Reviewers say full-size floor model garment steamers are the most effective models. Handheld versions are smaller and easier to store than floor models and take less time to heat up, but they offer less steaming time (around 20 minutes usually) than larger models due to their smaller water tanks. Handheld steamers work fine for one or two garments, or small curtains.
Among handheld garment steamers, the Joy Mangano My Little Steamer (*Est. $20)
Slate.com reviewer Laura Moser also reviews the My Little Steamer in her review of travel-sized steamers, but she complains that it's not as compact as other travel models. She also says it's less effective than the top-performing Jiffy Esteam Travel Steamer (*Est. $75), which costs nearly twice as much. She does, however, praise the My Little Steamer's design, as do nearly all the other reviewers we found.
The My Little Steamer doesn't receive as many user reviews as the Jiffy Steamer Esteam and the Steamfast SF-407, but user reviews are a good source of anecdotal information. For example, Amazon.com users occasionally complain the My Little Steamer fails after several uses, but despite the handful of tales of malfunction, users say the product is extremely easy and convenient to use. It can be used with tap water, is easy to store, and, while it only offers 15 minutes of steam, the controls prevent steam from being wasted while not actively in use.
Like handheld units, travel steamers are compact, one-piece units that hold just enough water to steam a suit or a dress. Travel steamers are more compact than handheld steamers and they usually have fewer attachment and accessories.
Among dedicated travel steamers, the Jiffy Esteam Travel Steamer (*Est. $75) does well in formal testing and consumer reviews, and it is a favorite of stylists. This unit resembles a Thermos and weighs 3 pounds. It takes 8 ounces of regular tap water and heats up in about two minutes for 15 minutes of steaming. Jiffy Steamer Esteam is named the best of six travel steamers tested by Laura Moser for Slate.com. Moser says it provides the hottest steam, even though it's only 600 watts -- less than all but one of the other tested steamers (which range from 200 to 1,000 watts). Moser says, "The Jiffy is the only steamer I tested that achieves anything like the power and precision of a regular iron."
On Amazon.com, more than 200 reviewers give the Esteam an average rating of 4 stars out of 5. Many compare it favorably to larger, home-use garment steamers, though several complain that it doesn't steam long enough and that holding it sideways will cause water to leak. The Jiffy Esteam is more expensive than other travel steamers, and Good Housekeeping editors note it doesn't have the added features (like additional nozzles and steam controls) one might expect from a steamer of its price.
Users say the Rowenta Steambrush doesn't get as hot to the touch as the Esteam; it doesn't drip or spit water, and it has buttons for controlling the release of steam. Unlike the Esteam, the Steambrush is rather large and bulky. Its tank holds less than 2 ounces of water. While Good Housekeeping editors rank it tops in their review, Amazon.com reviewers give it only 3.5 stars; most of the unhappy owners say it just isn't powerful enough.
The Steamfast SF-435W Compact Fabric Steamer gets comparable ratings, but is more similar to the Esteam in design (though at a much lower price). The Steamfast receives the second-best rating in Moser's test for Slate.com. It weighs just under 2 pounds, takes about two minutes to warm up and holds 7 ounces of water for 12 minutes of steaming. This unit produces merely "just-hot-enough steam," Moser says, and Amazon.com users agree. While most say it's convenient and easy to use, they don't all agree on its effectiveness. Most comments are positive, with owners appreciating how well the unit removes wrinkles. Several mention that it's great for traveling, as it is small enough to fit in a suitcase. A few complain, though that this steamer can drip water on clothing during use, and that to steam several garments at once it's necessary to both refill the water and wait for the unit to warm up each time.