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Does anybody iron anymore? A friend recently told me she hadn't ironed in 25 years. I wonder if I'm the only woman in Western New York who still stands behind an ironing board.

I feel alone in my frustration over owning six new or relatively new irons -- everything from popular, lightweight American brands to an expensive, professional German model which, though replete with many more features than the "soleplates" of my young adulthood, all function poorly or not at all. I know it sounds sexist, but I contend these irons must have been designed by men who never iron.

I remember when people used to test an iron's heat by wetting an index finger in one's mouth and flicking the moisture at the iron to watch it sizzle and disappear, evidence that the iron was hot enough to use. Try that now, and the moisture weakly sputters, then, like a tear, drips sadly down the iron's face.

Irons simply do not heat up sufficiently, even at the highest setting, which I find must always be used, regardless of fabric type. While appliance designers have electrical or mechanical engineering degrees, users shouldn't need any degrees other than sufficient Fahrenheit. But even with an M.A., I can't figure out why irons don't stay hot long enough to finish the job. Because they cycle on and off, I've taken to having two heating at once and alternating between them.

My newest iron bears a stamp reading "anti-drip," which I read as I watch the water from its reservoir pour out onto the piece I'm ironing. Since it's more than a drip, I guess the stamp is technically correct. The reservoir emits so much steam that it must be refilled for almost every item. When I stand the iron vertically, its steam is great for added humidity in winter. In summer, it's definitely a negative feature.

Note to designers: How about a button offering a choice of vertical or horizontal steam? And reservoirs that don't leak?

Irons aren't the only appliances at which the male-dominated engineering world seems to have failed. Vacuum cleaners, too, are still too heavy, cumbersome and incredibly noisy, to say nothing of their "extraterrestrial" ugliness.

The latest design even shows you the dirt being collected. Ugh! I'm sure the men who design these vacuums don't use them very often, either. And what about appliance noise? Until recently, you couldn't run the dishwasher and have a conversation at the same time.

Foreign models introduced the concept of quiet operation, and now, happily, many new models are so quiet you can hardly tell they're operating. Front-loading washers, too, are much quieter -- certainly quieter than top-loaders -- and conserve water much more effectively. So some engineers are making progress. Could this be because now 17 percent of mechanical engineers are women?

But dryers are still much too noisy, and they pollute the air with fine particles of lint.

Martha Stewart once vowed to campaign for quieter appliances. Perhaps her influence has reaped some results. There's still a long way to go, however, to deal with sink disposals, exhaust fans, lawn mowers and snow blowers.

Given Martha's hiatus, can't some innovative engineers please intervene here? The appliance-using public would be grateful, especially this lonely ironer.

RAMONA PANDO WHITAKER is a finicky ironer who is about to set several irons out at the curb in front of her bed & breakfast inn.