How a combo iron, steamer, water tank and ironing board almost took me to the cleaners
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I’ve always hated to iron, and I've never been any good at it, but I've finally found the iron for me. I have a bunch of wrinkled cotton tops and dresses that live in my closet all the time, because in order to wear them, I’d have to press them, or (shudder) spend lots of money to send them to the cleaners. So, I don't.
Along comes a $2,000 steam ironing system, the Miele FashionMaster (available at Amazon for $1,999.00). It includes an ironing board, an iron, a handheld steamer, and a shared water reservoir.
For someone who wants her clothing to look impeccable at all times, and is willing to put in the effort and the investment, it might be a great solution. But would it make someone like me love ironing? Would it do such a good job on wrinkles that my cotton blouses could come into regular wardrobe rotation? I aimed to find out.
The FashionMaster looks sharp, with its monochrome color scheme. Just gazing at its black ironing board made me feel more fashionable. But it would take more than good looks to fix my wrinkled clothes.
Steam is FashionMaster’s secret weapon. It‘s forceful!
The steam is generated by a reservoir you fill from the faucet. You power up, and wait for the heat. Then, press a button on the iron, and steam shoots out. For times when steam is enough, you can use the steamer attachment to smooth and freshen hanging clothes.
Whereas my budget iron at home sputters and sticks, the FashionMaster has a plate with a honeycomb design that offers better steam distribution, plus a non-stick plate that lets you press synthetics, appliquéd clothing, and decorated tee shirts (on the right side!) without steam.
My ancient ironing board, with its elastic cover, probably causes more wrinkles than it disperses. The FashionMaster’s board is a pleasure to use. It has features I would never have known I needed.
For example, the board can inflate with air to help with pressing delicate items. Two fans underneath provide suction to adhere heavier clothes -- useful when ironing jeans.
And the whole apparatus folds up neatly when you’re done. The system is on wheels, so you can move it around. I found it to be heavy and a bit clumsy to roll.
Getting started took longer than I expected. I had to follow the steps in the manual to get up and running. Luckily, the LCD control panel is easy to navigate, and it displays messages every step of the way.
Before I could iron or steam, I needed to perform a hard water test, using a strip that comes with the system. I had to change a setting so the FashionMaster would work with the local water. Hard water can be hard on irons.
I filled the reservoir with tap water, so the system could rinse itself out. When that was done, I had to dump the water out of a different container, and then reload the reservoir. Once the iron hit the right temperature, I was good to go. It has three settings, low (synthetics), medium (wool/silk), and high (linen/cotton.) Steam is available on medium and high.
Bearing in mind that I came to it lacking positive ironing experiences, I was delighted with the FashionMaster. I could turn a dial and grab a handle to adjust the height of the board.
The iron, though heavier and less comfortable than I expected, slid easily across a pillowcase, a man’s shirt, and a pleated knit skirt, leaving smooth, unwrinkled fabric in its wake. It was amusing to practice inflating and turning on the suction as I ironed.
A more skillful ironer might have made speedier and neater work of it, but as a non-expert, I didn’t save much time over ironing the old-fashioned way. It was a lot more enjoyable, though.
It might have helped if the front of iron were pointier, to reach into a few tough places on the shirt. The board didn’t allow me to pull the pillowcase up very far, since the frame was in the way. That added an unnecessary challenge.
The handheld steamer was much lighter than the iron. When I plugged it into the system’s hose, it heated up quickly.
With the steamer’s brush attachment, I could make direct contact with a cotton dress on a hanger. Though the amount of steam was great, I prefer the look of an ironed garment, since a steamer doesn’t give a crisp finish. But If I’d tried it on a blazer, the steamer might have been very useful. And I could've rolled it around to the living room to steam the drapes.
The FashionMaster has some really nice attributes. The iron turns itself off once it’s idle for three minutes. When the reservoir runs low, the control panel displays a message, and it’s possible to remove the reservoir to refill it without shutting down.
There’s a small amount of maintenance required from time to time. A couple of descaling tablets come with the system. You'll need to use them periodically, because if you don't, impurities in water build up, leaving stains on your clothes. The control panel lets you know when it's time to descale.
A lint roller would have been a handy addition, to remove the specks that show up on the ironing board’s black cover, but that’s a minor point.
Is the Miele FashionMaster worth the $2,000 price tag? For most of us, probably not. For someone who needs (and can afford) a high-end clothing maintenance tool, possibly.
Aside from the $2,000 cost of entry, there’s definitely a learning curve required to get up to speed with it. My results were no better than a regular iron and ironing board would provide, but the FashionMaster might decrease a more skillful ironer's time and effort.
I realize that a closet full of no-iron shirts would cost me a lot less than a fancy ironing system. There are a number of reasonably priced handheld steamers on the market, so it would be easy to add one to my laundry room. And for $2,000, I could send a lot of clothes to the cleaners.
Still, after my one experience with it, I’ll miss using the FashionMaster. For the first time in my life, ironing was fun.