Friday, August 11, 2017

RCA Whirlpool Automatic Ironer

I have a lot of fabric.  A ton of it.  (Not literally, but many pounds.)  I justify my continued purchasing because I think that once I learn to sew I'll go through it very quickly.  So far, I'm making zero progress.

One thing I hate doing is ironing and in laundering some of the scraps I've purchased, I've tried to find easier ways of ironing and/or pressing so that when that great moment happens that I finally have to place pattern pieces and start cutting, I'll have flat, beautiful fabric to work with: warp and weft at 90 degrees, grains straight and true, predictable pattern placement.

So I bought one of these.  And then another.  I bought irons -- vintage and modern, all with promise of steam and heat.  And I still have all this crap, mostly unused, taking up valuable space.  So, are you surprised that when I saw this item for free on CL, that I couldn't wait to jump in the car and relieve them of it, to dash their dastardly plans of promising to take it to the landfill if someone -- anyone -- didn't finally pick it up?  I'm not either.

Sure, it could use a paint job and the bed extension that attaches to the front (not pictured) has a bent hinge that I need to straighten, it has one wheel missing, and it required (and still requires) considerable cleaning -- the seller was "storing" it outside) but it works and works well.  The roller, pad, and cover are in exceptionally good shape which tells me it probably wasn't used much or was replaced and/or well-maintained.

Unlike the Ironrite mangles whose elements are under the roller and whose drives are centrally positioned, this RCA Whirlpool model is the type that has a right-handed drive.  There are two speeds and two heat settings on the element itself, allowing for all sorts of varied ironing configurations of varied materials.  The levers below the bed mean that you can control direction, movement, and contact (the silver upper portion above the roller closes down onto the roller, clam shell style) with your knees.

These mangles were quite popular and many were sold.  They fell out of fashion when man-made fabrics became wildly popular because they supposedly needed far less ironing and pressing.  Also, the rise of sportswear and casual wear becoming the norm doomed the mangle industry.  Several manufacturers still make them (Miele comes to mind, at the tune of $2000 for a brand new unit) but because they were so well made, you can find these vintage versions for free or close to it.  They work beautifully but are unwieldy and extremely heavy.  Mine probably weighs over 200 lbs.

I don't know why they're called 'mangles' except that if you were to get your hand stuck in a moving one, well, you know what would happen.

I love mine.


  1. I had no idea such a stand alone thing existed, it reminds me of a washer my mom had with the rollers (mangler) on top. Now that I do, I want one!! I was interested in your plan to "learn to sew", the blogger with the best sewing machine collection of all time!

    1. LOL, yeah -- my plan to learn to sew is always getting postponed! Funny how that works, isn't it? :)

      The best thing about finding free stuff is that there is so little guilt about acquiring. This thing can really iron! And I've discovered that if I put damp clothes in a plastic bag for a couple of hours prior to ironing, that makes a big difference.

      I'm a hoarder, clearly. We all have our crosses to bear but mine is a little heavier than most, I think.

  2. This post made me giggle with delight. I see these in the thrift stores from time to time and wonder if they would be useful. Then again, I am pretty wedded to my vintage irons and ironing board (although I am searching for a steam press).

    1. It's good for yardage and I think for detailed work I will still have to fire up the hand iron. The job this one does is exemplary: I can get a few yards done in just a few minutes and sitting at it watching the fabric come out the other side is fun. I don't press pillowcases but I might start...

      I've seen them in thrift stores too and decided that the price was right, although I was hoping to find a Bendix or an Ironrite 95. This one's pretty neat, though.

      I hope you find your press. I will be looking for one over here for you. :)

    2. Thank you for keeping your eyes peeled. I have decided that if I am going to do more bags (and it certainly looks that way despite my protests to the contrary), a steam press will greatly simplify and speed things up. I just don't want to buy a new one if I can pick up a used one.