Ironing is unlikely to be your favourite chore, but just how much better will it get if you spend $599 on the equipment? Lifehacker gets steamy and tests the Philips PerfectCare GC9240.
To put this in context: I think ironing is tedious and pointless. Prior to this round of testing, the last time I actually ironed a shirt was in February. So no ironing solution is actually likely to persuade me to part with any extra money. But each to their own: if it makes you feel better to have wrinkle-free clothes or you find the actual experience relaxing, then get steamy to your heart's content. I know people who iron sheets, and I struggle to understand why, but I also insist on having all the coat hangers in my wardrobe facing the same direction. People have quirks.
All that said, I was so utterly astonished by the idea that anyone would want to spend $599 on an iron that I figured I need to try it out and see how well it worked. The big selling point for the PerfectCare is that because it generates steam separately in a heated compartment sent down a cloth-covered pipe direct to the iron (rather than just in small bursts from inside the iron), it can be used on any kind of fabric without requiring you to constantly adjust the temperature. You can also use it to vertically steam garments like dresses, which can be easier and more effective than trying to use a standard ironing board.
First, the good points: the iron does heat up impressively quickly. Even with the water tank completely full, it was ready to use within a couple of minutes. (Cheaper steam generator designs can often take 10 minutes or more, which makes quickly ironing work clothes in the morning a challenge.)
Second: it really does work on a wide range of fabrics without requiring adjustment. I used it on business shirts and T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts in lurid polyester, and it handled them all equally well and with less effort than a standard iron. I even tried it on a tea-towel, to get into "sheet ironing" mode, and it worked fine for that too. (I swear I will never iron a tea-towel again.) I even steamed a dress in vertical mode, which seemed easy and reasonably efficient.
Because I'm not an ironing enthusiast, I asked Sarah, who edits our sibling beauty site BellaSugar, to also give it a whirl. Sarah irons regularly and likes to be well turned out, so I figured she would be a more discerning tester. She wasn't particularly happy with the midget IKEA ironing board which we keep in Lifehacker HQ for this kind of project, but as far as the iron itself went, she was also quite pleased with the result.
That said, there are some clear downsides. The first is the bulk of the unit: it takes up much more room than a regular iron. While you could probably fit it on the end of a full-size ironing board, that restricts the area available for larger garments. It also means you'll need plenty of laundry space to keep it when not in use.
The second is that the unit is, to put it bluntly, noisy and smelling. It makes regular grunting noises while reloading with steam, and after I'd used it for a couple of shirts, the entire office smelt somewhat steamy and plastic-like. Those aren't earth-shattering problems, but given how people made remarks along the lines of "For $599, it needs to actually do the ironing and give me a massage", they're worth pointing out.
If you iron a lot and have dedicated space to do it (such as a large laundry), those objections wouldn't necessarily amount to much. I'm still not quite persuaded that I'd want to part with anything like that amount of money, but as an iron, it does perform well.