An $800 iron sounds like a joke. Like John Edwards’ $1,250 haircut, you can imagine a politician getting caught spending money on one and then losing all credibility. Still, when Laurastar offered to loan me one of their new Lift Plus units for review, I couldn’t help but take them up on it. I had to know what an $800 iron does. Print money?
Although the price tag sounds ridiculous, Laurastar’s Lift Plus is part of a class of machines known as steam stations, which aren’t ridiculous (or at least not entirely). Most irons are terrible at shooting out steam, which is why I recommend spraying shirts down with water before ironing them. A hot iron passing over damp cloth will create it’s own steam, but you’ll have to pass the iron over a few times in order to get wrinkles out.
Steam stations, on the other hand, give continuous and powerful blasts of steam, which dramatically cuts down on your ironing time. In fact, for the last year, I’ve been using a Rowenta DG8430, which is one of the more affordable steam stations on the market. I rarely even touch my regular iron now, as this machine cuts my work time in half.
Laurastar Lift Plus
Laurastar’s Lift Plus is indeed a remarkably good steam station – possibly one the best on the market. It shoots out a much more powerful blast of steam than my Rowenta, which helps knock wrinkles out of tough fabrics such as denim and canvas. It’s also much more intelligently designed. The water tank is removable, so that you don’t have to lug the whole station to the sink when you’re filling it up (or worse, dumping it out). And it’s easier to store away, as there’s a handle at the top for easy carrying, and the cord wraps neatly around the base. All in all, it’s a simply more effective and better-designed machine.
There is a downside, however. Tailor Jeffery Diduch has written a lot about the dangers of throwing steam into wool garments, which we’ve summarized here. In short, steam can blow seams out and take all the shaping out of a tailored jacket. With a unit this powerful, this only becomes doubly true. It’s fine for ironing dress shirts or casual pants, but for getting the wrinkles out of tailored jackets and trousers, I’d stick with a traditional dry iron and press cloth.
Ironing technology is so improved nowadays that you can get a pretty good machine for not too much money. I recently tried a $45 Black & Decker Digital Advantage iron and was very impressed (Jesse has also recommended it). Combined with a $5 spray bottle, that’s all that anyone really needs.
If you have the money to splurge, however, a steam station can dramatically cut down on your ironing time, which can be nice if you either really hate the chore or have to iron for a few people in your family. Rowenta and Reliable make some more affordable units (although Rowenta gets a lot complaints about early breakdowns). For the absolute top-of-the-line model, there’s LauraStar’s Lift Plus, which is easily the best at-home unit I’ve come across. It’s just that, like many “best on the market” things, this comes with a price tag.