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Electric converter ?s for hair styling devices

Before posing my questions, here is information specific to my electric devices:

A- I am using 110-120 volt source in US to power my 2 hair styling devices
B- Over many years I've used an old converter to travel to Europe, Canada & Mexico
C- I let my thin, short hair "air dry" to the point it is almost dry before styling, so using a 120 blow brush is a fast process.
D- When traveling, using my converter, I've kept devices on the cool or low settings. If the device seems to get hot, I turn it off a minute to allow it to cool down.
E- Earlier this year I purchased a blow brush that replaced my very old model. Like the old model, it is not dual volt. The box indicates 120 volt and warns not to use a converter. It is 1100 watts.
F- My flat iron indicates it is 120/240 VAC, 28W. There is no switch/button to change from 120 to 240.

Question #1 - Is a 40-year-old 1600 Watt Capacity converter purchased in 1982 still "good". I used it in 2022, last year, with my old 1200 watts blow brush with no issues. The old blow brush was not dual volt, only 120. When the blow brush got warm, I turned it off to cool.
Question #2 - The old 120volt, 1200watts blow brush did not warn against using a converter but the new one does. Can I use a converter if I keep the new device on the cool setting as I've done in the past?
Question #3 - If the flat iron has no button to change from 120 to 240 voltage, does it "adjust" as needed when plugged in to either 120 or 240, and do I just use an adapter plug without needing a converter? The instruction leaflet does not address how to change from 120 to 240 volt.

Posted by
5118 posts

I wouldn't trust a converter that old. And if the appliance says don't use with a converter, then DONT. Is there a reason you can't use the hotel dryer, or can't buy a dual voltage travel one?

If it says 110/240, without a switch, then it will adjust automatically, just like your electronics.

Posted by
7012 posts

You should be able to just use the adaptor without a converter. My hair dryer and curling iron both have dual voltage and no toggle switch. I usually don't bring the blow dryer, because every hotel I've ever stayed at (barring one outside Chicago) has had one. However, I've used the curling iron in Europe with just an adaptor and it worked very well.

Posted by
173 posts

CJean - To answer why I don't use the hotel hair dryer... because I don't use/need a hair dryer, ...not even at home in the US. As a senior, I am "kind" to my thin hair, cut in a short bob, so I towel dry and allow it to air dry about 10 minutes. I then use 2 electrical devices to style my "almost-dry" hair... A blow brush on the cool setting gives it a bit of lift and volume. Then a flat iron on the coolest setting smoothes the hair cuticles along the hair shaft to eliminate any frizzles in humid conditions. My stylist cuts my hair so that I can get by with just hand fluffing my hair as it dries to style it. The blow brush and flat iron give an added polished look. I was just curious why my old 110volt-only blow brush (not dual volt) did not have any warning. Maybe it did and I've just been lucky that it never blew a fuse in foreign countries.
I've already started searching for dual volt blow brushes... unlike blow dryers they are rare, but one model does have good reviews.
Thank you CJean and Mardee for letting me know that the dual volt flat iron without a switch/button will work like my iPad/iPhone... no need for a converter. I appreciate your quick replies.

Posted by
33314 posts

how heavy is that old converter, anyway? Mine from 1997 weighs about the same as a bar of lead.

Posted by
173 posts

Well Nigel - The worst that can happen? - - I could be that tourist from the US who blows the hotel fuse and keeps everyone from charging their phones, tablets & computers!
My converter weighs only 3.6 ounces and stays in my travel bag with the little adapter that has the 2 round prongs. My converter also has 2 round prongs. On several occasions I've needed the adapter to plug in the converter because the outlets in Europe are often set back a bit in the wall. I've never used three of the 4 adapters! I found the box with the receipt and instruction booklet stating the many appliances with which it can be used to drop the voltage down to 110, including hair dryers and heated rollers/curlers that were popular in the 80's. I've read in other threads about others having very heavy old converters. I had to drive from Illinois to Iowa, to a luggage shop to purchase my converter in 1982. $23 US

Posted by
4586 posts

Wow, a converter. As noted I haven't had to lug that bar of lead around since, oh, the 1990s. Right up there with travelers cheques.

You should look into appliances on Google with the appropriate voltages, they might not be all that expensive and worth the piece of mind. You just leave them in your luggage and then pull them out for every trip. You definitely do NOT want to be the one in the hotel who blows the fuse.

Posted by
173 posts

I just ordered a 2000-watt Bestek brand converter that advertises it can be used for high-watt appliances such as hair blow dryers, tea kettles, clothes steamers and irons. When traveling out of the US I've been using my old (1982) converter, rated 1400-watt with my 1200-watt, 110-single-volt blow brush. I use the brush on the low/cool setting and only for about 2 minutes. After about 10 years of traveling with it, I read the instruction booklet that says "Do not use this appliance with a converter"! I have not yet blown a fuse. Hair dryers and clothing irons are provided in most hotels. Curling and flat irons for hair are low watt and easily available with dual volt that work just like cell phones that just need an adapter plug. Dual-volt hair blow-brushes are rare. I returned a VERY heavy dual volt blow brush just yesterday. The 3.2-inch barrel was twice the size of the 1.5 inch barrel, 110-single-volt model I've been using. I am hoping the 2000-watt converter I just ordered will solve my issue. If time allows while in Paris in October I may find a FNAC store to shop for a 240-volt blow brush,... if they exist.

Posted by
33314 posts

I just had a look at Darty (the other side of FNAC) online and they have 2 Revlon ones, one Babyliss, and 2 Remington ones, from 38.95€ up.

Brosse coiffante REVLON SALON ONE-STEP SÈCHE CHEVEUX VOLUMISANT - RVDR5222

Brosse coiffante REVLON BROSSE SÉCHANTE COIFFANTE CHEVEUX COURTS RVDR5282UKE

Brosse coiffante BABYLISS BIG HAIR DUAL - AS950E

Brosse coiffante REMINGTON BLOW DRY & STYLE - AS7700

Brosse coiffante REMINGTON BLOW DRY & STYLE - AS7300

Posted by
173 posts

Thank you Nigel. The search bar on the Darty site is not working for me but the FNAC site does allow me to search. In the US I use the smaller Revlon model that allows the barrel to disengage from the handle for easy packing. And I see that the FNAC located at Forum les Halles currently has the Revlon RVDR5298E in stock. I'll check back end of September to see if it still shows "in stock". It would be an easy walk from our hotel. This discussion forum is so valuable. I hadn't thought to search on the Darty or FNAC sites. Thanks again!

Posted by
19169 posts

Voltage converters used to all be transformers, and a transformer for 1800W is a big, heavy device. Today, you can get 1800W converters for purely resistive heating devices that are not transformers but use a semiconductor device, like a transistor, to "chop" the top off the sine curve and reduce the voltage, but the wave form from these converters can be bad for electronic devices, like controls or phones. Phones and other low wattage electronic devices still need converters that are transformers. You can get 40W transformer converters that are not too heavy.

The problem with using any converters for blow brushes could be that the blow brushes use shaded pole or other types of motors, which spin at 5/6 the rpm when used with 50 Hz power, so the lower air flow might not be sufficient to cool the heating elements.

Posted by
32265 posts

A few thoughts....

Regarding your questions.....

  1. As your old Converter is only 3.6 ounces, it's most certainly a solid-state model, and not transformer based. It's probably "still good" and should work fine with some appliances, but probably not with the ones you asked about. The AC waveform from a converter that old is probably very "rough" and that won't be tolerated well by some newer appliances. Converters don't change the frequency so if an appliance requires 60 Hz, that won't be possible.
  2. The old blow brush likely had very simple circuits, motor and mechanical switches so wasn't affected by a less-than-perfect AC waveform. Newer appliances have more electronic circuits and possibly microprocessor controls, so they won't operate well with converters (which is probably why the manufacturer advises against it).
  3. If the specifications on the new flat iron say that it will operate on 120 or 240 volts, then all you should need is a plug adapter specific to the countries you're travelling in. Does the instruction manual for the flat iron provide any details on using it on 240 volt electrical systems?

As a previous reply suggested, you could also stop at an appliance shop when you arrive in Europe, and buy appliances that are designed for operation on 240 electrical systems.