steam. It has a detachable water tank with a small window that indicates when more tap water is required. It's handy for freshening suits, sweaters and jackets, eliminating creases, wrinkles and odors in the office or while traveling. Working with a trigger action, the 650-watt unit is also powerful enough to steam upholstery and curtains. The Rowenta Steam Brush comes equipped with a removable lint brush and a plastic carrying pouch.

For the ultimate iron, coming in the fall is the Rowenta Control Electronic Iron ($85), which is said to have a mind of its own. The iron turns off automatically if left resting on its base for 30 seconds or if left upright unattended eight minutes. And if it tips over or drops to the floor, the new iron turns off automatically, instantly beeping for two minutes.

Also lightweight but powerful is Sunbeam's High Efficiency Steam/Dry Iron ($23.95). The 1,200-watt iron boasts of an extra large water reservoir, holding more than eight ounces of tap water, offering 30 minutes of normal steam ironing. The steam chamber has 29 vents; the larger fill opening has a high-tech gray rubber cap. For convenience, easing work for either left or right hand users, the Sunbeam's cord is attached at the center top and rear of the iron.

An upgrade of the above is the Sunbeam Monitor Safety Shut Off Steam/Dry Iron ($32.99). The electronic iron shuts off in 16 minutes if left standing on the heel rest and in 30 seconds if left in the ironing position. A signal light flashes to indicate automatic shut-off has been activated, then continues to flash until the iron is moved or unplugged.

Five-Second Warning Beep

Styled in burgundy and white with silver accents, the Automatic Shut-Off Electronic Iron ($59.98) leads all the other Black and Decker brand irons. It warns the user with a five-second beep, then shuts itself off automatically if not used for 12 minutes. This signal is in response to research that revealed that consumers found it annoying when the iron shut off without any warning.

To prevent scorching delicate fabrics, the "tone alert" goes on and the red "wait" light on the Black and Decker handle glows until the electronic monitoring system has indicated the iron has heated up or cooled down to the temperature selected. When this is reached, a green light goes on and the iron emits an audible tone. The Black and Decker unit also has a spray and surge of steam features, and the plate has a non-stick SilverStone coating.

The Rowenta Powersteam Iron and the Steambrush are available at JW Robinson's , Bullock's and the Broadway.

The Sunbeam High Efficiency and the Monitor Safety Shut Off Steam/Dry Irons are available at the Broadway and Fedco.

The Black and Decker Automatic Shut - Off Electronic Iron is available at Best Products.

The source tagline for the products discussed in last week's column was inadvertently omitted. Here's the information:

The old-fashioned chrome Sunbeam 20030 Toaster with sensor is available at Bullock's. The classic - looking Mighty and Silver OJ and Citrus Pro juicers from MetroKane are available at Bullock's (Los Angeles), Industrial Revolution (Los Angeles), Koontz Hardware (Los Angeles) and L.A. U.S.A. (Santa Monica). The Milk Man thermos bottle is available at Malibu Art and Design (Malibu). The Ice Man "construction worker" plastic lunch box with freezable gel is available at Industrial Revolution, Koontz Hardware and L.A. U.S.A.

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