Could ironing ever be a pleasurable experience?
Some people don't mind it, most probably hate it with a passion but the people behind Laurastar seem to have the notion that ironing can indeed become a pleasure.
In my opinion it could only become so if the results are truly excellent and if you work with a machine that is versatile, easy to work with and designed to last a lifetime.
It is clear that Laurastar sets the bar very high. Consequently, our expectations are similarly very high.
So let us take you on a couple of weeks of intense testing to see if the rather steep price is fully justified.
From the by-line you can see that this is a guy writing a review about ironing. That seems "ironic" but let me be quick to add that we had the considered opinion of 3 ladies in our team for the actual ironing part. My role is to look at this system from a more technical perspective and most importantly, to look at it from a Value for Money perspective since we are talking here about a top of the line garment care system that nudges the $1000 mark. And in many households an expenditure like that has to be justified.
So let's begin.
First impressions count: the Laurastar LIFT + comes well packaged with all the accessories you need such as a steam hose holder, filter cartridge and even a 3-D soft pressing soleplate.
The steam generator itself has a carrying pouch for easy storage.
The machine is of a totally different design than all the other steam generators that we have encountered: it stands upright, is surprisingly compact with the electric cord retracting automatically and it is easy to carry with one hand. For all its semi-industrial stance it's a very handsome looking unit. Ours came in glossy black.
All you need to do is fill the water reservoir after you've put in the anti-scale filter cartridge. It comes supplied with one cartridge which will soften the water for ironing use. We are on rainwater so we are expecting our cartridge to last a bit longer and replacement cartridges come in a 3 pack which sells for $85 from Laurastar.
It takes about 3 minutes to heat up fully and once the 1 L reservoir has been emptied you're probably ready to take a good break.
Having no separate water reservoir itself, the actual iron is rather light, about 1 kg. This is great for people that have problems with arms and shoulders and repetitive movements.
Most steam generators need a rather large ironing board to accommodate the wide footprint of the unit. In fact, CHOICE magazine notes this as one of the downsides but because the Laurastar Lift stands on the floor this is not an issue.
The easy portability is also a huge plus point when it comes to doing the vertical stuff, like a shirt or suit on a hanger or even curtains that need a bit of a touch up.
An interesting design aspect of the iron is that it is almond shaped. That means that you can't rest it upright on its back edge like with most other irons-instead it is placed on a special mat that comes with the system. However, the great plus of this design is that ironing backwards is now just as easy as ironing forwards! No more inadvertent creases when you hook a straight edge into a piece of material....
There are a couple of things that you have to be prepared for the first time when you switch on the Laurastar.
When you place the reservoir filled with 1 L of water back into the machine, you will see how quickly it drains into the boiler unit to be heated up as obviously it can't be heated in the plastic container itself. That means it will trigger the alarm to fill up the container relatively quickly again but only for the first time. The manual doesn't make any mention of this.
Fortunately, you can clearly see the water levels because the container is backlit.
The other thing is that whilst heating up, the machine makes a bit of noise which will stop after 3 minutes. Only when you use the steam function a clicking noise acts as an indicator. On later tests the machine was very quiet in the heating up phase as well.
The machine may also emit a bit of a smell initially for the first few minutes, typical of most heating devices.
The manual, by the way, looks pretty impressive and daunting. That's because they have included 11 languages for the instructions. And it also includes a polyglot Welcome Pack making it even thicker.
One of the keys to better ironing is the amount of steam that comes out of the iron. With a pressure of 3.5 bar this hot steam is diffused continuously through the micro-fine holes in the soleplate. We noticed that the clothes don't get damp much at all, particularly when you release the steam button on the "back stroke". That effectively dries up any moisture.
One of the amazing features of the Laurastar system is that the steam can penetrate 4 layers of heavy cloth like that of a pair of jeans. Gone are the days when you had to turn them over and do each leg individually! This alone is a huge timesaver.
On the other side of the scale, very thin material can easily be "touched up" without actually touching the material at all, just by blowing steam into it. Our ladies, who did most of the testing, loved that feature. One of them also commented that, unlike with normal steam irons which emit moist steam all the time, the Laurastar only delivers very fine, almost dry steam on demand so that you're not steaming up the whole room. There is a switch to have the steam continuously when you press the button but most of the time you would use the very effective Pulse mode, small puffs of steam as is needed. And it also irons very well without steam.
Talking about delicate man-made fabrics, like stretch sports clothing or microfibre fabrics, these need to be done with the included soft pressing soleplate and the Plus model of the Laurastar includes a so-called 3-D type of this soleplate to further penetrate the fine fibres.
General comments from our testers ranged from how light and easy the iron seemed to glide over the material to just how perfect the finished look was. Other comments: "I could never go back to my old iron after this one!" "Amazing results and I love how comfortable to hold the iron is."
The only bit of a struggle we had initially was with the placement of the steam hose holder. The steam hose seemed to be in the way continually but we soon found out how to thread it through the holder so that the rather stiff hose wouldn't be in the way.
Perhaps the Laurastar ironing board which is taller, wider and longer than most boards, will be a perfect match.
The power cord, frankly, could be about a metre longer. You would want to avoid using extension cords but in some rooms where power points are scarce, a longer cord would be quite handy.
We only encountered one little glitch: sometimes the left steam button would stick in the ON position and could only be dislodged with a fingernail.
UPDATE: This issue has been permanently fixed in all current models. Earlier units can be taken to the nearest service outlet for an on-the -spot fix. (it's just a matter of glueing a spring in place... )
There is something to be said for buying a product from a company that only makes a particular type of product. Laurastar does exactly that. They only make garment care products such as steam generators in a variety of models, including complete ironing systems. Most other brands will also sell steam generators but it will only be a small segment in their product line up. Laurastar has put a huge amount of focus, research and continual development into their products, typical of the Swiss manufacturing mindset.
Yes, it looks different from all the other products out there but for a reason. It also irons a lot better than the other types of steam generators that we have come across.
Expensive? Not if you consider the end result, the built quality and the versatility of the machine. It may be more than you're willing to spend and that's fine. However, if you do a lot of ironing and you find it a chore we would highly recommend you give the Laurastar range a good consideration.
In fact, having tested the Laurastar Lift Plus for several weeks we cannot recommend it highly enough and that's why we are giving it our Editor's Choice Award.
You will find a Laurastar product in most of the top stores like Myers for less than $800 already.
Unlike Mr Ford, who only sold his Model T in black, you can get a Laurastar in just about any colour. Pinky Pop anyone? The glossy black of our Ultimate Black Lift + is a bit of a dust magnet, even though we generally like black products.
I usually try to steer away from recommending giving any household products to your significant other for birthdays or Mother's Day but the 3 ladies in our testing team all would have loved a Laurastar as a gift! Wonder what gave them that idea...
Our thanks to Laurastar Australia for making this unit available for testing.
As with most of our product reviews we will update our findings and experiences with the Laurastar Lift over time and probably introduce some accessories and other parts of the Laurastar system, like their ironing board, at the same time.