If you already have an iron, you might be wondering if you also need a clothes steamer. The answer is yes, as they can eliminate wrinkles in thinner materials, upholstery, and curtains, and be a flexible option for quick touch-ups.
To help you in your search, we tested 30 steamers at home for several hours over the course of two months, evaluating their design, effectiveness, and value. Our winner was the True & Tidy Handheld Garment Steamer, which is extremely lightweight and erases wrinkles in just a few passes. The BLACK+DECKER Easy Garment Steamer—a more affordable, handheld option that is extremely powerful given its size—was another standout option.
Here are the best clothes steamers, backed by our testing.
Best Overall: True & Tidy TS-10 Handheld Garment Steamer
Large, stainless steel soleplate
See-through water tank
Tricky to fill water reservoir
You can keep your clothes neat and wrinkle-free anywhere with the True & Tidy Handheld Garment Steamer. This compact model is our top pick for a clothes steamer because it perfectly marries portability with quality. The handheld steamer weighs a little more than one pound and breaks down into two pieces, making it easy to pack in a carry-on or duffel bag. Despite its small size, it excelled in our testing. We found that it gave off an impressive flow of steam for a handheld unit, and it was able to remove the majority of wrinkles in just two or three passes.
You operate this steamer using a simple on-off rocker switch, and we liked that the water tank is fully see-through, allowing you to monitor exactly how much water is left. On a full tank, it can run for around seven minutes, but we did find it frustrating to fill the reservoir. You have to put water in very slowly, otherwise, it backs up and overflows. Otherwise, this steamer is a reliable and effective option that's suitable for a wide variety of tasks. You can pack it in a suitcase or carry it to the next room to perfectly prepare your outfit for the day, and rest assured that its price point matches its versatility and performance.
Price at time of publish: $30
Best Budget: Black+Decker Easy Garment Steamer
Quick heat time
Affordable price point
May leave wet spots
The BLACK+DECKER Easy Garment Steamer checks all of our boxes. It's powerful, compact to store, and extremely affordable. During testing, we were impressed by this steamer’s high steam output as well as its less than 60-second heat-up time, which earned it 5 out of 5 in our ratings.
This handheld steamer is surprisingly powerful for its size. Instead of holes on its nozzle, it has a slit, which gives off a lot of steam and makes it very effective (we gave it a 4.5 out of 5). However, you have to keep your hand further away from the nozzle during use, as it gives off a lot of steam that can travel further down the fabric.
Price at time of publish: $16
Best Splurge: Pure Enrichment PureSteam Pro Upright Clothes Steamer
Foot-operated power button
Four steam settings
Cord wrap for easy storage
Clips don’t hold thin fabric well
Hanger feels somewhat flimsy
If you’re willing to spend a little more on a sleek, versatile full-size steamer, this option from Pure Enrichment impressed us during testing. The base of the unit has a triangular shape that features a foot pedal to turn it on and off, and a dial on the front allows you to adjust the steam level. The 2-liter water tank is on the back of the base, and there’s even a space to wrap up the cord for more compact storage. Overall, we loved the design of this unit, rating it a 4.5 out of 5—we only knocked off half a point because the hanger and clips were made from a thin plastic that we worried would snap if dropped.
This steamer readily removed wrinkles from our test fabric, needing just one or two passes to smooth the fabric on its highest setting. We gave it a 4.5 out of 5 in terms of effectiveness, with the only downside being that thinner materials tend to slide out of the clips if you pull them taut. All in all, we think it’s a sleek and effective machine to add to your laundry room.
Price at time of publish: $100
Best Upright: Hamilton Beach Upright Garment Steamer
Simple, yet effective design
Removes wrinkles quickly
Caster wheels make it easy to move
Extra-long hose and central pole
Water tank wobbles
The Hamilton Beach Upright Garment Steamer is a top choice if you’re hoping to steam curtains and oversized items. This upright unit has a pole that extends up to three feet and it has an extra-long hose to match. Additionally, we loved that the steamer is mounted on four caster wheels, which made it one of the easiest to move around and earned it a 5 out of 5 in terms of portability.
This unit can be used for up to 90 minutes at a time, and we were impressed by its steaming abilities—it was able to blast through wrinkles in one to two passes, leaving fabric smooth and ready to use. Unlike many other upright options, this steamer doesn’t include a built-in hanger component, but there’s a loop on top of the pole where you can hook a hanger. The only downside we found to this steamer is that the water tank relies on its weight to stay in place, so it gets a bit wobbly when the tank isn’t as full.
Price at time of publish: $79
Best Handheld: Electrolux LX-15002 Garment Steamer
Extremely attractive design
Produces powerful steam for a handheld unit
Trigger lock provides continuous steam
Extra-long power cord
Occasionally spits water
Handheld steamers are more compact than upright units, making them a top choice if you have a smaller home. The Electrolux Garment Steamer was one of the top performers in this category. We were charmed by its sleek design and modern appearance, complete with a stylish silhouette and matte black finish. However, this finish can quickly show mineral deposits if you live in an area with hard water, according to Katie Berry, The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board member.
In addition to looking great and feeling sturdy, this handheld steamer also performed quite well. It was able to remove both big and small wrinkles in just two or three passes, and it gave off an impressive amount of steam on its high setting.
The power button for this handheld steamer is on the back of its head, and it has an indicator light that lets you know when it’s ready to use. There are two settings to choose from, and a trigger on the front allows you to start or stop the steam as needed. There’s even a sliding trigger lock that provides continuous steam. We scored this steamer 5 out of 5 for design and heat time, and 4 out of 5 in terms of effectiveness. The only major downside we could find is that it occasionally spits water, which can be painful if the hot droplets land on your hand.
Price at time of publish: $60
Best with Hanger: Conair CompleteSteam Ultimate Fabric Steamer
Heats up quickly
Two sets of clips to hold clothing taut
Large water reservoir
Awkward to move around
The Conair Ultimate Fabric Steamer makes it easy to de-wrinkle your favorite clothing, as it has both an integrated hanger and two sets of clips to hold pants in place as you work. In testing, we liked that this unit heats up extremely fast, and it has a large water tank that delivers a powerful stream of steam for more than an hour. The clips did a great job holding our linens taut as we steamed, which saved us from accidentally steaming our fingers. But we do wish the bottom set could be adjusted vertically for more versatility.
The Conair Steamer offers just one steam setting, but it was incredibly effective, removing wrinkles in a single pass. We ranked it as a 5 out of 5 in terms of effectiveness, but it did lose points on portability, as its wheels don’t work well and it’s somewhat awkward to move from room to room.
Price at time of publish: $72
If you’re looking for a quality clothes steamer, our favorite is the True & Tidy Handheld Garment Steamer. In our testing, it was able to power through wrinkles in just a few passes, plus it has a see-through water tank so you can easily see when it's time for a refill. For a more budget-friendly option, we love the BLACK+DECKER Easy Garment Steamer. With a fast heating time and strong steam output, it's an amazing value for the price.
How We Tested the Clothes Steamers
We purchased and sent 30 clothes and travel steamers to our at-home tester, who tested them over the course of two months. To start, they unboxed and completed the assembly for each, noting how clear the instructions were and whether the design was intuitive, practical, and durable, or not. They noted whether the placement of the buttons was useful and if the design was aesthetically pleasing, and also took a closer look at any accessories that were included with the steamer.
They then evaluated the heat time of each steamer. They timed each pick with a phone stopwatch, before using wrinkled linen napkins to test effectiveness. During this test, they tested out all of the settings and made notes of how many passes it took the steamer to eliminate the wrinkles. They also noted whether the napkin felt damp afterward. Next, they rated the portability of the product and tried packing travel steamers into a packed carry-on bag. They evaluated whether the steamer was easy to hold and carry and if it altered the weight of the bag when traveling.
They used their experience to rate the overall value of the steamer, so you know if it's worth buying. These insights were boiled down to this list of the best clothes steamers, backed by our testing.
What to Look for in a Clothes Steamer
“Home steamers basically come in two varieties: base-mounted steamers and handheld steamers,” says Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care. “Handheld steamers are good to use for a quick touch-up or to travel with. Base tank steamers are used in retail environments because they have larger water reservoirs and therefore will run longer without refilling with water.”
There are pros and cons to each of these steamer styles, so you’ll want to consider how you plan to use the unit. For instance, handheld models are more compact and heat up faster, but upright steamers usually have a built-in hanger and/or clips for clothing and are more powerful, getting wrinkles out faster.
Most home steamers have a wattage between 500 and 1500, and steamers with a high wattage produce more steam at once. This allows them to work more effectively and get wrinkles out faster. However, keep in mind that a powerful burst of hot steam can harm certain fabrics—synthetic fibers can melt if they get too hot, as can small plastic details like buttons or beading.
"Ironing is better at getting wrinkles out of thicker creased fabrics such as cotton and linen,” says Melissa Maker of Clean My Space. “A steamer is great on thinner materials. It can get wrinkles out of thicker knits, too—you'll just need to work the area a little longer.” However, any high-power steamer should be held approximately six inches away from the fabric to prevent damage.
There are a variety of features you may want to look for when shopping for a clothing steamer. “I like one that comes with attachments or settings, which allow you to steam multiple types of materials, garments, and upholsteries,” says Maker. Common attachments include regular brushes, lint brushes, crease clips, and water filters.
Other features you may want to look for include a metal soleplate for ironing, multiple steam settings, a built-in hanger or clips, and a carrying case for portable models.
How hot do clothes steamers get?
Clothes steamers are fairly simple devices—they essentially just boil water to produce steam, and the minimum temperature for this to occur is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The majority of steamers heat water to somewhere between 212 and 400 degrees, which is why it’s important to keep your hands away from the nozzle during operation.
How do you use handheld clothes steamers?
Fill the clothes steamer with water, plug in the device, and select the appropriate setting for the fabric you're steaming. Wait for the device to heat up to the ideal temperature. Once the device is fully heated, lift the device and lightly touch the nozzle to your garment where there are wrinkles. "Hang the garment up and pull taut, section by section. Use short strokes to saturate the area with steam and release wrinkles, pulling as you go," recommends Maker. "Keep your body away from the steamer, [as] the blasts of steam are very hot."
Are clothes steamers better than irons?
Steamers and irons are better suited for different tasks. Steamers work well on thinner materials and are also a more convenient way to attack wrinkles in curtains and other home linens. If you're looking to get creased wrinkles out of thicker fabrics like denim or corduroy, you'll want to opt for an iron. They're also superior when it comes to achieving a pressed look or creating creases, while steamers are able to sanitize thanks to their hot steam.
Can a steamer ruin clothes?
Steaming is an effective way to remove wrinkles from most fabrics, but you'll want to avoid using it on more sensitive fabrics. Velvet, velour, suede, waxed jackets, and anything plastic can be melted or warped by steaming, and this also holds true for decorative elements like plastic buttons or beads. Katie Berry, The Spruce's Cleaning Review Board member, additionally notes that "some metal embellishments will rust after repeated steaming, so try to avoid getting the device near them."
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. As she started her research into clothing steamers, she spoke with experts Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care, and Melissa Maker of Clean My Space for insights on the benefits of steaming, what to look for in a clothing steamer, as well as how to steam clothes properly.
Camryn then went on to test 30 different clothing steamers, including both handheld and upright models, evaluating each one on its design, portability, heat time, effectiveness, and value. She took these scores, as well as her overall experience with each steamer, into consideration as she put together this list of the best clothes steamers.