Handheld or portable garment steamers are very handy to have around for light household duties like de-wrinkling clothing, curtains and items like bed skirts. They're best for occasional use, though, because they don't have super long steam times. For a garment steamer that can handle light-commercial duties or with longer steam times, see our picks for full-sized garment steamers elsewhere in this report.
Many users say that with a steamer like the Joy Mangano My Little Steamer (Est. $30) they don't need an iron. The My Little Steamer is easy to use -- simply fill it with tap water and plug it in to create steam. It heats in less than two minutes. However, we were not able to ascertain how long it steams for. Camille Perri, in testing the steamer for TheSweethome.com, doesn't mention tank capacity or how long this particular garment steamer lasts on a fill-up, nor does the product's website. However, we do know from Perri's comments that it lasts at least nine minutes, and users indicate that it produces plenty of steam in one fill to refresh an entire outfit.
The My Little Steamer gets its best reviews at HSN.com, which makes sense since it is, basically, an As Seen on TV product and it's not widely available elsewhere. It's sold only through third-party sellers at Amazon -- and it's pricey there, those sellers tack on $10 to $12 over the suggested retail price of $29.99 (at HSN it's $24.99 with a $5 shipping charge). You also can't select a specific color on Amazon, even though the My Little Steamer comes in eight colors (at the time of this update) -- you just have to hope you get one you like.
Still, owners at both HSN.com and Amazon love this little garment steamer and we saw a lot of comments from people who buy them as gifts for everyone they know. Owners say it does a great job of steaming out wrinkles, although, like most clothes steamers, it works best on lightly-wrinkled fabrics; it may take longer to get out deeper wrinkles. Users also appreciate the nice array of features, which include an on/off switch, wide mouth that's easy to fill, retractable 8-foot cord and auto-shutoff. The My Little Steamer also comes with a matching storage bag that users adore.
Our previous pick, the Jiffy Esteam Personal Handheld Steamer (Est. $60) is still a good choice, and gets equally glowing reviews from owners, although Perri says the handle gets hot and it takes longer than the My Little Steamer to produce steam. Users, however, say the Jiffy Esteam heats quickly and produces a steady stream of steam. The Esteam is lightweight and compact, so it's easy to store away and, at just two pounds, doesn't cause fatigue even if you use it to the capacity of its steam time. The 9-foot power cord is ample for even taller jobs, but it's not retractable, so it adds bulk to the unit when it's stored. There is no on/off switch; the steamer must be plugged in and unplugged to turn it on and off. However, it has an automatic shut-off function if its water reservoir runs dry.
The PureSteam Portable Fabric Steamer (Est. $30) is even lighter than the My Little Steamer and the Esteam at 1.4 pounds, and gets great reviews for performance. It heats up in about two minutes and produces 10 minutes of continuous steam; it also has an on/off switch, which is unusual for a small steamer. The PureSteam has a slightly shorter, 8-foot power cord, and some owners say they need an extension cord to reach the tops of curtains or drapes. However, this steamer is reported as very durable and it comes with a two-year warranty.
The jury is definitely out on one popular garment steamer, the Shark Press & Refresh GS500 (Est. $70). It's a top pick in one professional roundup, where it gets the nod for doing the best job of removing wrinkles and creating creases. However, its external heating element earns it a rare "do not buy warning" at TheSweethome.com because one of the testers there brushed the tip and ended up with a second degree burn. We saw a couple of user reports of burns as well. Most haven't had that issue, however, and say it works very well. Owners also love the included pad that hangs on a door and acts almost as a vertical ironing board. So, it may be a good choice for you, but be careful around the head of this steamer and keep it far from children and pets.
While any of the above handheld/portable clothes steamers can be used for travel, an even better option is the Conair Travel Smart Garment Steamer (Est. $20). At just one pound it's super light, and the handle folds in for packing, then back out when it's time to use the steamer -- a feature that earns high praise from reviewers. In spite of its diminutive size, owners say this Conair clothes steamer works very well, and is far preferable to hauling out the often low-end iron and ironing board at a hotel. Best of all, the Conair Travel Smart has dual voltage support, so it can be used even on international trips to countries that use a different voltage standard than the U.S.
The Conair Travel Smart heats up in minutes and runs continuously for about 10 minutes -- plenty of time, business travelers say, to refresh their suitcase-creased suits. It's also very popular with those in charge of organizing destination weddings, earning praise for taking up little space and gently steaming the delicate fabrics of the bridal party's finery.