Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Choosing a New Iron - Review

Black and Decker Digital Advantage $44
It took me several weeks to choose a new iron. It's not that I needed a new one. I have an old stainless steel Rowenta from Germany that still works great. But there are times when I need to bring an iron with me for a sewing workshop. I am possessive with my Rowenta and I don't like strangers using it. Because I had to teach a sewing class in my studio, it prompted me to get another iron for my class to use.

Enter the Black and Decker Digital Advantage. For $40, I couldn't resist. There were a couple of second choices.  One being the Oliso iron ($120+), and the Panasonic Steam/Dry iron with stainless steel plate ($38). For price comparisons, the Panasonic was the lead, but there seemed to be more complaints about breaking down within a couple of months use. But everything else was very comparable. Based on an overall analysis, most people seemed to be pleased with the Black and Decker, including Consumer Reports.

There were mixed reviews on the Black and Decker too...hundreds of them. But after using it during my sewing class and a day on my own, I can comfortably say that this little guy is pretty darn close to my Rowenta...with a couple of exceptions.

What did I just say? Yes, it's true, and when you add into the minimal cost factor, you've got yourself a pretty outstanding deal here. What do I like about it? It's easy to use, and the temperature indicators are clear even though it's digital, and I'm not a big fan of digital displays in general.

But the kicker is the amount of steam this baby pushes out. It might have a tad more steam power than my Rowenta (gasping upon admission). According to the company descriptions, steam comes out horizontally and vertically. I won't be putting my face to it to know for sure, but as far as I can tell, this is its best asset.  But there's more things I like about the iron.

It's heavy. Just the amount of weight I need to press open seams and difficult fabrics. I know some people commented on the weight of this tool as a negative, but I'm the opposite. If you're focused on a crisp, clean press, then a flimsy lightweight iron is not the tool to own.

When I first looked at the generous water tank, I thought it would save me refill time. I was wrong. Because of the amount of steam this guy produces, expect to fill the tank frequently.  I also found that leaving the iron on without using it can also waste water. This might be my only negative. The solution to this problem is getting another iron with the hanging water tank, but then I lose the portability factor. But look, either way, I'm going to have to fill a tank with water. I just have to remember to do it before beginning my projects, and make it a part of my prep work.

Another nice feature on the Black and Decker is the an off switch. It even gives you directions right on top of the button "hold/off."  Which translates into "hold this button down until it turns off."  My old iron doesn't have one. It's baffled me for more than a decade, trying to find the off switch. My Rowenta has an auto shut off (so does the Black and Decker after ten minutes), so I guess the engineers over there in Germany thought we don't really need a button for it since "off" is built in. I suppose this is engineer logic, but human nature rules here. I like to know that I have hit the "OFF" button when I'm done, and be assured that the backup "auto-off" feature is there when I do forget. I feel this way about every piece of electronic, because I was brought up to believe that electrical fires are real hazards. It's just me...but I suspect, a lot of people might feel the same way.

Complaints about the Black and Decker from online reviews includes the water tank lid breaking. This seems to be the number one complaint. Others were the digital screen being difficult to read, difficult to understand, and the iron being heavy. My water tank lid hasn't broken yet, but I don't use this iron that much, but knowing that it's a problem, I'm being gingerly with the lid.

In case you were wondering what my Rowenta iron model is, it's a P2 Professional Series. There are similar products that are newer models, but I don't think they are made the same. There's been mixed reviews. Mine does leak occasionally, especially right when you fill the tank, so I usually have to iron a pressing cloth to level out the steam. Other than that though, nothing has really broken on this machine. What makes this iron better is the narrow tip, and its ability to get into tight corners.  The Black and Decker isn't shaped as delicately for ironing crevices.

As much as I complain about the auto off feature of my Rowenta, it does shut off but not as quickly as the Black and Decker.  It doesn't have a motion sensor. The tank is smaller on the Rowenta, but I feel like I fill it up less often, and I'm still happy with the amount of steam I get.

In case some of you are wondering about the type of water I use on my irons...the Black and Decker states that it can use tap water. If your water is naturally hard, maybe that's not a good idea. I keep a gallon or two of distilled water in my sewing studio for the irons. It's probably best if you want your irons to last you longer and avoid mineral deposits, especially in the steam vents.

I bought my Rowenta more than ten years ago for $125. That was a lot of money back then, and they still cost about the same now. Given inflation, and the deflation of the dollar, how can the same quality iron be produced for the same price? Answer: it can't. It is a business man's curse and blessing to make something well and last at least a decade. Would I pay $250 for another perfect iron that will last me another ten years? Yes, I would.  During my iron research, I looked at the more expensive Rowenta irons, and they did not get more positive reviews. I am waiting to hear from someone that spent $250 on the perfect iron. But I guess I need to wait ten years to see if it's still working.

Happy Sewing!