Is ironing a chore of the past?

According to some studies, 25 percent of consumers only iron if there is no other choice for removing wrinkles from their clothing. If you’re like me and you prefer cotton over blends, you may just find yourself having to iron more often than not.

A recent survey in Consumer Reports magazine took a look at a few alternatives to ironing and attempted to answer a most pressing question — have we reached the end of the iron age?

First up were fabric steamers. Tests on men’s cotton shirts showed that a steamer could reduce the look of wrinkles, but didn’t quite measure up to the pressed look you would get from a steam iron. CR experts recommend the Shark Press & Refresh GS500, which costs $65 and was the best steamer for smoothing wrinkles and making creases where you want them.

The less expensive Conair ExtremeSteam, $35, gave off hotter steam but less of it, and the creasing attachment was hard to use. In short, a steamer is a good option for touch-ups, delicates and any time you need to press something in place, like curtains.

Next came spray wrinkle releasers. Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus is an $8 spray that helps remove deep wrinkles, but again, it won’t leave garments looking as good as when you iron them. I’ve tried this myself on school uniforms and it definitely helps out in a pinch. You spray it on until the garment is slightly damp, smooth and pull the fabric, then let it dry. Skeptics will wonder why you can’t just do the same thing with water, but CR testers compared the results of plain water versus Downy Wrinkle Releaser, and Downy came out on top.

Washers and dryers that use steam and claim better stain removal and less wrinkling in the dryer are also a big trend. In a Good Housekeeping Research Institute test, the LG washer and dryer with steam technology performed best overall. The dryer they reviewed offered a wrinkle care option that tumbles clothes for three hours to help limit wrinkling and the steam feeder is manual — meaning you add water to a drawer — in contrast to other models that require a connection to the washing machine to operate steam functions.

You could go for a steamer box like the Swash, a $400 option from Whirlpool that smooths wrinkles and removes odors with special scented pods by Tide. You can only refresh one garment at a time using one pod per garment, so costs can add up, say CR laundry pros. And if the garment is actually dirty or stained, this isn’t an option, because heat could set the stain. This fall, LG will release a similar styler cabinet for $2,000 that will remove odors and wrinkles from up to four garments at once.

This may be the point at which you decide it’s just easier to stick with the old-school methods and wash, dry and iron your clothes. If so, look for the Rowenta Steamforce DW9280, $140, which got the highest ratings in Consumer Reports tests. If you’re on a budget, go for the Rowenta Effective Comfort DW2070. It costs $50 and performed just as well on steaming rate and ironing fabric as the pricier version.

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Rowenta Steamforce DW9280, about $140.


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