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Clothes Steamer Reviews

By: Kelly Burgess on October 19, 2016

Editor's note:
The big change in clothes steamers this year is that a few expert testing sites are now weighing in on the best steamers -- but did their opinions change our minds? In this case the answer was yes in the handheld category, but they backed up our previous picks in two other categories.

J-2000 Jiffy Garment Steamer Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter On/off switch - Yes Auto shut-off - Yes Watts - 1,300

Best clothes steamer

Reviewers say the J-2000 Jiffy Garment Steamer well-built, easy to use and performs very well not only on clothing, but other household items as well. It heats up in minutes and can steam for 1.5 hours on a single fill-up. It's a particularly good choice for those who make costumes or otherwise do a lot of sewing. See our full review »

Buy for $181.49
Joy Mangano My Little Steamer
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter On/off switch - yes Auto shut-off - yes Watts - 900

Best handheld clothes steamer

If you need a quick refresh of your outfit du jour, reviewers say the Joy Mangano My Little Steamer is a lightweight, simple solution. The My Little Steamer starts producing steam in less than two minutes and is reported as lightweight and easy to use. It's available in eight colors and includes a matching storage case. See our full review »

Buy for $50.60
Conair Travel Smart Garment Steamer Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter On/off switch - No Auto shut-off - No Watts - 450

Travel clothes steamer

The Conair Travel Smart Garment Steamer weighs just one pound and has a folding handle, making it a great choice for travel since it takes up little room in a suitcase. The Conair heats up quickly and can steam continuously for about 10 minutes. The Travel Smart includes a storage pouch, and has dual voltage compatibility for international use.

Buy for $29.72

Clothes steamers offer easy de-wrinkling

Don't like to iron, but also don't want to look like you just rolled out of bed? A garment steamer might be the answer. They're quick, easy to use and offer a smooth, pressed look -- taking just minutes to steam away the wrinkles in your clothes -- without the hassle of setting up an iron and ironing board. They can also serve to freshen clothes between trips to the dry cleaner, thus saving money on dry cleaning costs.

Garment steamers can also be used on items other than clothing. Window and shower curtains, drapes, wrinkly bed skirts and more can easily be spruced up using a garment steamer. Unlike an iron, garment steamers can be used on delicate fabrics like velvet and silk. We read a number of reviews from owners who say they use a handheld steamer exclusively and some who say they've replaced their iron with a compact steamer.

Types of Clothes Steamers

Full-Sized Steamers

Full-size standing garment steamers resemble canister vacuums, with a water tank that is connected to a steam nozzle with a long hose. They are very popular with those who sew a lot, costumers and crafters. Most upright steamers have a built-in rack or hanger for hanging clothes while steaming them, which makes them tall. That's something to keep in mind when planning for storage -- although in most cases the rack is removable or folds down. Still full-sized garment steamers do take up a bit of storage space. Upright floor models usually have caster-type wheels that make it easy to move them from room to room.

Handheld Steamers

This type of garment steamers is the most common type in most homes. These resemble a pitcher, with a nozzle in place of the spout. Handheld steamers are useful for lighter duty jobs and quick touch-ups, and are great for keeping your draperies and curtains looking fresh, but will require refills more often. They are also easy to store, taking up very little space in a cupboard or drawer.

Travel Steamers

Many people like portable garment steamers for travel -- and most handheld steamers travel well -- but there are a few portable garment steamers marketed specifically to travelers. These garment steamers are especially compact, some even fold, and they often have dual voltage compatibility for international travel. They're particularly popular for business travelers and for taking along to keep the wedding party looking fresh at destination weddings.

A garment steamer won't replace your iron

If you like the creased, crisp look of a well-ironed dress shirt or pair of trousers, a clothes steamer won't give you that. If you need (or just like) the sharp-pressed look that only an iron can deliver, see our report on steam irons.

Finding The Best Clothes Steamers
Our Sources
"The Best Clothing Steamers"
"Best Clothes Steamers"
"Steamers Can Save a Trip to the Cleaners"

In the past, there have been no expert reviews of garment steamers, but that was not the case for this update. We found tests of a variety of different steamers at ConsumerReports.org, TheSweethome.com and Reviewed.com. The issue we had is that there are many types of clothes steamers, and little overlap across those three sources in the models tested, still, we did find some consensus and we took that into account. More important for our purposes are the thousands of owner reviews we evaluated for how the garment steamer works in people's homes and for their lifestyle. This real-world experience helped ups to narrow down our choices for the best steamers and handheld steamers available, including great choices for travel.

Best Full-sized Clothes Steamers

Full-sized steamers can handle big jobs

Full-sized garment steamers are very popular for people who hate ironing, or for sewers or quilters who handle a lot of fabric. If you just need a steamer for light-duty work, or don't have a place to store an upright steamer, see our discussion of handheld/travel steamers elsewhere in this report.

Some people who have clothes steamers say they'll never use an iron again. Many of these folks probably own the J-2000 Jiffy Garment Steamer (Est. $160), which is heavy-duty enough to be used in light commercial settings, but is most popular for home use. It can de-wrinkle clothes, curtains, drapes, tablecloths, and any other fabric that needs to be refreshed. Expert and consumer reviewers give it very high ratings for performance, with many saying it's the best steamer they've every owned. Camille Perri at TheSweethome.com calls the J-2000, "just about perfect."

The 1300-watt J-2000 takes one to two minutes to heat up, and then steams for 1.5 hours thanks to its generous, 96-ounce water tank. Reviewers say its removable tank is easy to fill and does not need to cool down before refilling, a definite plus for big jobs. Leftover water should be emptied periodically and, according to the Jiffy website, every three to six months or so the tank should be cleaned to remove hard-water deposits and sediment build-up.

Although the J-2000 weighs 18 pounds, users say the caster wheels make it easy to roll around the house. The lightweight hose needs to be kept in an upright position so collected condensation flows back into the steamer, but there are no reports of leaks. The J-2000 has an on/off switch and an automatic shut-off if the machine accidentally runs dry. It's reported as very durable, and is backed with a three-year warranty.

Our runner up, the Rowenta Master Valet Garment Steamer (Est. $150), is larger than the J-2000, but has a unique feature that reviewers love: a screen that rolls out to support your garments so you can steam with one hand, as opposed to having to hold a piece of clothing open while you run the steamer over it. At Reviewed.com, tester Keith Barry cites this roll-out screen as one of the reasons he gives it a nod as one of his top picks. He also notes that the Rowenta Master Valet, "É made quick work of wrinkles on hard-to-iron collars, plackets, and pleats."

The Rowenta Master Valet is a 1550-watt steamer with an 81-ounce tank that will steam continuously for an hour. Users love the foot-operated on/off switch and also say it's very maneuverable in spite of its size. Other ease-of-use features include a see-through, removable water tank that's simple to fill.

The top pick at Reviewed.com was the Conair GS88 (Est. $100), but it has so few user reviews, just a handful at Amazon.com at the time of this writing (and most of the positive reviews there are in return for a free product), that there isn't the type of consensus for real-world use that we see for the Jiffy J-2000 and the Rowenta steamer. Still, tester Keith Barry found it to be highly portable and he loved the built-in pants creaser and continuous and steam burst options. As for users, even those who give the Conair a 5-star review in return for a free product say the creaser does not work well, and that the steamer leaks or drips. Verified purchasers say it's "creasing" claims are overstated and that you still need a traditional steam iron (which we cover in a separate report) for that.

It's not covered in any expert roundups, but if you just want a decent, full-size garment steamer at a budget price, owners say you can't beat the Steamfast SF-510 Fabric Steamer (Est. $60). They note that this garment steamer works great for a variety of household jobs, but that it's particularly well-suited for heavy fabrics due to its sturdy hanger setup. However there's also a hook to place your own hanger if you don't want to transfer your clothes. The integrated cord wrap earns particular praise. The Steamfast heats up in less than a minute and steams for 50 continuous minutes on 46 ounces of water.

There are a few complaints about a too-short hose for some jobs and A few reports of leakage with the Steamfast. We also saw comments from some owners saying that it takes too many passes to get all the wrinkles out -- or for tougher creases -- but, overall, most say it's a great steamer and is an excellent value for the price.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Clothes Steamers buying guide

What every best Clothes Steamers has:

  • A good reach.
  • Good water capacity.
  • Automatic shut-off.

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