The pressing iron or iron press is an improvement over the traditional hand iron. While the hand iron was meant to be glided over the clothes with firm pressure, the pressing iron allows clothes to be pressed within two flat surfaces and get pressed within. The principles are different also. Most hand irons work with heat pressure that is generated by electricity, steam power or even by burning pieces of charcoal in an inside compartment (as seen in some antique irons), but the pressing irons predominantly use heat pressure that has been generated by steam. They are more aptly known as steam press irons.
However, the purpose is the same. Just like the hand iron, the press iron is also used for removing the creases, wrinkles and folds from clothes and making them look sharper and smoother. Some people also press clothes for hygienic reasons because the steam pressure in these irons can kill microorganisms that might be residing in the clothes. Pressing can provide a fresher fragrance to the clothes by removing these microorganisms that might be present in them.
Steam iron presses have a larger surface area than a hand iron. They are generally 3 to 7 times larger in surface area than what is provided by a hand iron. Some of them can accommodate the length of a full sized shirt or trouser spread flat out. However, they are not too broad, and hence repeated pressings may be required. For smaller sized clothes, a single press with a press iron is sufficient to iron them completely. There is also the advantage of the two sides of hot surface contact. Due to this, it is not necessary to turn the clothes over and iron the other side as it is necessary to do in hand irons. This makes the pressing efficient and saves time.
There are two basic designs of the pressing irons. The first design is the horizontal design in which the two surfaces between which the clothes are set and the clothes themselves are horizontally placed. The other design is the vertical design, in which the arrangement is vertical. The vertical design is preferred for ironing pants and trousers, though this is not a rule. The irons have stands that are appropriate to their directional alignment.
Both the flat surfaces are lined with padded material so that the clothes do not get damaged when they are placed within. This material is a heat conducting material so that it can bring in the heat from the appliance to the clothes. There is a clasp to hold the two surfaces tightly together when the machine is in operation. This clasp is usually present at the midpoint of the length of the two surfaces so that it can give better support to the device.
One of the most important features of these surfaces is that they have tiny apertures built into them from where they release bursts of steam onto the clothes. This is the principle that acts behind the ironing actually. These heated bursts loosen the fibers of the clothes and the pressure acts in realigning them. This gives the clothes the ‘ironed’ look. The quality of the steam pressing iron will depend on how efficiently they can discharge the jets of steam onto the clothes.
There are some automated features introduced in modern steam pressing irons. These include a temperature control feature that has a digital display attached to indicate what temperature the clothes are being pressed at. Automatic shut-off is another feature provided in these irons. This prevents clothes from getting over-ironed. Some steam pressing irons are also equipped with safety alarms and child locking features. Most steam pressing irons are sold with some accessories such as pressing cushions, sprays and water bottles.