Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 26 September 2015

Things get steamy with my everyday partner

In which G.M. Norton gets hot under the collar.

A well-pressed shirt is one of life’s small pleasures. However, pressing the damn thing is not. At least for me, anyway. In the absence of my own personal valet (please apply within), I usually dedicate Sundays to work my way through a mammoth pile of crinkled clothes with the help of my faithful steam iron.

By the time I’ve finished my shirts for the week ahead, along with the children’s school uniform, dresses and a few bits and pieces for my beloved, my temple and feet are positively throbbing. Rather than give my jackets and trousers a quick once-over, I prefer to slump into the nearest armchair with a large glass of red.
Recently, I was contacted by Tefal who were keen to hear my thoughts on their new handheld steam brush. Having admired an industrial one at a beneficiary boutique and impressed at the whole steamy affair, I agreed to try out the Tefal Steam Access.
In a flash, the steamer arrived well-packed and contained some helpful instructions (these days, too many companies steer us online for instruction manuals).

The steamer is emblazoned with ‘My Everyday Partner’. Perhaps I finally had my own Jeeves, thought I.
The steamer is a sturdy little number and is relatively easy on the eye, with the power cord boasting an impressive length (oo-err). The idea is that you hang up a shirt or whatever item you want to smooth out and you run the steamer over it. After filling up the water tank and turning it on, it heats up in 45 seconds, making a pleasing noise before producing a steady output of steam.

I tested it out on a couple of shirts and my beloved tried it out on our lounge curtains. As well as getting rid of creases, the steamer also refreshes and sanitises too. Earlier this week, I unearthed a corduroy jacket from Oxfam which had what my beloved described as “a charity shop whiff”. As it was dry-clean only, I thought it was an ideal test for Tefal’s sanitising claims. To be fair, it does now smell a lot better, although I think I will give it a once-over again before deciding whether a trip to the dry-cleaner is still necessary. The steamer came with two attachments – one drip catcher and a brush so I used the latter to give my jacket a good old rub.
I found the shirts really quite simple to steam. Sleeves are always the tricky part when ironing but they became crease-free within moments.

On the downside, it’s a little heavy for prolonged use. More for one or two quick items rather than a big pile of clothes. Like your favourite protagonist, it also runs out of steam relatively quickly so I found myself refilling with water after steaming each item. I also found that it gave no indication that the water was low (although the lack of steam was a hint!).The on/off switch didn’t seem to turn off either, so I switched it off at the mains before leaving to cool down.

Despite these small things, it starts up quickly, it looks quite pretty and the lock position for continuous steam is Heaven sent, meaning I don’t need to constantly hold my trigger finger down. It also has a rather nifty hanging hook, as demonstrated below.
Overall, I was impressed with the handheld steamer. It won’t replace my trusty steam iron but it will be used for quickly running over a shirt or two or to take the creases out of a jacket or pair of trousers before I go out (I do have a Corby trouser press, but due to lack of space, this has been demoted to the attic). It should also save me a small fortune at the dry-cleaners, which is a massive bonus in itself!

Rather than being tied to an ironing board for hours on end, it does feel quite freeing to spruce up a couple of items anywhere in the house. All I need is a plug socket and a door to hang up my garment.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’



  1. You might enjoy this essay from the May 1987 Lands’ End catalog:

    by Roy Earnshaw

    My wife is still asleep. I’ve exercised (quietly), showered, eaten breakfast. Now comes time for a familiar early morning ritual.

    I take a cotton dress shirt from the closet, a wrinkled cotton dress shirt, shrug it off its hanger, and drape it over the ironing board.

    Some men might smirk at the sight of me preparing to iron. “What? You iron your own shirts? John Wayne never would’ve!”

    Well, call me a pantywaist, but I happen to enjoy it.

    I plug in the iron, check the water level, turn the setting to — what else — cotton. Then pause for a few moments to let it get hot.

    The room where I iron is a barren one. No furniture, just the ironing board. A “room we haven’t figured out what to do with yet,” having just recently bought this house. I suppose one day it will fill up with things, but right now I like it this way. Its spartan aspect seems well suited to the art of ironing.

    I start with the left sleeve, first spritzing on water with a sprayer, then ironing it so flat, it almost looks as if I could pick it up and slice bread with it.

    I turn it over, do the other side, then the cuff. Then on to the other sleeve, while the ironed one dangles just above the dusty wood floor.

    (My wife tells me my technique is all wrong, but then so did my golf coach, my typing teacher, other authority figures. I take a perverse pleasure in doing things my own incorrect way.)

    Now the back yoke, and a couple swipes at the collar. The easy parts. And then I sweep the shirt up off the board and down again, with its back spread out flat before me.

    Sometimes I botch the back pleat, and have to do it two or three times. But no one is watching.

    The ironing board cover bothers me. It’s a cheap one, full of childish flowers in jarring hues. Orange. Chartreuse. Purple. The colors of fast food restaurants. I miss the plain white one my mother used to have, with its humble dignity and burn smudges.

    I press on. (No letters please — bad puns harm no one.) The cotton cloth is soft, sturdy in my fingers, and responsive to the iron. I swear, it enjoys being ironed! Almost seems to purr. It has a wonderful, tightly-woven texture to it, and glistens with the heat of the iron, and the soft light of the room.

    Again I sweep the shirt up off the board, and down again, to do the right front, skating in and out around the buttons, then the left, using plenty of water and going over the stubborn placket again and again, bearing down, until it finally yields and becomes flat, neat. I am finished.

    Now, the final pleasure of slipping into the toasty shirt. Especially keen now, in the February cool of the house. It almost crackles as I button it up, tuck it in.

    The finches in the back room start to peep as first light looks in the windows. Time for me to go. But I leave with a sense of contentment, knowing that whatever large debacles or small frustrations await me, I have at least done one small piece of good work today.

    1. Thanks awfully for sharing this. I enjoyed it enormously! I especially appreciated this, 'I take a perverse pleasure in doing things my own incorrect way'.

  2. Dear Mr Norton

    This looks like the bees-knees.

    I have one of the 'steam station' affairs which makes one feel like they have acquired their very own locomotive.

    To conserve water, might I suggest the use of the trigger over continual expulsion of steam? Also - less risk of scalded fingers.

    I think we shall purchase one at once. Mr Phipps uses weights so he will be 'a natural' as they say.

    Trouser presses are not the epitome of convenient trouser maintenance that they would lead one to believe. They often create as many creases as they remove (particularly if you have long legs).

    Thank you for drawing our attention to this useful product.

    Mrs Elaine Phipps

    1. Splendid, I hope Mr Phipps enjoys using it! Although I'm not being particularly long-limbed, I also experienced a few additional creases with the Corby (I put this down to my technique). Good point on the conservation of water. In fairness, my steam iron also regularly needs refilling so it's not a great hardship by any means.

  3. Sir,
    This device look positively sci-fi, in the most positive way; it even emulates some "atomic age" vibe. Maybe it's just the posing done by you (good to know I'm not the only one still doing the "pistol" pose with strangest house items) :)


    1. Chortle. Yes, the 'pistol pose' is a long-term favourite, especially when alone in the house. The steamer is quite a beauty and as you say, almost sci-fi. I can almost picture it with Buck Rogers.

  4. Oh, I need to get me one of these! When I used to work in the fashion industry we used the industrial ones a lot and I really miss them now I'm making my own vintage clothing. This would come in very handy with this and when buying vintage clothes with that delightful 'charity shop whiff'. I've added it to my Christmas wish list!

  5. Oh, I loathe ironing! When I worked on a knitting mag we had a proper steamer for sorting out garments for photoshoots and it was lovely. I don't know if I'd want my own steamer, though...

    (I am very impressed that you have your own trouser press.)


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