Ironing clothes is a tedious but necessary household chore. It can be made easier, though, by using a good quality ironing board and there is a huge selection on the market today.
An ironing board has a flat, padded surface, on which clothes are placed for ironing, usually with a decorative cover made of heat-resistant fabric. The pad normally has vent ‘holes’, which allow steam from the iron to penetrate the clothes and escape out the bottom.
A good ironing board also has extra features, to make ironing easier. These include ‘sleeves’, which are about 2 feet long and 6 to 8 inches wide, attached to the board, for ironing sleeves and small items of clothing.
Another important feature is the iron-rest. This is usually at the end of the board and made of heatproof material. A good iron rest is large enough to hold the iron safely, without risk of it falling off.
Types of ironing board
There are three main types of ironing board – portable, table-top and wall-mounted – each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. To help select the best kind of ironing board for your needs, you should consider how often it will be used, where it will be placed, how much space is available and what price range you can afford.
Portable ironing boards are the most common in American homes. They have extendable legs, which fold away for storage and fold out for use. They can be moved to which ever room in the house you want to do your ironing and then stored away when you have finished.
An advantage of portable ironing boards is the ability to adjust the height. For example, you may prefer to sit while ironing, instead of standing. And it helps to be able to adjust the height of the board easily, if smaller members of the household want to iron clothes, Portable ironing boards have a disadvantage, though, in being awkward to set up and cumbersome to move around.
The second type of ironing board – the table-top board – has short legs, and is designed to sit on a table top or counter. These ironing boards are easy to carry around and set up in a confined space, which makes them popular with dorm students. But because they are so small, it is difficult to place larger items of clothing properly on the board, which can be annoying when ironing sleeves or anything that needs to fit around the end of the board.
The third type of ironing board is mounted on the wall and then folds out when needed for ironing. These wall-mounted ironing boards are becoming more popular in modern homes. They have the advantage of saving space, which is a great asset in a smaller house or apartment. They can even be installed in a walk-in closet or other confined space.
Even in larger houses, many people prefer wall-mounted ironing boards because they are so convenient. They take only a few seconds to fold down and put away, so they are huge time-savers. They also eliminate the need to carry the ironing board and unfold awkward collapsible legs. Wall-mounted ironing boards are strong and sturdy, and can be swiveled out at any angle into the most convenient position for ironing.
Some wall-mounted ironing boards are designed to be easily installed by an ordinary householder, without the need to call a tradesman, and can thus save you money on installation costs.
The history of ironing boards
Although we take ironing boards for granted today, it’s worth remembering that 100 years ago they were very much a novelty and were only just starting to appear in stores in the United States.
For centuries previously, people used to press their clothes on any available flat surface. For example, the Vikings in the 9th century used flat pieces of whalebone, on which women would press their clothes using heated rocks.
Later, in Europe, it became common for people to iron their clothes on the kitchen table, or on a flat piece of board resting between two chairs. This practice spread to North America and by the early 19th century there was plenty of advice in housekeeping books about what size an ironing table should be, what it should be made of, and what sort of blanket or cloth it should be covered with.
About the same time, several ironing boards started appearing on the market but there is some controversy over who actually invented the ironing board.
In 1858 W. Vandenburg patented what he called the ironing table and about three years later Isaac Ronnie Bord of Georgetown, Delaware, took out a patent for an adjustable flat horizontal surface for the pressing of undergarments, garments and bed linen.
In 1892 an African American woman, Sarah Boone, patented an ironing board that was the forerunner of the modern folding ironing board with a narrow, curved shape, designed to make it easy to iron shirts. (The term “iron”, of course, comes from the fact the implements used to press clothes were made from heavy cast iron, which was normally heated at the hearth or on a wood or coal-burning stove.)
Improvements in ironing boards, naturally, followed the development of the iron, which became powered by electricity and were lighter in weight. By 1940, manufacturers were producing all-metal collapsible ironing boards with tubular legs, and the basic design of ironing boards has changed little since then.