Although not meant to replace an iron, experts say garment steamers can be useful for removing stray wrinkles and freshening fabric. Reviewers get good results on many fabrics, including cashmere, silk, velvet and wool, and experts say steam is gentler than ironing. Owners say steaming clothing doesn't cause wear and tear the same way frequent ironing does, making clothes last longer. Steamers can also be used on household fabrics such as drapes and bed skirts. To be safe, experts recommend that you first steam an inconspicuous spot to test the fabric.
Most steamers can be used with regular tap water, but some owners suggest using distilled water instead, saying it may lengthen the life of the heating unit and produce fewer mineral deposits. Experts recommend that you empty a steamer before storing it to avoid mold or mildew.
Some reviewers say larger steamers take especially long to heat up. We found many complaints for both full-size units and travel steamers stating that they dripped or spit water onto clothing, so it may be necessary to allow some drying time after steaming (and water can ruin some fabrics, such as silk). Steamers that emit cooler steam will take longer to remove wrinkles, but may create less risk of burns. Also, note that a few minutes of cooling time are often required after a steam.
Experts offer the following tips for using a garment steamer: