Best Clothes Steamers

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best clothes steamers

There's a bit of skill needed to iron away wrinkles. If you find each pass produces more and more unwanted creases, a clothes steamer might be a better option for you. These devices allow you to steam away wrinkles from your clothing and even your drapery with minimal effort.

Your first consideration is choosing a standing, handheld, or travel-size steamer – standing is the desired option, but it takes up the most room. The best clothes steamer will heat up quickly, feature temperature control, and come with a tank that allows you to steam for sufficient periods of time, but is not too heavy to move. If you fatigue quickly, find a model that has continuous steaming capabilities.

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A fabric steamer is an effective alternative to using a clothes iron, and many folks find it far more convenient.

Introduction to fabric steamers

What, exactly, is a fabric steamer and why do you need one? Let's find out.

  • Also commonly known as "garment steamers" or "clothes steamers," fabric steamers are used to get wrinkles out of clothing and other fabrics.

  • Fabric steamers essentially do the same job as a clothes iron, but many people find them easier to use. And of course, they negate the need for a bulky ironing board.

  • If you travel for your job, a compact fabric steamer is a boon for getting wrinkles out of work clothes.

  • People who regularly press just one or two garments at a time tend to find fabric steamers quicker and more convenient to use – but that's not to say you can't de-wrinkle a whole load of laundry.

  • Fabric steamers are great for use on drapes. You don't even have to take them off the curtain rail.

  • The heat of the steam lightly sanitizes items, as well as getting out wrinkles, so a fabric steamer is perfect to use between washes.

Types of fabric steamers

You'll find three main types of fabric steamer on the market: standing, handheld, and travel.

Standing fabric steamers

Standing, or "upright," fabric steamers consist of a large water tank that sits on the floor, a pole from which you hang the garments you want to steam, and a steaming head on the end of a flexible tube (like on a vacuum cleaner). These tend to be the most effective, but they're only suitable for home use, and they do take up a significant amount of storage space.

Handheld fabric steamers

Handheld fabric steamers are, as the name suggests, small enough to hold in one hand as you do your steaming.

They may not be quite as effective as standing models, but their compact size makes them convenient and easy to store, especially if you live in a small space.

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Be careful using a fabric steamer on easily marked or damaged fabrics, such as velvet and silk.

Travel fabric steamers

Some handheld garment steamers are especially compact, and these are often marketed as travel models, as they're small enough to pack in a suitcase.

They’re a great item to have along on a trip requiring business or formal clothes, as hotel rooms may not offer a high-quality iron and ironing board.

"Fabric steamers with a continuous steam function are ideal for people with arthritis or any other condition that might make it uncomfortable to hold down a button for long periods of time."

Considerations for selecting a fabric steamer

Heating time

Most modern garment steamers heat up and are ready to use in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.

Any longer than that and the process begins to feel inconvenient and time-consuming.

Steam temperature

Different fabric steamers have different maximum temperatures. Some even have variable temperature controls. As a rule, higher temperatures will remove wrinkles from fabrics faster but might damage delicate fabrics.

The good news, however, is even if you aren't able to control the temperature, simply moving the steaming head further from the garment will get the creases out without damaging the fabric.

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Did you know?
Garment steamers that heat water to at least 212°F (100°C) will effectively sanitize fabrics, in addition to removing creases.

Size and weight

It's wise to consider both the size and weight of your chosen fabric steamer. These can vary wildly between different makes and models, so always check the manufacturer's specifications.

Make sure your chosen garment steamer is light enough for you to move around your house and small enough to fit in whatever space in which you intend to store it.

Continuous steam

Many fabric steamers require the user to constantly hold a button down for steam to come out.

This can become uncomfortable, especially if you intend to steam clothes for 30 minutes straight. Some people with joint or other medical issues may be unable to do this at all.

Models with "continuous steam," however, simply offer an on/off switch. They expel steam from the steam head as long as the unit is switched on.

"Because of their compact size, handheld fabric steamers have smaller tanks than standing models, and therefore can be used for a shorter amount of time before they need to be refilled."

Tank capacity

The larger the tank capacity of a fabric steamer, the longer it will run before it needs to be refilled.

Standing fabric steamers tend to hold between roughly 40 and 90 ounces of water – though some models may have slightly larger or smaller tanks – and run for about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Handheld models have much smaller tanks, and may only hold about 4 to 8 ounces, running for less than 10 minutes at a time, though some are slightly larger.

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Did you know?
A fabric steamer will run for roughly one minute per ounce of water in the tank, give or take a few minutes.

Fabric steamer prices

You'll find fabric steamers at a range of prices to suit all budgets. While price doesn't automatically equal higher quality, you'll usually pay more for the best models out there, and it is worth a splurge if you have the cash.

Basic handheld

Such fabric steamers cost about $20 to $30. Some of these work perfectly well but don't have many added extras or accessories and may be less compact or convenient to use compared to high-end models.

High-end handheld

These clothes steamers cost between $40 and $70. These tend to have a range of accessories and are known to be durable and long-lasting.

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Testing clothes steamers
We spent 39 hours researching 74 clothes steamers before picking our best. We then purchased our top model and tested it in our lab.

Basic standing

This kind of garment steamers cost as little as $40 to $60. While you can find some excellent models in this price range, they don't tend to be as effective as costlier models, plus they usually come from lesser-known brands.

Mid-range standing

These fabric cleaners cost roughly $70 to $90. These models usually include several handy accessories and may be lighter and easier to use than basic models.

High-end standing

This type of clothes steamer costs anywhere between $100 and upwards of $200. In this price range, expect a well-made, convenient, durable fabric steamer that comes with all kinds of accessories and will stand the test of time.

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If you find an ironing board too heavy to carry and set up, a fabric steamer is an excellent alternative to a clothes iron.


Q. What accessories should I look for in a garment steamer?

A. Most fabric steamers come with a range of accessories. Some of the most popular include lint rollers, clothes hangers, fabric brushes, and press pads. Decide which are important to you and pick your steamer accordingly. In some cases, you can buy accessories separately, even if they don't come with your fabric steamer as a standard package.

Q. Do I need to press down on the fabric while using my steamer?

A. You generally don't need to press down hard to remove wrinkles from fabric. You simply touch the head of the steamer to the fabric and you'll see the wrinkles drop out right away. A few exceptions to this rule exist, however. Never directly touch the head of your fabric steamer to anything made of velvet, and always steam silk garments from the back of the material to avoid watermarks.

Q. How do I clean my fabric steamer?

A. Fabric steamers can get clogged with limescale and other mineral deposits, especially if you live in a hardwater area. To clean the steamer and remove these deposits, fill the well with distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and heat it up. Once heated, shoot all the vinegar out into the sink. Then fill the steam cleaner with water and do the same to rinse it out, removing all traces of the vinegar.

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