A Confession Hot off the Press One woman details the steamy history of de-wrinkling, and argues that a return to ironing just might save the world.

By Avery Caswell



I’m no Martha Stewart acolyte, praying for domestic perfection, nor do I aspire to be the next Heloise, handing out helpful household hints left and right. There are still unpacked boxes at my house from a move that occurred four-plus months ago; a pan soaks in my sink with the remains of last night’s (poorly) fried egg dinner; my garden is mostly weeds. So, when I tell you what I’m about to tell you, don’t deem me a throwback to the Eisenhower era, a perky housewife vacuuming in her pearls. (Though I’m fairly certain the vacuum is here somewhere, I haven’t seen the pearls in years.) Here it is: I really like to iron.

Maybe you think I’m wasting precious time (by some accounts, four months of my life) dragging a heavy, hissing appliance over fabric that will only get wrinkled again—and soon. I say, ironing gives me time to pay homage to the faceless designers of tags, and plackets and cuffs-details that non-ironers miss. During what many call a mindless chore, I’ve plotted entire novels. And, it’s calming. While ironing, I strategize ways to ban the Donald from our country. (If only I could iron away all memory of him.)

History abounds with people like me who have chosen to present a smooth front to the world. Ancient Egyptians, always up for another excuse to haul around big blocks of rock, flattened their wrinkled linen with heavy stones. The Chinese filled pans with smoldering coals to smooth out their scrunched-up silk. Early American women heated heavy irons (literally made of iron, hence the term) on their hearths to unrumple their homespun. Those women knew: The heavier the iron, the better—so don’t fall for a lightweight, plastic version when you buy yours. And you will buy one, I know, because research proves that ironing saves money! This is especially true if you rely on dry cleaners who, in addition to being expensive, wreak havoc on the environment.

You may believe, in all your wrinkly dishevelment, that people look at you and think, “Wow, what an enlightened soul! There goes someone obviously way too busy to waste time ironing.” I urge you to consider the synonyms for wrinkles: snag, hitch, difficulty, drawback, imperfection, problem. Do you really want to be a walking billboard for that?

What your wrinkled state really says is that you cannot be bothered to preserve the very items that protect you from the elements:-possible climate change disasters such as melting glaciers, boiling sands, and/or tornadoing sharks (events hastened by an environment devastated by dry cleaning chemicals).

Consider joining the 40 percent of us iron-bearing Americans; let your soul thrill to the sweet music of this underappreciated laundry task: the screech of the ironing board as it’s hoisted to attention; the whisper of starch as it streams; the rush of steam blasting from the iron. We could change, even save-the world, smoothing society’s kinks, one wrinkle at a time.

2 comments

  1. After reading about the proliferation of bed bugs, I started ironing sheets again.
    Time consuming but worth it.

  2. I was hired to do a series of ironing videos 10 years ago by a guy named Oliver, whose ad on Craigslist I just happened to see. After I explained my ironing prowess and he read my short blog post about the joy of ironing http://nestingbaltimore.blogspot.com/2007/09/ironing-napkins.html , I got the gig.

    expertvillage.com paid him by the piece and so every garment was deconstructed – a dress shirt was broken down into collar, yoke, left sleeve, right sleeve, left front, right front, and back. Same for pants, dresses, etc. The basics of ironing videos were very informative – here’s a goodie about starch vs. sizing http://mixhowto.com/how-to/19681-how-to-iron-jeans-how-to-starch-jeans-for-ironing.html .

    I think we shot 41 separate videos that day. It was challenging to keep up the riffing and repartee, but we had a lot of fun creating this little series on what seems to be a dying art. A few videos were very funny – I certainly got a lot of feedback on this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQTwd0NB-vE .

    One day when I was very very bored, I deeply Googled myself and discovered worldwide fans of my ironing videos. One of my friends used to watch the videos with the sound turned off because she said it was so soothing to see something made so perfect so quickly. But maybe the craziest thing was the guy in a polyester polo shirt who enthusiastically approached, excitedly saying he recognized me from the video he had just watched explaining how to steam the wrinkles out of that very shirt.

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