Clothes steamers offer
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-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
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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