There are actually three types of garment steamers, the floor model which was originally used mainly in dress shops to steam wrinkles from new clothing before displaying; compact handheld steamers for use when traveling, for quick-pressing clothing that has become wrinkled while packed in a suitcase, and garment steamer tools that are often included as an accessory with a steam cleaner. All three types are commonly used at home and the compact model is very popular because you can easily take it with you.
In fact, in many homes a garment steamer has replaced the common steam iron as a faster, (though not quite as thorough), acceptable clothes pressing alternative. It may not be as efficient in that it can be argued that with a garment steamer, you have to give the clothing several passes, where a powerful iron could press a shirt in one pass, sometimes two.
When it comes to setting pleats, an iron does a much neater and crisp pressing. There are other pressing appliances, a steam generator, and garment steam press. These are also very effective for pressing garments as they steam in the pressing process.
With an iron, the job is much easier if an ironing board is used. On the other hand, with a steamer, you can press clothes right on the hanger. Since prices can be comparable depending on models, the process of ironing versus steaming ultimately comes down to a matter of preference.
If you already have a garment steamer or are thinking of purchasing one, you'll want to make the most of this handy appliance.
Garment steamers are not only used to press garments but to also freshen and/or potentially remove dust mites from other cloth items (upholstery, mattresses, draperies, etc).
Word of Caution When Using a Garment Steamer
Fabrics or textiles that cannot take heat or moisture should never be steamed. If a garment is labeled dry clean only, steaming could damage or leave moisture spots on the fabric.
Use caution when steaming, especially with colors that could run -- it's always best to test a small area inside a seam first. When in doubt, leave it for the experts at the dry cleaners.
More About Fabric Care & Steamers
- How to Buy an Iron or Steamer
- Laundry Appliances, Tips, Resources
- All About Irons and Presses
- Using 2x Concentrated Detergents