Let’s do it, let’s iron our clothes – Part 1

Let’s do it, let’s iron our clothes – Part 1

We have previously agreed upon the fact that doing laundry is nobody’s favorite chore. That’s why you love our suds coin laundry services. Then why would humanity invent ironing? Is it really necessary or are we just complicating things for no reason? You might think that ironing is a practice that responds to the aesthetic demands of modern societies. You might even skip this step during your laundry routine and erase it from your mind, never even asking yourself about its backstory. The thing is, there is an interesting story behind it, and it begins way earlier than you may think.

Just like Cole Porter sings, they do it in Spain, in Lithuania and Amsterdam. Yes, humankind has been ironing clothes since the first century before the Common Era. Techniques vary from one place to the other, but many of the methods implemented today are not that different from what early cultures did to remove wrinkles. Not to mention the old school charcoal irons still used in India as we speak, or this lady in Egypt who carries on a steam-free tradition of ironing clothes with a heavy, hot metal slab pushed back and forth with her foot.

The Chinese did it, using metal pans filled with hot water, coals or sand, and pressed over stretched clothes. These were the first hot metal irons, primitive yet still more advanced than the ones found in Viking graves centuries later. The latter were simple round linen smoothers made out of glass, that were probably rolled over animal hides stretched on a smoothing board.

The Greeks did it, with heated round bars called goffering irons, that they would roll over linen robes to create pleats. Yes, they were into fashionable clothing during the Iron Age, and the amount of fabric they wore impacted on the perception of their wealth. For that reason, the Greek would wear seamless rectangles of cloth that were pleated to give the garment more volume.

Even educated Romans did it. They had several tools that varied from devices closely related to modern irons (or other modern equipment like, for example, a wine press), and other more ancient techniques, such as beating clothes with a flat metal mallet. Yet another example of the Empire’s usual fluctuations between advanced civilization and savagery. The prelum, for example, consisted of two heavy, flat wooden boards between which the fabric was pressed straight.

The Middle Ages were not the most prolific centuries for the development of irons. In a curious coincidence, the first advance after this halt in the anti-wrinkle instrument’s evolution, is called the sad iron. Yes, it’s sad that they couldn’t think of a better design until the 1300’s, but that’s not the reason behind the name. Sad is an old word for ‘solid’, which references the large, heavy structure of these metal irons. The flat irons had a wooden handle, otherwise a cloth around the metal one, and were heated over the fire. Although let’s face it, the servants might have been a bit sad when juggling between two of these heavy artifacts, pushing one back and forth over their employer’s clothes while the other heated up over the fire. This direct exposure to fire made it necessary for a thin cloth to be placed over the garment, to prevent the soot from transferring.

The Modern Ages, hosting events like the discovery of gas and electricity, or the industrial revolution, fueled many changes in various aspects of our lives. In the next article, we will explore the progress of irons from that time onwards. In the meantime, Sudz Mound Laundry offers affordable wash and fold laundry services to take the burden off your shoulders.

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