At some point in life, we all have shied away from the task of ironing our clothes. Even though it makes us look good, it is one of the most tiresome jobs that we easily let go. However, you might not take the equipment very lightly once you know the history of it. How it originated and evolved over centuries. That’s right, there are documents dating the 1st century BC that describe the process of ironing clothes. So, basically man ironed clothes a full thousand years before Jesus was born.
Hot beginnings in China:
According to documents dating back to 1st century BC, the Chinese would use metal pans filled with hot water to smooth their clothes and erase creases from fabric. No one knows exactly how long ago ironing began, but this is one of the earliest recorded examples.
Sad irons for happy times:
17th century saw emergence of a new method of ironing. Big slabs of iron with a handle were heated on a fire and used to smooth the wrinkles out of fabric. This device was unconventionally christened as the Sad Iron. It had another name though – Flat Irons. This method, however, was very time consuming. Every time someone wanted to do the ironing, they would have to wait for the iron slab to heat up above the fire, then, stop when it had cooled and begin the entire process all over again. Today, irons heat up in seconds and yet we get impatient. Imagine the efforts our ancestors took to look good!
Box it up!
Humans device ideas to make things convenient, that’s how evolution works. Over the years, people would take iron boxes and fill them with hot coals or hot metal inserts. However, we were still not happy with the pace of the task. Coals and metal inserts needed to be heated up several times in each ironing session. What’s the remedy, you ask? Use multiple iron boxes at a time. To make things easier and more efficient, people began to use several irons, heating them from one source and switching between the irons as the others began to cool.
Fuel it up!
By the late 1800s and early 1900s, things had really changed for irons. Now, irons were heated using fuels like ethanol, natural gas or whale oil.
Like every else, irons also got an electric makeover during the industrial revolution. Now aluminium or stainless steel was used to make the hot plate. The temperature could be maintained steadily throughout the ironing process by a thermostat, which turned the heating element on and off whenever it gets too hot or cold. The credit of this iron-ic revolution goes to Henry W. Seeley from New York who patented this technology in the early 1880s. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that an iron came on to the market that used a thermostat to regulate and control the temperature.
Hot becomes steamy:
Thomas Sears added some steam to ironing with his invention of the electric steam iron in the early 1900s. This device was first used by a New York cleaning company in 1926 but it wasn’t until 1938 that the steam iron became commercially successful.
Today, we have irons with innumerable features. Every company has something new to offer in their device. Here are some of the latest features in an iron (perhaps you could use if you are looking to buy a new iron):
- Steam: Irons are equipped with water tanks that enable generation of steam.
- Anti-calc collector: Prevents limescale from affecting the steam output, helping to make the iron last longer and work more efficiently.
- Water indicator: Indicates how much water is in the container.
- Auto-off setting: A blessing for the forgetful. The setting switches the iron off automatically once it reaches a certain temperature or after a certain amount of inactive time has passed.
- Side platform: Prevents iron from being in contact with the garments, and keeps it upright.
- Spray: Iron releases a mist of water to ease the smoothing of stubborn wrinkles from fabrics like cotton and linen.
- Energy-saving: If the iron is left on and not used, it automatically turns off after 10 minutes.
- Anodiliumm soleplates: These won’t get scratched and will last an incredibly long time.
Ironing can be a pain. We might hate it, we might love it. But we simply cannot ignore it. We began with filling metal pans with hot water and today we have irons that are portable, light-weight, quick, efficient and easier to use. So the next time you get too lazy to make the effort, just remember irons have had a long history. Supposedly longer than a few religions!
FACT: The Gochsheim Castle, Karlshruhe, Germany has one of the largest collections of irons – about 1300 pieces!
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