Clothes steamers have fast become the go-to alternative to ironing. Shop owners and fashion experts were once the primary users of these handy machines that rid clothes of both wrinkles and germs, but steam cleaners are now more available and accessible. Adding the best clothes steamer to your laundry tool kit can help you spend less time maintaining your clothes, while also boosting their appearance and freshness.
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.
We’ve evaluated a wide variety of clothes steamers and have highlighted superior models so you can purchase with confidence. If you’d like a more in-depth education on how steam cleaning works and how to choose the best steamer to suit your needs, keep reading.
Are steamers better than irons?
For some — but not all — de-wrinkling jobs, a steamer is a better choice than a steam iron. Garment steamers pump out soft billows of steam that pass through fabrics and delicate fibers to allow wrinkles to fall out as you gently tug on the bottom of the shirt or blouse. Irons, on the other hand, use moisture, heat, steam and pressure to smooth and flatten fabrics and remove wrinkles as you press against the board.
Steamers are better suited for use on items decorated with sequins and beads, and tailored garments, like jackets, that are difficult to lay out flat on an ironing board. Finally, use a steamer on any item where you don’t want a pressed look or sharp creases, like knit sweaters or dresses.
5 Best Clothes Steamers of 2021:
Like most of the midsize handheld steamers I tested, the Sunbeam Power Steam Fabric Steamer produced ample steam for the job, and it was easier to hold and more thoughtfully designed than the competition.
It was also one of the only handheld steamers that didn’t leave wet spots on test fabrics. The Sunbeam weighed just over 4 pounds with a full water tank (other midsize steamers we tested weighed between 2½ and 5 pounds), yet it was the most balanced and comfortable to hold for several minutes. It was the only steamer I tried that had a heat-up metal strip above the steam opening, which helped smooth fabrics (much like an iron would), and it was the only one with a switch to control the force of steam (low or high).
Plus, it has a trigger button to switch between a steady flow or short bursts. It also includes a “steam handle,” a snap-on accessory that helped protect my fingers from the scalding steam and let me get up close to tough wrinkles. It has a three-year limited warranty, compared with the one-year warranty on the Conair Turbo ExtremeSteam (the second-best midsize steamer I tested).
- Adjustable steam force
- Heats quickly, snap-on shield to protect your hands
- Large water tank
- Balanced design
- 3-year warranty
- Metal “wrinkle remover bar” isn’t as effective as an iron
For an affordable clothes steamer that does it all, you should purchase the Pax Steamer. This top-rated product is compact enough to take with you on the road but still delivers powerful steam to tackle even the toughest wrinkles around your home.
The Pax clothes steamer has a simple design: Simply fill the water tank (which holds up to 140ml), replace the top and flip the on/off switch. The steamer will heat up in 60 seconds or less and will provide around 10 minutes of continuous steam per fill. The product has an automatic shut-off if it gets too hot or low on water, and it weighs around 1 pound, making it easy to pack in your suitcase during travel.
While straightforward, this clothes steamer gets rave reviews from users, who say it works well on clothes and other fabrics, such as drapes and upholstery. Reviewers note that it’s easy to use and clean, and the results are impressive for such a small gadget. You may need to refill the steamer if you’re doing several garments but since it heats up so quickly, you’ll still be done in no time.
- Defeats deep creases
- Works with all kinds of fabric
- Clothes hanger for easier clothes steaming
- Extender not long enough
- Cord can get in the way when not in use
Clothes steamers are not just essential for nailing job interviews, though. In a lot professional environments, you need to look good all the time and so it is vital that you have a great quality clothes steamer that will guarantee a smart and stylish look every single time to impress clients, coworkers and yourself.
One of our top picks for the best garment steamer comes in the form of the Rowenta Master Valet Garment Steamer. This product produces a decent but not suffocating amount of steam – you don’t want to feel like you’re in a sauna, after all – and also comes with a rotating hanger to make steaming the back of your shirts, pants or socks (we guess?) much easier.
- High steam output
- Foot operated on / off switch
- Heats up in about 1 minute
- Only one steam setting
- Hanger can get in the way
Designed for power and comfort, this steamer has a number of features that will make it useful to just about everyone. First off, it has 1,500-Watts of power. That’s enough power to make super-hot steam. Steam that’s hot enough to not only soften fabrics but also to loosen even persistent wrinkles. This steam spray won’t hurt the user as they’re using this machine, however. That’s because it’s designed with a steam hose that’s wrapped in heavy knit materials to prevent it from making the user’s hand warm while they’re using it.
It also has an automatic shutoff that will power the machine down if it gets too hot or if it runs out of its supply of water. Speaking of water, this unit has a large 68-ounce tank that provides 60-minutes of continuous steaming at a time. And since this unit is so powerful, it only takes about 45-seconds for it to reach operating temperature so you’re ready to steam not too long after you’ve filled it with water and turned it on.
- Speedy heat-up time
- Perfect travel companion
- Automatic shut off when too hot or low on water
- Small tank – only enough for 2 – 3 shirts
- Water can spill if held at upright angle
This steamer releases steam as hot as 248-degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect temperature for penetrating deep within the fibers of your clothing, allowing the fibers to relax. This high temperature also kills up to 99.9 percent of germs, keeping your clothing extra clean. Wrinkles will disappear quickly and efficiently on both delicate and heavy fabrics as this steamer is compatible with most types of fabric.
The water tank included with this steamer can hold up to 61-ounces of water, which means that you can iron out multiple items with just one tank. One full tank should give you up to 60 minutes of steam time. If you’re in a rush, rest easy knowing that the 61-ounce tank of water heats up to its maximum temperature in only 45 to 60 seconds.
Included with this steamer is a convenient adjustable hanger as well as some clothing clips to make positioning your clothes while steaming as easy as possible. Some clients have mentioned that the clips aren’t very strong, however. If you are looking to clip fabrics that are heavier than a dress shirt, then the clips may not hold.
- Heats to 249-degrees Fahrenheit
- Great for delicate and heavy fabrics
- Features a 61-ounce water tank
- Heats up in 45 to 60 seconds and lasts up to 60 minutes
- Included clips are not very strong
Clothes Steamer Buying Guide
Before you go ahead and purchase your next best clothes steamer, we recommend that you consider some of these essential features and useful added extras.
- Style – There are two main styles of clothes steamer available. Floor standing or full-size models and the more compact and portable handheld versions. Both options should also come with an array of attachments and tool.
- Performance & Characteristics – One of the things that sets the best clothes steamers apart is the amount of time they take to heat up before they’re ready to perform their de-wrinkling action as well as the overall power they output. Some can take as long as 15 minutes to heat up, which doesn’t exactly make steaming time efficient.
- Wattage & Temperature – Generally speaking, higher wattage equates to higher available maximum temperatures, but that’s not always the case, so it definitely pays to check the detail. Temperature is a vital feature to look out for.
- Accessories & Extras – Lots of steamers come with added extras and a whole host of accessories that you might find it useful to own. Things like interchangeable nozzles, multiple hooks, and hangers, different brush attachments as well as longer length hoses.
Handheld vs. Floor Units
Whether you want a handheld steamer or a floor unit is up to you, but there are a few things to consider. For instance, you might want to think about whether you need the unit to be portable enough to travel with you. If that’s the case, then you are definitely going to want to buy a portable model. After all, the big floor steamers can be hard enough to move from one part of the house to the next, but it’s almost possible to take them with you if you do a lot of business traveling.
Portable units are also cheaper, so that’s another thing to keep in mind when choosing a steamer. Floor models often come with extra accessories, such as clothing hangers or poles, that make them easier to use but this also makes them more expensive.
Toss out your iron and forget about the hassle of going to the dry cleaner’s. Instead, invest in an efficient and easy-to-use clothing steamer. Not only do steamers keep your garments free of wrinkles and bacteria, but they also work quickly and are compatible with almost every fabric. Whether you need your clothes looking fresh for a quick business meeting, or if you’re preparing the items in your retail store, there is a steamer for you.