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Clothes Steamer Buying Guide

By Displaysense's Carrie Gilbertson

Clothes steamers, popular with fashion stores and the fashion conscious, are a great way to refresh and touch up clothes quickly and easily. They work by relaxing the fibres of the fabric which eliminates wrinkles and as a bonus, removes odours. Whilst garment steamers do a similar job to an iron, they give clothing a much softer appearance and can be used on nearly all types of fabric, saving you money previously spent at dry cleaners on those hard to wash items. The only exceptions being suede, waxed fabrics or anything constructed from plastic. When you are in a rush, they are fast to get fired up so you can quickly whizz it over your clothing before heading out the door. Those difficult to iron clothes or delicate items are a breeze as the steam penetrates even the most hard to reach parts of the garment. When clothes are removed from their packaging they are often creased and need to be pressed to make them store and photoshoot ready, making them incredibly popular with the fashion industry. Steam of over 212 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bacteria and as such sanitize anything it comes in contact with. Clothes steamers can be used all over the house, meaning that the hard to wash upholstery can easily be sanitized, disinfected and refreshed. 

If you are looking to purchase one, we have compiled a guide with all the information you need to go full steam ahead and pick the right one for you. 

Upright Clothes Steamers

These bigger units, sometimes known as vertical or stand up garment steamers, are more powerful than their handheld counterparts and most come with the ability to adjust the height for a more comfortable experience. It also means that many can be reduced in size for easy and compact storage. With the bigger size comes bigger water tanks, making them much better for larger laundry loads or retail shops who may have a large collection of clothing. The larger tanks mean you don’t have to refill as often, saving you time and energy going back and forth to the tap. These professional clothes steamers also usually come with a built-in hanging capability but the design of this will vary greatly between brands. Some come with hangers and trouser clips which mean you simply pop your clothing on as if you were hanging it in a wardrobe but some come with a back board which acts in a similar way to an ironing board. The back boards do normally stop you from compacting the product down for storage so you will need to bear that in mind if storage space is limited. 

Handheld Clothes Steamers

Handheld steamers are small, light and portable, making them ideal as travel steamers. Usually weighing between 1 and 2 kg, they are easy to transport to events, weekends away or for quick touch ups after a long journey. If storage space is really tight, these are compact enough to be popped in a drawer or small cupboard without taking up too much room.  They work in a very similar way to upright steamers but they are less powerful and have far smaller water tanks, which is why they are often used for touch ups and small jobs.

 Buying Considerations

  • Water tank- The tank size will be very important as it will impact on how long you will be able to steam for. If you are looking to steam a large load of clothing or sanitize a mass amount of upholstery, you will want a large water tank so you don’t have to keep stopping and refilling. A 3 litre water tank will give you 80 minutes of continuous steam, whereas a smaller 1 litre tank will be around 30 minutes. The opacity of the tank might not seem particularly important but a clear tank will mean you can see at a quick glance if you are low and need to refill.
  • Power & wattage- The higher the wattage capability, the more powerful it is which equates to more steam. It is best to look for products with wattages higher than 1500W.
  • Steam settings- Different fabrics will be able to withstand different steam temperatures. Delicate items such as silk are much less resilient to heat than cotton clothing. To keep your items in good condition and prevent any damage, it is best to have adjustable settings that you can set according to the clothing material. A range from 600W to 1750W will allow you to steam a wide variety of clothes.
  • Heat-up time- One of the many reasons people like steamers, is how easy they are to get set up and steaming; simply fill, turn on and get going. However, the time it takes to get to full steam does vary and some can take up to two minutes to get to full steam. Always check the features of the product, it is best to look for one that takes less than a minute to be ready.
  • Accessories- Most upright cleaners will come with accessories to help you get perfectly pressed clothing. Fabric brush attachments are ideal to help you refresh upholstery, whilst trouser press attachments will help you create pleats. In-built hangers or trouser clips will help you keep your clothing in place, preventing accidental burns.
  • Weight- The weight of the product will mostly be dependent upon the size of clothes steamer you are looking at and the materials it is constructed from. For those with arthritis or those who would prefer to have a lightweight option, a handheld one may seem like the better option but bear in mind that the water tank and steamer head are one unit and when full this will significantly increase the weight of the item whereas with the upright version, the water tank sits on the base unit and only the lightweight head needs to be moved during the steaming process.
  • Continuous steam- Some steamers for clothes require a button to be held to release the steam. If you are going to be steaming for a long period of time, this can become very tiresome. It is wise to look for one that produces continuous steam once turned on.
  • Fabric types- Home garment steamers can be used on a wide variety of materials from wool to cotton and are not exclusively for use on clothes. There are some materials that you cannot use them on; suede, waxed clothing and anything constructed from plastic.
  • Hose- There are two important factors when it comes to the hose; the length and the construction. When steaming longer garments such as dresses, you will want to be able to easily reach the top without needing to yank at the hose. A double insulated hose will maintain the steam temperature much better than a single insulated hose and will also prevent the hose surface temperature getting too hot.
  • Auto shut off- Sometimes you get called away or you get caught up in your steaming and before you know it, the tank is empty. With an automatic shut off, when the water runs out or if it gets too hot, the machine will turn itself off to prevent it from damage.
  • Supply cord- There are a few handheld travel steamers that are cordless but the majority of all clothes steamers are corded. If you are going to be steaming a vast area of your home or a large collection of clothing in a store, you may not be right next to a plug socket and therefore will need a longer cord.


How do I use a clothes steamer?

Clothes steamers are incredibly easy to use so do not fret, follow these simple steps to get wrinkle free clothes in no time at all. First off, fill the tank with water and place back into its holder. Add any attachments you wish to use and if it has adjustable settings, set it according to the material and turn on. Once it has reached full steam, point the nozzle at the clothes. Do not place the head onto the material, hold away from it so the steam floats over the fibres. It is best to work from the bottom upwards and make sure to keep the head upright. Keep hands away from the steam and NEVER steam clothes when you are wearing them. Always remove the clothing and hang up for steaming.

How do steamers work?

Garment steamers work by creating steam which relaxes the fibres in the clothing and means creases and wrinkles simply drop out. If you have ever hung your clothes in a steamy bathroom to smooth out the wrinkles, this is the same concept but far more effective.

Why buy a garment steamer?

They are an effective way of removing wrinkles from items and can be used on a wider variety of materials as they do not press against the material. They can be small and compact so they take up less storage space than the traditional iron and ironing board. They also have the added benefit of being able to sanitize as they reach very high temperatures which kills germs and removes musty smells. It means you can refresh worn clothing which will cut down on washing loads or dry cleaning costs. Cleaning your sofa covers or curtains can be a difficult process but not with a clothes steamer as you can leave the covers on and the curtains hung whilst simply running i over them to quickly and easily refresh and disinfect them.

How do I clean my fabric steamer?

Always read your instructions guide and follow their advice. The cleaning process will vary between brands and makes. For our BestSteam Professional Clothes Steamer we recommend monthly descaling with our Beststeam Descaler for Garment Steamers.