Sunday, 9 November 2014

Domestic nirvana: my new Tefal iron

Hmmm. Looking 'nirvana' up in my 1990 edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary reveals this definition: '(In Buddhism) perfect bliss and release from karma, attained by the extinction of individuality' - which is not quite the notion intended by my title. By 'nirvana' I really mean 'the greatest happiness'. And in the domestic sphere that need not imply anything overwhelming, just an exceptionally good feeling. With that understood, I want to rave a bit about my new iron. Here I am, with the thing just unpacked, and ready to be tried out, if can get it filled with water:

For donkeys years in the past - I'm talking about the mid-1970s up to 2002 - I subscribed to Which?, the monthly magazine of the Consumers' Association. They had a lot of money out of me, every quarter, over all those years. In return I got a lot of information. It wasn't just the product reviews, interesting though those were (and occasionally highly gratifying, when you realised that you had, though your own good and unaided judgement, recently bought the Which? 'Best Buy' in advance of the report). I learned about all sorts of things connected with running a home, or a car, or about financial matters.

For a long while all those back numbers were a kind of encyclopaedia to dip into. Until one day, after using the Internet for a couple of years, I discovered that it could be just as useful to read online reviews. And it cost nothing. They didn't have the authority of Which? but if you were discerning it wasn't hard to see (a) which were the best products for a given price range, and (b) who was selling them at that very moment. That's when I decided that - so far as I was concerned - my subscription to Which? was money that could be better spent elsewhere.

And so I emancipated myself from the 'Best Buy' approach to spending. I've had no regrets; I always prefer to use my own judgement anyway. With some items, I want excellence above all else, and the cost is secondary. That's because 'what I get for my money' includes an intangible element of delight. It's personal to me, it can't be precisely or objectively measured, and it can't be included in a rational comparison table of similar products. So Which? might have to ignore it altogether, even though leaving out this delightful aspect of ownership excludes a big part of why I am happy with the product I've bought. Therefore Which?'s opinion and mine might be divergent, and in general I would be dissatisfied with a lot that they would consider 'value for money'.  

In any case, if it's just an iron, why would I need to know what Which? says? I have been ironing things all my adult life: that's at least forty years of experience. I know what I want from an iron, I know what the essential features are that make ironing easy and a pleasure. These are:

# A smoothly-gliding hot baseplate (stainless steel seems smoothest).
# A comfortable handle without buttons, triggers and flex getting in the way.
# Adequate constant steam. I don't have to have billowing clouds of it.
# Enough weight and stability not to fall over when put down on the ironing board.
# A decent length of flex.

Well, you can have all of these things in an inexpensive iron. My target cost was in the £20-£30 range, no more. That isn't the cheapest, but you can pay a lot more.

I went to the Tesco Extra store at Hookwood, near Gatwick Airport (as much for a bit of a drive, than anything else). I bought a Tefal Maestro 70 steam iron for £25. Right in my target area. Simple and inexpensive. And for the most part simple to unpack, set up, and use once home.

Stainless steel baseplates are of course a little heavier than the aluminium variety, but they are smoother, don't stain or corrode, and glide over the fabric more easily. The thing had a good steam-hole pattern. It was a nice iron to hold, well-balanced and satisfying, but not too heavy. If I had a reservation, it was that the blue plastic parts were a little too dark and opaque. A lighter, prettier, more translucent blue would have been better, as with the old iron:

This old iron (now binned) was originally bought from Woolworths at Newhaven in July 2008, and had cost only £6. (No wonder Woolworths folded!) It was bought for the Cottage. From 2008 to 2012 it was mostly kept as a standby iron, but when my 'best' iron packed in during 2012 I brought this ultra-inexpensive Woolworths iron into service. Apart from being just a little on the lightweight side, it did well until it too began to get clogged up with hard-water gunge. This week it stopped steaming entirely. I decided that it had had its day, and the new Tefal iron was its replacement.

The blue parts of the old Woolworths iron were easier to see through, and that meant it was simple to judge the water level as you filled it up. Not so with the new iron:

Water couldn't just be poured in, up to the marked 'maximum' level. You'd need a strong backlight to see how much you'd put in. So instead it would have to be carefully measured, and poured in blind. I consulted the instruction book for advice. How much water? It didn't say. It didn't give me words, only diagrams:

I suppose diagrams save on translation costs. It's an international product. But although some diagrams can be very clear, these weren't. Nowhere did it indicate how much water to pour in. So I experimented, by pouring in enough to bring the water level up to 'maximum', and then measuring the volume of that. It was 300ml. And half-filling the little white jug that came with the iron gave you 300ml to pour in. Well, it was a palaver finding out, but now I knew for evermore.

It was obvious how the controls worked, so once the iron was filled up I was ready to do some ironing. I had some clothes all ready.

I'm pleased to say that this Tefal iron was a dream to use. It was a lot more effective than the old Woolworths iron, partly because of the steam, and partly because the baseplate was larger. Both had stainless steel baseplates, so there was no difference in how easy it was to push over the fabric.


By the way, I really like ironing! In that I'm a bit unusual, I know. Most people I've ever known have told me that of all household tasks, this is the one they dislike most. But I enjoy it. I do have a nice big ironing board. And usually I listen to music as I iron, which helps - here's a shot from five years ago, in September 2009, to illustrate that 'twas ever the case that ironing has meant a good air-guitar singalong with Slade or Queen:

If you compare the 2014 shots with these 2009 shots, I am sure you'll agree that I'm a far more mature, staid and adult person now - as becomes an Old Age Pensioner!

But I still love the panting noise steam irons make, I thrill to see those creases disappear, and I get orgasmic over crisp folds in beautifully-ironed sheets and pillowcases. And what a great sense of accomplishment when it's all done and put away!


  1. Your last few photos remind me of a folk song they tried to teach me in my Primary School days:

    ... She looked so neat and nimble, O,
    a-ironing of her linen, O.
    Dashing away with the smoothing iron
    she stole my heart away.

    Perhaps it's as well that you have matured (a bit)!

  2. Surely a sing along with Iron Maiden... I have heard about ironing, it seems to make you very happy, perhaps I should give it a try.

    When I met a friend forty years ago I was surprised that he would prefer to spend an evening ironing his clothes to a trip to the movies!


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