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The Kitchen Cabinet

Getting the Wrinkles Out of Shopping for a New Iron

January 12, 1989|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

There's just no escape to ironing, a domestic chore that has pressed its way back from the Egyptian era to modern day. And with the resurgence of natural fibers, laundry irons have become even hotter. Another trend that puts irons back to work is dressed-up tables, using a variety of interesting fabrics for tablecloths, overlays and napkins. A far cry from the clunky and heavy early electric inventions, the new streamlined irons are lightweight, a feature that can be attributed to improvements in plastic technology.

Today there's an iron for every whim or need. If you're forgetful, there are irons equipped with electronic timers and microchip controllers that shut off automatically when not in use. If you can't live without the spray bottle, you definitely should look into an iron that features a spray button, which releases thin jets of water to dampen those creases. And don't worry about having to use distilled water, another great development is that the new irons can take tap water.

And who's got the best steam? Competing in this hot arena are models with "burst of steam" features and larger reservoir capacity. Another welcomed factor is ease in ironing and cleaning. To alleviate this common problem, soleplates now come finished with specially treated, easy-glide, non-stick coatings. And if looks are important to you, some irons now come in fashion colors, in bold or pastel shades.

If you're in the market for a new iron this year, these newer irons were designed to make ironing a more pleasant and bearable task for you.

The most unique feature of the Tefal Steam Iron is its extremely smooth soleplate. In tests conducted by ironing across the zipper on a pair of jeans 12,000 times, non-stop, the soleplate on the Tefal iron came out like new--smooth and scratch-free. This lightweight iron from France exclusively features Super Gliss soleplate, a coating of pure Durilium. Tefal's theory is that when the plate is scratched, it picks up starch and dirt and becomes difficult to clean. Easy gliding is possible because friction between the fabric being ironed and the iron surface is also reduced by up to 20%.

Sleek-looking in white with pastel trims, the Tefal irons are available in two types of model series: the more deluxe Pressing Plus series (from $75 to $80) and the lightweight Pressing Light Series ($60). The first type, which comes in two models, features the following: an automatic shut-off system after 30 seconds in a horizontal position and after five minutes when left upright; a self-cleaning feature, an anti-clogging valve, six temperature control settings to suit any fabric, water spray button, burst of steam (30 grams steam per minute) a transparent water tank with 7 1/2-ounce capacity, a reversible cord for left or right hand use and convenient cord storage in heel.

The Pressing Light Series has all of the above features except for the automatic shut-off and limited burst of steam functions; both irons provide a 10-year limited warranty on the soleplate.

A company that's been in the iron business for over 75 years and who pioneered the first automatic steam iron is Rowenta from West Germany. In addition to its popular line of Tapmaster Iron series (from $55) that features all the bells and whistles found in an ideal steam-and-spray iron, Rowenta has included two advanced models. The latest and and most exciting addition is the Rowenta Excellence Iron DA-82 ($75). This powerful 1,200-watt iron is designed with a convenient "tank-within-a tank" system that maintains hydrostatic pressure necessary inside the water tank to produce a constant level of steam no matter how much water is in the reservoir.

The Excellence iron seems to have a mind of its own. As the density of fabrics increases, the steam pressure increases, forcing steam into the nap of even the most difficult fabrics; and vice versa for light and delicate fabrics. The water tank is transparent and detachable and when removed, one can maneuver the iron under cuffs or inside pleats. Aside from having the power to deliver a super shot of steam on demand, the Rowenta iron has extra large-size soleplate for greater steam distribution.

The Rowenta Control Electronic Iron DA-80 ($80) offers a full shiny metal base and is said to "think on its feet" even when it's not standing. Like the Tefal iron, it is equipped with a microchip that enables the iron to turn off automatically if it is left resting on its base for 30 seconds or if left upright unattended 8 minutes. But going a step further, the Rowenta version even turns off automatically if it tips over or drops to the floor. The shut-off is indicated by a built-in audible alarm that instantly beeps for two minutes.

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