Hand Held Fabric Steamer
Credit: amazon.com

The 5 Best Clothes Steamers, According to Our Tests

The Conair Turbo Extreme Steam Fabric Steamer performed the best during our testing.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Clothes steamers are a great alternative for people who don't have the patience, space, or tools to iron their clothing. Clothes steamers work by heating up water to produce steam, which loosen the clothing's fibers to get rid of wrinkles. Steaming also helps give your clothes a nice refresh and can be used for other household items, such as curtains

To pick the best clothes steamers, we tested 29 of the most popular models on the market, assessing each one's effectiveness, ease of assembly, design, and overall value.

Our top choice is the Conair Turbo Extreme Steam Handheld Fabric Steamer for its multiple steam settings, impeccable steam performance, long steam time (for a handheld), and extra accessories, including a built-in crease clip.

Our Top Picks

Hand Held Fabric Steamer
Credit: amazon.com

Best Overall Steamer: Conair Turbo Extreme Steam Handheld Fabric Steamer

View at Amazon ($70)

Also available at Target and Walmart.

Who it's for: People looking for a handheld steamer with attachments and different steam settings.
Who it isn't for: People looking for a handheld steamer that they can travel with.

This Conair clothes steamer excelled across all of our testing categories, ranging from its design and features to its actual performance as a steamer. Our tester found the product to be "very effective" at removing wrinkles, with just one to two passes needed on its highest setting. For comparison, similar handheld models we tested took about double the number of passes to complete the same level of smoothness.

The Conair Turbo Extreme Fabric Steamer also stands out for its five steam settings (most clothes steamers have one or two) and multiple attachments. These include a built-in creaser, a silicone band that helps pull fabrics taut, a bristle brush to help loosen fabric fibers, and a delicate fabric spacer that was designed to protect more fragile fabrics. This clothes steamer also has a "ready" light to alert people when the steamer is ready to be used. Our tester did note that although the brand advertises that the steamer takes about 40 seconds to produce steam, it really took closer to a minute. However, it was still quicker than other models we tested. 

Product Details:   

  • Heating Time: 40-60 seconds
  • Steam Duration: 15-20 minutes
  • Weight: 7.3 ounces
  • Water Tank Capacity: 195 mL

RELATED: The 5 Best Steam Irons, According to Our Tests

Hand Held Fabric Steamer
Credit: amazon.com

Best Budget Steamer: Black + Decker Easy Garment Steamer

View at Amazon ($16)

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Who it's for: People who don't want to pay more than $50 for a steamer.
Who it isn't for: People who want a more lightweight handheld steamer.

Our tester was pretty impressed with the performance of this clothes steamer, especially considering its low price. The Black + Decker Easy Garment Steamer stacks up against its more expensive counterparts, able to heat up in about a minute and rid our linen napkin of most of its wrinkles in one to two passes. It has a cord that is eight feet long and a water tank capacity that is a little more than half a cup. Because of the small tank size, this can only steam for up to eight minutes before needing a refill, which might be a negative for some buyers.

Another negative our tester experienced was leakage from the machine. Not only did some water drip down the handle of the machine while in use, but it also made it onto our tester's hand while they were holding the steamed garment. Despite this drawback, our tester still finds that this clothes steamer "works extremely well" for the price and "would definitely recommend it or purchase it for myself."

Product Details:

  • Heating Time: 80 seconds
  • Steam Duration: 8 minutes
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Water Tank Capacity: 160 ml
Hand Held Fabric Steamer
Credit: amazon.com

Best Portable Steamer: Hilife Handheld Garment Steamer

View at Amazon ($36)

Who it's for: People who want a portable steamer with a large water tank.
Who it isn't for: People who don't want to deal with light dampness after steaming their clothing.

Our testing found that the Hilife Handheld Garment Steamer is easy to assemble and boasts both useful features as well as a solid steaming performance. It took our tester under a minute to assemble this steamer, so it's easy to take apart and store at home or in your suitcase while traveling. It also features a larger water tank compared to similar models (a little more than one cup) and is almost completely see-through. Plus, the steamer has a nine-foot cord, so you don't have to worry as much about being tied to the location of your nearest outlet.

As far as performance goes, the Hilife Steamer does a solid job. Our tester found that the product gave off "a good amount of steam," taking about three passes on its only setting to get the job done on our testing materials. It can steam up for 15 minutes and is recommended to only be used vertically. Our tester did note that the linen napkin was a little damp after steaming, but it did quickly dry. Despite this drawback, our tester would still recommend this clothes steamer for "its larger size and quality construction."

 Product Details:

  • Heating Time: 130 seconds
  • Steam Duration: 15 minutes
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Water Tank Capacity: 240 mL
Hand Held Fabric Steamer
Credit: amazon.com

Best Upright Steamer: Pure Enrichment PureSteam Pro Upright Clothes Steamer

View at Amazon ($110)

Also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Target.

Who it's for: People who have a lot of clothes to steam on a regular basis and people who want to use their steamer on curtains and other fabrics. 
Who it isn't for: People who don't have enough storage space for a large garment steamer.

Those with extra storage space to spare and a lot of clothes to steam will benefit from the Pure Enrichment PureSteam Pro Upright Clothes Steamer. This product's transparent water tank can hold about a half gallon of water and comes equipped with convenient features that make it more effective and comfortable to use. These include a garment hanger, a brush attachment, a space dedicated to winding up the extension cord, and a longer-than-average hose, according to our tester. Our tester's favorite feature, however, was the power button, which can be controlled with your foot.

In terms of steaming, this Pure Enrichment steam cleaner was able to remove wrinkles in one to two passes. Our tester said it took about two minutes to start producing steam, despite the brand advertising that it takes just 45 seconds. However, once you're ready to go, you can continuously steam for up to an hour. There are four different steam settings available that can be adjusted by dial. Although this clothes steamer is more expensive than comparable models, our tester found that the "solid performance and convenient features justify the slightly higher price." Plus, it has a five-year warranty.

Product Details:

  • Heating Time: 45-120 seconds
  • Steam Duration: One hour
  • Weight: 9.5 pounds
  • Water Tank Capacity: 2 liters

RELATED: The 4 Best Steam Cleaners, According to Our Testing

Hand Held Fabric Steamer
Credit: amazon.com

Best Steamer/Iron Combo: Salav DuoPress Steamer & Iron

View at Amazon ($100)

Also available at Target and Wayfair.

Who it's for: People who don't have a lot of storage space in their home and people who want a handheld steamer that can be used upright. 
Who it isn't for: People looking for a steam time that is longer than 8 minutes. 

Our tester found the Salav DuoPress Steamer & Iron unit to "give off a lot of steam" and be "very effective, especially for a combo unit." The steamer was able to get wrinkles out of our linen napkin in three to four passes. Our tester was delighted at being able to switch to the iron setting "instantaneously," creating "a beautiful crease" in just one pass. Overall, they found this product's ironing abilities to be "some of the best of all the combo units tested." To convert this steamer into an iron, all you have to do is press the steamer head, which is lined with a ceramic-coated ironing plate, down onto the fabric and go about ironing as you usually would.

The Salav DuoPress Steamer & Iron takes about a minute to produce steam. A couple downsides of this great product is that it only produces steam for about eight minutes until you need to refill the tank. Second, it does not stand up on its own, which is inconvenient if you want to set it down. 

Product Details:

  • Heating Time: 50-60 seconds
  • Steam Duration: 8 minutes
  • Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Water Tank Capacity: 150 ml

Final Verdict

Overall, we recommend the Conair Turbo Extreme Steam Handheld Fabric Steamer for its high quality performance. Not only was it able to get rid of wrinkles in one to two passes (many others we tested took about three to four), but it also has a relatively long steaming time of about 20 minutes. Plus, it has additional accessories to make the steaming process easier, including a bristle brush, built-in creaser, and more. 

Our Testing Process

We tested 29 steamers of all types for this article. We used wrinkled linen napkins to test each steamers' effectiveness, noting how many steaming options were available on the device and how many passes it took to smooth out our napkins. We also measured the amount of time the product took to produce steam.  

Other factors we evaluated were portability, including whether or not the product was comfortable to hold up while steaming, and ease of design, such as how intuitive the controls were and how easy it was to assemble out of the box. Lastly, we assessed the overall value of the item and asked our tester if they thought the item was fairly priced based on their experience with the product. We used all of these insights to come up with our picks for the best clothes steamers.

How to Shop for Clothes Steamers

Type

There are two types of clothing steamers: handheld steamers and large upright steamers. The type you buy should depend on how you want to use it, how long you want to spend steaming, and how much storage space you have available. Handheld clothes steamers are best for someone who steams clothing occasionally or who doesn't have the space for a large upright steamer. Large garment steamers work better for someone who steams clothing frequently, as these products have a larger water tank and thus can steam for much longer than handhelds (up to 20 minutes on a handheld versus an hour on a large steamer). If you are interested in a large garment steamer, just make sure you have enough storage space for one in your home. Although some large garment steamers can be broken down to become more compact, they will still need about as much space as a stick vacuum cleaner.

Heat Time

Most steamers heat up in just under one minute, but the exact time varies depending on tank size and steamer power. Smaller steamers will heat up more quickly than larger upright steamers, which can take about two minutes to heat up. While the difference isn't huge, it's still important to consider. Similarly, the length of time a steamer can run varies depending on the capacity of its tank. Smaller steamers have a runtime of about 8-20 minutes, while larger garment steamers can run for 1-2 hours depending on the setting. 

Features

The most important part of a clothes steamer is effectiveness, but extra features can certainly make the steaming process a whole lot easier. Common additional features include more than one steam setting, which will help if you need to get steaming done quickly or have sturdier fabrics. There are also accessories such as crease clips and bristle brush attachments. Crease clips help create creases in your pants without an iron, while a bristle brush attachment helps loosen fabric fibers so that they de-wrinkle more easily. If you're looking at a large garment steamer, look for additional features such as wheels on the bottom of the device, a retractable cord, and an included hanger with hanger clips to hold up your garments more easily.  

More Steamers to Consider

Steamfast Canister Fabric Steamer: We really liked the performance of this garment steamer, as it steamed faster than most and got rid of the majority of wrinkles on our napkin in just one pass. However, we found the included hanger clips to be very flimsy, so much so that our tester believed they eventually would need to be replaced.

Steam and Go Portable Steamer: This product did quite well in our testing, as it was ready to use in about two minutes and it got tough wrinkles out in just a few passes. Although our tester found this to be a "good option that works well," they noted that the machine was a bit heavy to hold and the construction felt "cheap" compared to similar models. 

Questions You Might Ask

What is the difference between a clothes steamer and an iron?

The big difference between a clothes steamer and iron is contact. Irons require direct contact onto fabric to get rid of wrinkles, whereas steamers need to be held a short distance away from the fabric to achieve the same result. Irons are great for creating creases in pants, pressing pleated clothing, and getting wrinkles out of thicker fabrics that would take a longer time to tackle, such as jeans or a blazer. Steamers are best for more delicate items or fabrics, such as a silk blouse or a cashmere sweater. Fabrics you should not steam include suede, leather, waxed cotton, or anything that is plastic, as that could cause the material to melt. You also don't want to get too close to embellishments like buttons, beads, or sequins, as those could be made of plastic and melt too.  

How do I properly use a clothes steamer?

Always read your product's instruction manual before you proceed, as use can vary between clothes steamers. Typically, you start by filling up the tank with water up to the water line, not above it. Then, turn on the device and wait until the machine starts continually producing steam. Otherwise, there's a risk of water spurting out and getting onto your fabric, which may stain it. Hang your garments on a hanger and hold them taut while steaming. Keep the steamer an inch away from the garment while steaming—do not put the steamer nozzle directly to your clothes. Once you're done, wait for your clothes to dry. Throughout steaming, make sure that your hands stay far away from the extremely hot steam so you don't get burned.

Should I be regularly cleaning my clothes steamer?

Yes, but how often depends on how much you use it. If you notice that your clothes steamer is not producing steam as easily or as quickly as previous uses, that's when it's time for a cleaning. Clothes steamers get dirty when the minerals from hard water build up overtime and create a gunk that can clog your nozzle and leave white residue on your clothes. 

You can avoid this by using distilled water when you steam. If that isn't an option, you can clean your clothes steamer with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and distilled water. After you've put the mixture into your water tank, turn on your steamer and let that mixture run until it's about halfway done. Repeat the process until your nozzle lets steam out easily and quickly. Once you're ready to use your steamer again, make sure to do the same process but with just distilled water to make sure that any remaining vinegar is removed.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Rachel Center, a product reviews home writer for Real Simple. To compile this list, we tested 29 irons and evaluated each model on its effectiveness, design, and overall value.