Steaming vs. Ironing

A few years ago I was traveling in Ukraine and pressing a dress shirt in my host's house as she turned the corner. She watched me for a moment and then thrust her open hands my direction, insisting with thick Russian accent, "Give to me; I do for you." 

Apparently I am terribly slow at ironing, which is laughable considering my profession. I learned how to iron in the Young Marines when our uniforms had to be pressed for inspection and I guess I never lost the attention to detail. But when I got fed up spending 10 minutes to press a single shirt I went in search of a better way.

I started with a cheap Homedics steamer purely as a way to save time but I eventually stumbled across an article from Jiffy that completely changed the reason I steam. Just read what they have to say:

Your clothes are an investment. Don't you want to apply the safest, gentlest method for removing wrinkles?

To determine which method of removing wrinkles is the better option for fabric care, steaming and ironing were put to the test.

  • Two identical 6" x 6" squares of black wool were purchased from a local fabric store.

  • We steamed sample "A" for 1 minute with a Model J-2000 Jiffy ® Steamer.

  • Sample "B" was ironed for 1 minute, on the proper heat setting, with a top-of-the-line residential iron.

  • We then bagged, labeled, and submitted both samples to MVA Scientific Consultants in Norcross, Georgia for detailed magnification.

The Scanned Electron Microscope (SEM) images show any damage that may have occurred.

Image courtesy of Jiffy -

Image courtesy of Jiffy -

The fibers in sample "A" are in near perfect condition due to the gentle nature of steam. However, the fibers in sample "B" are clearly distorted. You can easily recognize the damaged fibers caused by just one application of the iron's hot sole plate.

Unlike ironing, steam actually relaxes the fibers rather than crushing them.

The article certainly appealed to me. My clothes are an investment and my clients' clothes are an investment. Not only do steamers save time, they are actually better for your clothes. Here are a couple I particularly recommend:

  • Rowenta IS6200 - The price on this one averages around $99 with free shipping. It has a 60 second start time, which is just long enough to turn it on with an easy foot pedal, pick out your shirt, and turn back around to steam it. It also comes with a handy attachment that allows you to put a crease down your pant leg or flatten a button placket. 
  • Jiffy J-2000 or J-4000 - Jiffy is the industry leader for commercial steamers. The 2000 is enough for most home use with a two minute boot up and a run time of at least an hour and a half. The 4000 is something I usually only see in high-end boutiques and department stores and gives you an extra thirty minutes of steam. They are both a little more spendy but also more durable if you have kids or pets in the house.

Joshua Davis is a full time image and lifestyle coach helping clients take control of their image as a tool for good communication.

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