The end of the ironing age

With technology steaming ahead, it could be time to say goodbye to our irons

Ironing is officially dead. Don’t try to revive it; it’s been knocked on the head by a heavy object and is now lying creased up on the floor.

In a report published in April, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that the average household in the UK put on 260 washloads a year, only 10 per cent of which was ironed. I’d like to predict that results of the next survey will show a drop in that percentage.

Why? As ever, fashion leads the way. London Fashion Week (LFW), which ended last week, forecast a range of iron-phobic fabrics to hit our retailers in spring/summer 2017, silk being the main one; having popped up on catwalks from Erdem to Roksanda. This winter we will be all wrapped up in velvet (men, too), and in an LFW special on Woman’s Hour last week (during a discussion about the white shirt, no less), both Pandora Sykes, fashion features editor of Sunday Times Style, and London College of Fashion historian Amber Butchart admitted they didn’t own nor use an iron.

I don’t either. Well, I have an iron. But my ironing board is broken and I’m considering, instead of buying a new one, spending £100 on a steamer instead. These canny contraptions are the fashion industry’s best-kept secret. Switch on, hear the satisfying gurgle of evaporating water, and brandish the hand-held steam pipe about your garment like a tranced-up shaman.

Every fashion magazine worth its cover price has one behind the scenes; it’s used for shoots but also so staff can spruce up their outfits between a morning of desk-dwelling and an afternoon of appointments. They have one at Tatler and, when I worked there, I once had to join a queue of colleagues waiting to use it. And, because it doesn’t work while your clothes are on, there were often plenty of fruity views to behold across Vogue House.

‘But what about the men?’, I hear you ask. Indeed, garment steamers are brilliant for many things, but a starched white collar is not one of them. In this field, technology leads the way; with apps matching up people who need crisp cuffs and collars with those who can iron them. Punch your postcode into Laundrapp and get five shirts collected, washed, ironed and delivered back to you for £11.

In fact, the ONS has calculated that all home laundry, if costed up to market value, would generate £80 billion a year. They worked out that if we outsourced all our ironing, we’d increase our GDP by £5bn. Even if we steam half of it at home and outsource the rest, that’s still a hefty £2.5bn. And that is on top of what is already made by cleaners who iron, so we’re not putting them out of a job, either.

So, next time you think about switching on that iron; stop yourself. If only for the sake of the economy.

Three garment steamers

The Morplan, from £26.95 : An economical, hand-held steamer no bigger than a Thermos. Amber Butchart’s steamer of choice.

The Fridja, from £99.99: An upright steamer inspired by Scandi design and as seen on Dragon’s Den. Favoured by Pandora Sykes.

The Rowenta, from £94.98: A heavy-duty steamer which heats up in 60 seconds and bids ‘tirrah!’ to the iron in the process.

Lisa Williams is the editor of TantrumXYZ


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