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If you already have an iron, you might be wondering if you also need a clothes steamer, and the short answer is yes. “A steamer is better for anything with appliques, multiple zippers, sequins, etc. as well as for delicates like silk,” explains Melissa Maker of Clean My Space. Clothes steamers are also ideal for quick touch-ups, and they can even be used on curtains and upholstery to sanitize fabric and remove wrinkles.
There are hundreds of garment steamers available today, ranging from compact travel units to high-end upright models, so we put 30 of the most popular models to the test. In our at-home testing, we evaluated each model on its overall design, as well as key factors like its heat up time, effectiveness at removing wrinkles, and portability. Each unit was scored on its performance, allowing us to come up with a list of the best models that deserve a spot in your laundry room.
Informed by our research and home testing results, here are the best clothes steamers for your needs.
Best Overall: Steamfast SF-562 Canister Garment Steamer
Dimensions: 13.19 x 13.19 x 47.24 inches | Weight: 9.8 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 86 ounces | Power Level: 1500 watts | Heat Time: 45 seconds | Steam Time: 96 minutes
Removes wrinkles in one pass
Two steam settings
Lightweight and easy to move
Clips can’t hold thin fabrics
No matter what you’re planning to steam in your home—be it clothing, linens, curtains, or something else—the Steamfast Upright Garment Steamer will make quick work of wrinkles. In our testing, we were blown away by this unit’s ability to blast even the most stubborn creases in seconds, and it performed impeccably on all types of materials, from cotton shirts to thick denim.
This full-size steamer has two steam settings, and its 86-ounce water tank allows you to work for up to 96 minutes at a time, making it ideal for use around the house. During testing, it took around two minutes to heat up and produce a powerful stream of steam, and it removed the majority of wrinkles in a single pass, earning a five out of five in terms of effectiveness. Its telescoping pole gets as tall as 47.24 inches, but we liked that it shrinks back down, as well, making the unit compact enough to store in a closet.
The only downside we found with this steamer is that the included fabric clips don’t shut completely, so they don’t hold thin linens well. However, they work just fine with pants and other garments, and overall, we think this full-size steamer is a great value.
Best Budget: Sunbeam SteamMaster Handheld Fabric Steamer
Dimensions: 7.09 x 5.71 x 10.43 inches | Weight: 2.75 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 8 ounces | Power Level: 1200 watts | Heat Time: 60 seconds | Steam Time: 15 minutes
Sturdy handheld design
Heats up extremely quickly
Sizable water tank for a handheld model
Takes several passes to remove wrinkles
‘Shot of steam’ feature is ineffective
The Sunbeam SteamMaster Handheld Steamer is ideal for occasional steaming jobs. It might not work quite as quickly as some larger models, but it’s sturdy, compact to store, and available at a low price. During testing, we were impressed by this steamer’s sizable 8-ounce water tank, which wraps around the whole base, as well as its less than 60-second heat up time, which earned it a five out of five in our ratings.
This handheld steamer isn’t the most powerful option we tested—it needed three or four passes over the fabric to remove wrinkles, but it got the job done. Overall, we gave it a 3.5 out of five in terms of effectiveness, so it’s better suited for smaller jobs. The unit has a “shot of steam” button that’s supposed to increase the steam power temporarily, but we didn’t notice a difference in the steam output or performance.
Best Splurge: Pure Enrichment PureSteam Pro Upright Clothes Steamer
Dimensions: 15 x 9 x 67 inches | Weight: 9.5 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 2 liters | Power Level: 1500 watts | Heat Time: 2 minutes | Steam Time: 60 minutes
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 five—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 five in terms of effectiveness, and the only downside is that thinner materials tend to slide out of the clips if you pull them taught. All in all, we think it’s a sleek and effective machine to add to your laundry room.
Best Upright: Hamilton Beach Upright Garment Steamer
Dimensions: 16.5 x 10.4 x 32/5 inches | Weight: 10 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 0.5 quarts | Power Level: 1500 watts | Heat Time: Not listed | Steam Time: 90 minutes
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 to 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 five out of five 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.
Best Handheld: Electrolux LX-15002 Garment Steamer
Dimensions: 6 x 4.5 x 9.75 inches | Weight: 3.98 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 10 ounces | Power Level: 1500 watts | Heat Time: 30 seconds | Steam Time: 18 minutes
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, and we were charmed by its sleek design and modern appearance, complete with a stylish silhouette and matte black finish. 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 five out of five for design and heat time, and four out of five 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.
Best for Traveling: True & Tidy TS-10 Handheld Garment Steamer
Dimensions: 5.43 x 3.82 x 8.07 inches | Weight: 1.57 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 5.54 ounces | Power Level: 500 watts | Heat Time: 90 seconds | Steam Time: 7 minutes
Large stainless steel soleplate
See-through water tank
Tricky to fill water reservoir
You can keep your clothes neat and wrinkle-free on the road with the True & Tidy Handheld Garment Steamer. This compact model weighs a little more than 1 pound and breaks down into two pieces, making it easy to pack in a carry-on or duffel bag, but despite its small size, it excelled in our testing. We found that it gave off an impressive flow of steam for a travel-sized 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 its 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 7 minutes, but we did find it a bit frustrating to fill the reservoir—you have to put water in very slowly, otherwise it backs up and overflows.
Best Combo : Maytag Speed Heat Steam Iron & Vertical Steamer
Dimensions: 10.5 x 4.5 x 6 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 12 ounces | Power Level: 1500 watts | Heat Time: 40 seconds | Steam Time: N/A
Substantial, well-made construction
Variety of steam settings
Steam ironing works well on wrinkles
Easy-to-fill water tank
Vertical steaming function is ineffective
Irons and steamers serve different purposes in the laundry room: “A steamer will relax and remove most wrinkles, but unlike an iron, they will not give you a crisp pressed result,” explains Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care, a well-renowned dry cleaner in Manhattan. If you want the best of both worlds, we recommend the Maytag Speed Heat Steam Iron, which has a large water tank that produces an impressive burst of steam to dewrinkle and press your clothing in one step.
This combo unit claims that it can steam vertically, but in testing, we found that this feature wasn’t very effective. Instead, it worked much better as a steam iron, which delivers a perfectly smooth, wrinkle-free fabric in just a few passes. You can control how much steam it gives off using a sliding dial on the handle of the iron, and there’s also a “burst of steam” button that gives off a powerful puff of heat. Overall, we ranked it 4.5 out of five in terms of effectiveness—just keep in mind that it doesn’t operate the way a regular handheld steamer would.
Best with Hanger: Conair CompleteSteam Ultimate Fabric Steamer
Dimensions: 12 x 12.25 x 16.6 inches | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Water Tank Capacity: 80 ounces | Power Level: 1500 watts | Heat Time: 45 seconds | Steam Time: 90 minutes
Heats up quickly
Two sets of clips to hold clothing taught
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 taught 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 five out of five 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.
If you’re looking for a full-size clothes steamer, we highly recommend the Steamfast Canister Garment Steamer (view at Amazon). It’s able to power through even the toughest wrinkles in just one or two passes, and it can be used for up to 90 minutes thanks to its large water tank. For a more budget-friendly option, we like the Sunbeam SteamMaster Handheld Fabric Steamer (view at Amazon). While it lacks the same power as a full-size model, this handheld unit has a large water reservoir and an incredibly sturdy design that make it easy and efficient to use.
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, which allows them to work more effectively and get wrinkles out faster. However, keep in mind that a powerful burst of hot steam can hard certain fabrics—synthetic fibers can melt if they get too hot, as can small plastic details like buttons or beading.
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 fillers.
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 your 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, the blasts of steam are very hot."
What do steamers do for clothes?
Clothes steamers help remove wrinkles from clothing, similar to an iron. Steamers use heated steam while irons use a highly heated metal plate.
Are clothes steamers better than irons?
Steamers and irons are better suited for different tasks. “Ironing is better at getting wrinkles out of thicker creased fabrics such as cotton and linen,” explains Maker. “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.” Further, irons are superior when it comes to acheiving a pressed look or creating creases, while steamers are able to sanitize thanks to their hot steam.
Can a steamer ruin clothes?
While steaming is an effective way to remove wrinkles from most fabrics, there are certain materials that can be ruined by hot steam. In particular, velvet, velour, suede, waxed jackets, and anything plastic can be melted or warped by steaming, and this holds true for decorative elements like plastic buttons or beads.
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. She 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.