this thing's incredible

I Took My Ironing Board Out Once a Year, Now I Miss This Clothes Steamer When I’m Abroad

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

I’ve always been the messy artist type, attributing weird stains and lack of sartorial maintenance to my unrestrained creative streak. Still, the older I get, the more I find myself yearning for the smooth, smart look of freshly ironed clothes. Although like most functioning adults I do own an iron and an ironing board, they come out of their storage closet barely more than once a year. Awkward and cumbersome, I hate using them. A few years ago, a sharp-looking co-worker listened to me complain about ironing, and recommended that I get a steamer instead.

I started shopping around for a steamer, but my sage co-worker warned me against buying the cheaper ones. As a veteran steamer user, she recalled the ones she had bought for their attractive prices, just to find them no longer working properly a few months in. There were horror stories of steamers spitting out streams of chalky water that ruined her delicates, or ones that simply wouldn’t turn on after a while. In all of her steamer expertise and experience, she recommended the model that she had been using for nearly two years: the Fridja f10 Handheld Steamer. I recall going through a “pink” phase at the time, so when I saw that it was offered in a (perhaps now out-of-date) millennial pink, I immediately snapped it up. I think if I were to buy it now, I’d prefer the white version in order to match the rest of my small appliances.

I never thought I’d be the person to say this, but it is a pleasure to use. The first time I used it was on a slinky top made of cupro, a wonderfully silky fabric that unfortunately looks like crumpled paper after a rough laundry cycle. A few puffs of consistent steam later, the wrinkle lines faded and the top looked as fresh as the day I bought it. It was intuitive to use, even for someone who has only ever steamed rice before. It has a cord, but it’s long enough that reaching an outlet was never cause for concern. The water in the tank seems to last a long time, I’ve never run out, even when steaming ten items at a time. Even with the hard water that might make people like my co-worker shudder, I’ve never had an issue. (My co-worker advised using distilled water, but that was a little too much for a novice like myself.)

It also came with a travel case and a collar press and a delicate fabric guard. As this was pre-COVID, I dorkily looked forward to bringing these along in my suitcase for occasions such as weddings abroad. It even had a water-bottle adapter so which you could bring instead of the detachable water tank. But when the lockdown came in 2020, I, like many others, didn’t see much use in going that extra step to care for my clothes when I spent the majority of my time in pyjama bottoms and old T-shirts. I got out of the habit of using the steamer for an entire year.

When I finally travelled to Greece this year, my good habit of steaming my clothes was overtaken by the laziness that settled during the months of being homebound. One morning whilst in our Airbnb, before heading out, we gathered in the common area to go over our itinerary. Reflexively (and without trying to be mean), my most well-dressed friend glanced me up and down as I stood there in a silk dress that just came out of my luggage. She bore the most scathingly judgmental look as she informed me that there was an iron in the other room that I could use. I withered in embarrassment and sulked to the other room to iron my outfit. It was then that I remembered how excited I once was at the prospect of bringing my Fridja steamer with me abroad and wished I had the foresight to bring it this time. As someone who once dreaded using an iron, becoming that person who now wishes they packed their steamer whilst on holiday is the biggest transformation I’ve had in ages. And my wardrobe thanks me for it.

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I Seldom Ironed, Now I Miss My Clothes Steamer When I Travel