The 5 Best Clothes Steamers, According to Our Tests
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
- Best Overall Steamer: Conair Turbo Extreme Steam Handheld Fabric Steamer
- Best Budget Steamer: Black + Decker Easy Garment Steamer
- Best Portable Steamer: Hilife Handheld Garment Steamer
- Best Upright Steamer: Pure Enrichment PureSteam Pro Upright Clothes Steamer
- Best Steamer/Iron Combo: Salav DuoPress Steamer & Iron
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
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.
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.
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.