this thing's incredible

I Quit the Dry Cleaner (and My $150 Monthly Bill) With This Shirt Press

Photo: Courtesy of vendor

As a kid, I loved going with my mom to pick up her dry cleaning — for no other reason than it was exciting to see all the machines and presses in action. The giant rotating rack that delivered your clothes to you? I still want one in my personal closet, just like Cher had in Clueless. The hiss of the garment steam press as it swung into action? Well, guess what — I have a tabletop version of it in my very own home right now, and it’s nothing short of genius.

Even though I grew up with a grandmother and great-grandmother who were constantly ironing (clothes, tablecloths, handkerchiefs, curtains, even the dang sheets on the bed), I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life wearing wrinkled clothes because it’s too much of a hassle to drag out an iron and ironing board when it’s still dark out (yes, I go to work extremely early). So when my boyfriend told me about the Singer Magic Steam Press his mom used in the 1980s to press his dad’s shirts for work, I took to Amazon and bought the 2019 version of it for myself. It’s one of the better purchases I’ve made in quite some time, and now that I’m not constantly a wrinkled mess, I look less like a drowned rat and more like the wardrobe professional I really am.

Singer Magic Steam Press

The Singer Magic Steam is basically a giant iron, and its large surface area means it’s able to get the wrinkles out of any garment in under three minutes flat. I keep mine set up on top of my dryer in the laundry room, so it’s ready to use anytime I need it. It heats up while I get the coffee going, and I can get the wrinkles out of a shirt or blouse in a few quick passes: one for the back, one for each arm, and one for the front. It works by clamping down 100 pounds of pressure (versus whatever pressure you can manage by leaning your whole body weight onto your iron), and it’s like having a professional dry cleaner right inside your house (without the crazy expensive dry-cleaning bill).

Having a professional-style garment press on hand has shrunk my dry-cleaning bills massively, because the truth is, you can actually skip dry-cleaning most garments labeled “dry-clean only.” The only reason to pay what the dry cleaner is charging is to get your clothes professionally pressed. But with a few exceptions — such as silk; velvet (the nap is hard to get back into shape once it’s wet); acetate or taffeta pieces (a.k.a. bridesmaid’s-dress material); anything made of suede, leather, fur, or feathers (which you shouldn’t be getting wet anyway); or wool suits with lining) — almost any 100 percent natural-fiber garment you’ve been taking to the dry cleaners can be safely washed in your bathroom sink — then pressed into presentable shape with the Singer Magic Steam Press.

I’ve written more detailed hand-washing tips for dry-clean-only–labeled items in my clothing-care book, How to Get Dressed, but these basic hand-washing steps won’t steer you wrong — and will absolutely help you skip the dry cleaner. My dry-cleaning bill used to average $100 to $150 per month, but hand-washing and using the Singer Magic Steam has reduced my dry-cleaning bill to about $20. Now, about that rotating rack …

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It sounds complicated, but the short version of hand-washing your “dry-clean only” clothes at home is this: Add a capful or two of shampoo (or ultragentle laundry soap from The Laundress) to a sink full of lukewarm water, swish your garment around for a good five minutes, let the water drain completely, then refill and drain the sink as many times as it takes until the water stays clean. As tempting as it is to squeeze the garment under running water, don’t! It can easily damage delicate fibers. After rinsing, don’t wring or twist your item — lay it flat on a clean, dry towel and roll it up into a burrito shape to squeeze all the water out of it while still retaining its shape. Once your garment is dry, give it a once-over with the Singer Magic Steam, and voilà! Clothes that look like they came straight from the dry cleaner.
I Quit the Dry Cleaner With This Shirt Press