Small Appliances

Air Purifiers

Air purification has been an on-going effort – to one degree or another – for over 200 years. Realising that smoke, smog and soot make breathing difficult is not hard. The coughing and sputtering they cause prompted people in the early 1800s to find ways to protect against their effects.

Advances in technology – and increasing awareness about the dangers of less obvious forms of pollution – eventually gave rise to the precursors to the modern air purifiers that so many of us rely on these days.

Many companies have joined the air purification sector since its earliest days and consumers have more options than ever.

As well as providing clean, healthy air, today’s quality air purifiers offer asthma, sinus and allergy relief for many people prone to those types of condition. People using air purifiers regularly report that they sleep more soundly at night and generally just feel healthier overall.


The blender was invented in 1922.  This was initially used mainly for mixing drinks and became an important tool in hospitals for making special diets and, bizarrely, performed a vital role in the development of the vaccine for polio and the discovery of graphene.

Clothes Steamers

Clothing steamers remove wrinkles from fabric using steam rather than direct heat and pressure used with traditional irons. Steam emitted is much stronger than from a steam iron and the steamer does not need to be placed in direct contact with fabric or require an ironing board.

Clothes are hung upright and steam is swept across them from a short distance away, making it safe to use on all fabrics. Clothing steamers can be used on curtains and other fabrics, so long as they are hung upright.

Home steamers may come with features such as brush, larger water reservoir and different heat and steam settings. Some clothing steamers feature two-in-one: steamer and steam iron attachment,

Always keep a steamer facing away from you to avoid burns. There is little danger of burning clothes, though a small number of fabrics will not be suitable. Check labels carefully.

Coffee Machines

For hundreds of years, making a cup of coffee was a simple process. Roasted and ground coffee beans were placed in pot or pan to which hot water was added, followed by a lid to start the infusion process.  Up to the early 20th century, this method was considered adequate, boiling the brew until it smelled right and pouring it into a cup.

Today’s coffee machines brew coffee without having to boil water in a separate container and different types of coffee-makers use a number of brewing principles.

In the most common appliances, coffee grounds are placed in paper or metal filter inside a funnel set over a glass or ceramic coffee pot. Cold water is poured into a separate chamber which is then heated up to boiling point and directed into the funnel.

Consumer demand for attractive appliances to complement modern kitchens has resulted in a new wave of redesigned coffee-makers in a wide range of colours and styles.


A dehumidifier is typically a household appliance that reduces the level of humidity in the air, usually for health reasons. By their operation, dehumidifiers produce an excess of water which has been removed from the conditioned air.

This water, usually called condensate in its liquid form, must be collected and disposed of. Some dehumidifier designs dispose of excess water in a vapour, rather than liquid form. The energy efficiency of the dehumidification processes can vary widely.

Very humid climates or air can make some people extremely uncomfortable causing excessive sweating that cannot evaporate in the already-moisture-saturated air. It can also cause condensation which can disrupt sleeping or prevent laundry from drying thoroughly enough to prevent mustiness.

Higher humidity is also preferred by most pests, including clothes moths, fleas, cockroaches, woodlice and dust mites. Relative humidity in dwellings is ideally between 30 and 50 per cent.

Electric Kettles

The electric kettle is a very British product. Before the 1920s, people heated water for drinks and for cooking over the fire. Arthur Leslie Large in Birmingham invented the far more efficient electric kettle.  Manufacturers rushed into the new market, and in 1930 the long-term success of the electric kettle was assured when the automatic cut-out was introduced.

Electric Food Mixers

An early food mixer was patented by Lillian Moller Gilbreth, an inventor, industrial engineer, industrial psychologist, pioneer of ergonomics, and mother of twelve children.

Renowned for her work recognising the effects of stress and lack of sleep on workers, Mrs Gilbreth patented many inventions designed to reduce the household workload and increase the efficiency of kitchen appliances, including shelving inside refrigerator doors and the iconic pedal bin.  She also interviewed over 4,000 women in order to determine the ideal height for stoves, sinks and other kitchen fixtures.  The prolific Mrs Gilbreth died in 1972 aged 94.


Electric fans debuted in the 1880s and by the early 20th century, many well-off people owned models. The new crop of electric fans delivers both modern technology and retro appeal.

Unlike air conditioners, fans only move air: they do not directly change its temperature. They work by evaporative cooling of sweat and increased heat conduction into the air, due to airflow from the fan. Thus, fans may become ineffective at cooling the body if surrounding air is near body temperature and contains high humidity.

New bladeless technology features a circular tube mounted on a pedestal containing an electric motor. When switched on, air can be felt blowing through the tube.  Since there are no rotating blades, the breeze from the fan does not ‘buffet’  the user with short gusts of air

Food Steamers

A food steamer or steam cooker prepares food in a sealed vessel that limits the escape of air or liquids below a pre-set pressure.

Because steaming is a quick way to cook, foods have less time to lose their vitamins and nutrients compared to other cooking methods. Additionally, when food is steamed, it is more difficult to overcook – another common reason for lost vitamins and nutrients.

Food steamers are used extensively in health diets as food is cooked without any oil. Another benefit is that food steamers can be purchased in different sizes, from a single tier to tiers of two, three and four.

Electric Steamers are the quickest way of steaming as the water will boil in about 30 seconds and because most electric steamers have timers.

Hair Dryers

Before the invention of the hairdryer, it was common for men and women to dry their hair using a vacuum cleaner. In fact, the original hairdryer was invented in France in 1890 by Alexandre Goldefroy for use in his hair salon, taking inspiration from the vacuum cleaner. It was not portable and could only be used by the customer sitting underneath it.

The size, weight, noise level and appearance of the hair dryer has dramatically changed from the heavy contraptions of the early 20th century to today’s streamlined, power blow dryers.

Blow dryers usually impart volume and discipline to hairstyles which can be further improved by styling products and hairbrushes during drying.

Attachments include diffusers to add volume, airflow concentrators to make hair dry more rapidly and comb nozzle attachments, ending with comb-like teeth so the user can dry their hair using just the dryer without brush or comb.


The electric flat iron was invented in 1882 by New York inventor Henry W. Seeley – but it weighed almost 15 pounds and took a long time to warm up.

By the 20th century, iron technology had progressed considerably and in 1903, irons with electric cords directly attached were being sold. The first thermostatically controlled electric iron was introduced in the 1920s as well as the first commercially available electric steam iron.While cordless steam irons are available in the UK, many more models are now designed to ensure the cord will not get tangled up as you work.

Today, most steam irons have self-cleaning systems and many have extras such as an anti-calcium function – a button to press when cleaning the iron to force lime scale from eventually clogging the steam vents. Some irons have a fail-safe which will switch off the iron automatically if it has not been used for a period of time.

For those who prefer a steamer, there is a variety of quality appliances to choose from, including garment steamers for those looking to speedily remove creases from clothes and give a freshly ironed finish and hand held steamers for an easy portable solution.

Steaming Water Taps

The industry now also offers a range of water taps which provide 98°C steaming hot and cold filtered water. This is one of the latest technologies offering a level of convenience that fits today’s busy lifestyles.

Providing hot water on demand and eliminating wastage, the steaming hot water tap uses less energy than a traditional 40-watt light bulb and, based on average household usage of 10 cups of boiling water per day, is approximately 20% cheaper to operate than a standard electric kettle.

This type of tap also consumes just 20% of the electricity used for heating water on a hob. Its uses are very wide-ranging: from making hot drinks to blanching vegetables, thawing frozen food, preparing pasta and rice, warming baby bottles and food and adding extra shine to silver.


Toasting began as a method of prolonging the life of bread.  It was a common activity in Roman times, and the origin of the word toast is ‘tostum’ the Latin for scorching or burning.

The first electric toaster was invented in 1893 in the UK by Crompton and Co.  It only toasted one side of the bread at a time and required someone to stand by and turn it off manually when the toast looked done. The modern pop-up toaster was invented in 1919.