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How Do I Choose the Best Clothes Steamer?

Marty Paule
Marty Paule

Clothes steamer models usually fall within one of two general categories: lightweight travel designs or more substantial all-in-one and floor-standing units with greater steam output that are intended for use in homes and businesses. Thinking about how and where you plan to use your new steamer as well as its capacity, portability, and the your budget should help to narrow down your choices. Travel steamers involve a trade-off between their effectiveness and portability. In selecting a full-size clothing steamer, check its warm-up time, water capacity, and ergonomics. Smaller clothes steamers intended strictly for light household use may offer a good balance of value and function if your clothes steaming needs are minimal.

In assessing a travel clothes steamer, consider the size of the luggage in which you plan to carry it. Portable steamers with narrower, smaller steam nozzles may deliver more forceful steam output, but a narrower nozzle will require you to make more passes over your clothing. If you tend to steam larger garment, such as overcoats, a wider nozzle will probably serve you better. Confirm that any prospective clothes steamer can handle the voltages available in the countries that you visit and reaches the operating temperature reasonably quickly. Lastly, check how comfortable the clothes steamer is to use and how many minutes of continuous steam it will deliver on one filling.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

Clothes steamers intended for use in homes and businesses run the gamut from handheld, all-in-one garment steamers to large professional models with separate water tanks that are used by clothing shops, garment manufacturers, and dry cleaners. If you tend to steam smaller batches of clothing, a handheld clothes steamer with a small water reservoir may be adequate. Make sure the unit isn't too heavy for your arm over an extended period when filled with water. Special attachments for steaming silk articles can also be a useful accessory.

For maximum steam output and the longest operating time between water tank refills, look for models with a separate water reservoir. Most manufacturers of professional models provide the length of time their steamers will produce continuous steam on a single filling. A further clue to the performance is each steamer's wattage ratings; generally, the higher the wattage, the greater the steam output. A few models require the use of distilled water, which will add to the garment steamer's operating costs. Many floor-standing models include a convenient, telescoping clothes pole to support the hangers on which the clothing being steamed is hung.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - At a pinch, if you were on the road and needed a clothes steamer, you can just use the shower in the hotel anyway.

It has to be a hot shower though, and it is a bit of a waste of power and water, so if you are traveling through a country or area that's suffering from water shortages, this is a no no.

But, just hang your suit, or other clothes, up on the shower curtain rail, out of the way of the water, and let the steam do its work.

Obviously, it doesn't work as well as an actual clothes steamer, but it's better than nothing.


I wouldn't get a clothes steamer myself. I know there are gadgets out there that will work as a clothes steamer, but will also clean carpets and floors and furniture and other things as well. I'd rather get one of those.

The only problem is it is less likely to be as portable as a clothes steamer. So, I guess it depends on how much you need a clothes steamer when you travel. Remember, that some hotels will provide this service for you though.

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