Friday, August 12, 2011

Ironing the Vintage Way

One of my least favorite household chores is ironing. I absolutely hate it. And as you all know, one of the drawbacks of vintage clothes and linens is that they usually need to be ironed. Blech.

So to make it a little more palatable, and for a true "vintage ironing experience" I've been acquiring and using only 1940s/50s household ironing implements. After I wash them with homemade laundry soap
(another post) and line dry them, the next step is ironing.

I don't know if this makes the actual chore better or worse, but it's more visually appealing at least...

Some time ago, my modern steam iron started to automatically shut itself off about every 2 minutes while I was ironing.  Needless to say, this was annoying; I had to go and unplug it and re-start it every time. I went to buy a new iron and was dismayed to find that I could not buy one that was made in America. (This is one of my pet peeves, and I prefer not to buy new things unless they support American manufacturing jobs.) 

So I began the hunt for a vintage iron. I found one not long afterwards at a rummage sale, and fell in love. I mean, how could you not love good old, American-made, chrome and turquoise (even if it is an iron? ;). Plus, at $1 it was far cheaper than the foreign-made dreck, and I'm sure it will last longer, since it already has at least 40 years under its steam plate.

When I am ironing, I prefer a big, heavy ironing board that won't tip over. This is a 1920s-vintage ironing board that I inherited. It really is a board, with a cotton pad over top and steel legs. It probably weighs 10 times what a modern ironing board weighs and is solid as a rock.

My new iron does have a steam feature, but many vintage irons do not. In order to get that extra moisture to remove stubborn wrinkles, most housewives used a laundry sprinkler. 

This is just a sprinkler top placed in a repurposed bottle. Mine happens to have been made out of a ketchup bottle, which was painted and decal-ed with a Mexican motif. I found this in a thrift store for a couple of bucks. 

I rarely use starch, either the spray or boil kinds. For things like tablecloths, which might be stored for a while, the starch can attract unwanted insects. Plus, I hate the smell.

Here is my new iron in action- I love how it lights up when it is hot. And it does get hot- way hotter than the old iron. Plus, it's at least twice as heavy. It actually makes the job go quicker- always a plus! 

 And the finished product- two sets of curtains, three tablecloths, and a couple dresses, shirts and blouses. Yes it was dark by the time I was done!


  1. I have to be in a certain mood to be willing to iron. Things around here don't get ironed much :-)

  2. My vintage iron is from the 30s (of course, right?). It does a killer job on linens, but weighs in at some 5 pounds and gets so hot that the Bakelite handle needs a hot pad around it! Must pay attention when using.

    One of the same vintage as yours sounds like a better idea; I'll keep my eyes open for one.

    p.s. Too word verification is oustain [ooo stain!].

  3. I too LOVE my vintage iron like crazy. I don't put water in mine though, I just use a pray bottle to generate steam. They will last forever and will always be better than the plastic crap-o-la out there these days!

  4. I have to find me a laundry sprinkler! I NEED ONE! lol

    I find you very gutsy to use old appliances. I too find that they often do the job better but I'm always worry about the electrical cord and overheating.

  5. Brought back memories...My mom used a green ginger ale bottle for a clothes sprinkler and put them in a zipper-top plastic bag for a few hours so they could get good and damp through and through. I don't know if you can still buy those sprinkler tops with a cork base or not.

  6. oh boy, does this post take me back. I am old enough to have spent long afternoons ironing the family clothes and linens with my grandmother. First we would sprinkle the wrinkles, as she said, and roll them up one by one in a line on the counter. Then she would heat the iron and we took turns steaming out the wrinkles. Even after my mother bought a modern steam iron in the late 60s that looked scarily like the one you grandmother still sprinkled the wrinkles on the really tough stuff...and since everything was air dried, there were tons of tough stuff to iron!

  7. My mother just informed me she purchased an iron - a vintage one, made of all metal. No plastic pieces! And she continued to gush about said iron to me for ten minutes. She owns an inn and it's necessary to have perfectly pressed pillow cases and sheets!

  8. I had no idea thats how they used to sprinkle water on their ironing! Wonderful information.

    Thanks doll,
    The Glamorous Housewife