Garment steamers can keep you looking sharp without the hassle of ironing
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 and 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. Some claim to remove odors as well.
Garment steamers come in two styles: upright floor units and handheld steamers. Both have refillable water tanks. Full-size standing steamers resemble canister vacuums, with a water tank that is connected to a steam nozzle with a long hose. Handheld steamers look similar to a pitcher, with a nozzle in place of the spout. Most upright steamers have a built-in rack or hanger for hanging clothes while steaming them.
In addition to knocking wrinkles out of clothing, garment steamers are useful for removing wrinkles from difficult-to-iron items, such as drapes and bed skirts, and, unlike an iron, they can be used on delicate fabrics like velvet and silk. Upright floor models take up more space, but they usually have caster-type wheels that make it easy to move them from room to room. Some have telescoping racks to fold down for a smaller footprint. Handheld steamers are useful for travel and quick touch-ups but will require refills more often.
Most experts agree that a garment steamer cannot replace a steam iron, though it can be a useful appliance. Clothes steamers damage fabric less than frequent pressing, but they can't give that creased look that a good steam iron can, and they're not the best for detail work like collars and cuffs. If you like the sharp-pressed look, see our report on steam irons.
Handheld garment steamers are popular with travelers. Business travelers especially appreciate the convenience of a lightweight, compact garment steamer to smooth the suitcase wrinkles out of their clothes without having to drag the iron out of the hotel closet. Handheld steamers can also be handy in the home setting to steam curtains and draperies and do smaller steaming jobs. There are 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.
The price of a garment steamer varies depending upon size. Larger steamers can cost more than $150, while our least expensive handheld model is a mere $20. Bigger jobs require bigger tanks, which means a higher price, but these larger models can handle big jobs and steam for an hour or more.
ConsumerSearch has analyzed expert reviews and hundreds of owner reviews to evaluate the features, ease of use and performance of dozens of garment steamers, narrowing it down to the best steamers and handheld steamers available.