Welcome to Garment Steamer Guide! I aim to provide all the information you need related to how to choose and use a clothes steamer whether you need it for travel, home or professional use.
You will find articles answering just about any questions I can think of and the rest of this page will dive straight into how to buy the perfect steamer for your situation.
Whether you finally decided to give your boring iron an upgrade or are looking for a way to make your clothes wrinkle-free while on the go, a well-chosen garment steamer can be the perfect solution.
Less complicated, faster and often more effective than using an iron the best clothes steamers can help you keeping that sharp look while also saving you time in the process.
Broken down by categories, this guide features my 2 favorite choices for the best overall, travel, handheld and professional clothes steamers available on the market today.
If you are still unsure which type of steamer is the right choice for you check out the buyers guide further down this article, or just go for the winners right away:
PurSteam Elite Standing Garment Steamer
Conair Turbo Extreme Steam
iSteam MS208 Gold Luxury Edition
Hilife Mini Travel Steamer
If you like to see more models tested, you can read my dedicated reviews of handheld/ travel steamers and professional/ heavy-duty home steamers as well.
I have looked at the total of 31 garment steamer models for this review and have gathered feedback from other relevant reviewers as well as long-term users of the products. Dozens of hours of research later I can finally present the ultimate guide for these wonderful steamy beasts. Read on and make your life easier by picking a winner!
This model has been one of the best value clothes steamers on the market for a while now – proven by thousands of reviews from real buyers. It is not a professional steamer, but neither is its price tag. What it’s great at is handling the clothes for most families efficiently and reliably, making life just a little easier for busy moms and working professionals.
The PurSteam Elite has a very pleasing design and it’s easy to move round the house on its large wheels. With a power of 1500W, it takes about 45-60 seconds to produce steam, pretty good at this category. This unit can handle a wide variety of materials from delicate to heavy, such as cotton, silk and synthetic fabrics.
The large, 61 oz (1.8 L) water tank will produce steam for up to 60 minutes, which is more than enough to go through a decent pile of clothes. The steam goes up to 248F, hot enough to handle both heavier materials and kill most germs.
The many supplied accessories allow you to handle many different clothing items such as kid’s clothes, trousers or dresses. The PurSteam Elite is backed by an industry leading 5 years warranty and their customer service is very attentive too, handling any questions and problems quickly.
Who it is for?
The PurSteam Elite is my top recommendation for families of up to 5 with a decent amount of clothes to handle.
Much more capable than a handheld steamer but far from the price tag of a professional model, this clothes steamer has proven itself many times and it’s backed by an unbeatable warranty/customer service team combo.
For a little extra, you can upgrade to the professional version also from PurSteam. Please note that while it’s called “professional” it still refers to home use, not for commercial use.
It comes with a large 85 oz (2.5 L) water tank capable of producing continuous steam for over an hour with one fill. The built-in safety cap doesn’t allow you to remove the top while there is still hot water inside, preventing burns for those of us getting easily distracted by kids running around.
With 1500W power, the heavy-duty PurSteam unit produces steam in 45 seconds that can be adjusted to the material you are working on with 4 different steam levels. The supplied adjustable hanger makes it easy to suit any size garment. The handy handheld steam board accessory makes it easy to de-wrinkle pockets, collars, sleeves and other hard-to reach clothing parts.
Buyers of this steamer are raving about the ability of this clothes steamer for every different clothing items including jeans, delicate bedding and silk dresses. Some adventurous users are cleaning upholstery, carpets and even windows with the PurSteam full size steamer.
Who it is for?
The heavy-duty PurSteam clothes steamer is the perfect choice for larger families.
Its large water tank and adjustable steam level makes it a breeze to go through a large pile of clothes in no time. It can handle a wide range of garments but also works for upholstery, curtains and other household cleaning jobs.
Conair has come out with an upgraded version of their earlier Extreme Steam model – which has often received criticism for not producing an extreme amount of steam at all.
The much more powerful new model – 1550 W as opposed to the 1110 W of the previous model – has improved its performance significantly. With just 40 seconds heating up time, this beauty provides steam for up to 15 minutes. Not the longest time but decent for a handheld clothes steamer.
What has made the Conair Turbo Extreme my top pick for a handheld steamer – apart from the much-needed performance improvement - is the practical design. It stands on a flat surface and has a built-in creaser which opens up with a flick of a finger and makes working with pants so much easier.
It also comes with a 3 in 1 attachment, a silicone band for pulling the material you are working on taut, a fabric spacer for protecting extra delicate items and a bristle brush for heavy fabrics which helps steam go deeper by loosening up the fibers.
A word of warning if you have smaller hands, the Conair Turbo Extreme Steam is not a small item. I would not recommend it if your hands tire easily or you need to steam several pieces of clothes in one go. In return, it will smooth wrinkles effectively when you need results quickly, such as a last-minute brush-up before going to work or going out.
Who is it for?
The Conair Turbo Extreme Steam is my recommendation for home use if you only have a few pieces of clothes to deal with and want a strong enough steam do handle curtains and heavier fabrics.
I would not buy this for travel and there are better choices for de-wrinkling clothes for a whole family.
A close second option for a handheld garment steamer is the Rowenta DR8120. Boasting an impressive 1600 W power - the strongest I’ve seen for a handheld steamer – and 2 different steam settings this can take care of any fabric in your closet including jackets, jeans as well as delicate pieces. You will want to use the weaker steam setting for the latter.
The 190 ml water tank is a compromise, some users find it too small but at least it’s easy to refill. I think it’s OK, a bigger tank would also add to the weight. If you need to use it that much so the refill becomes annoying, you would probably better off going for a standing unit.
This Rowenta model did a good job on a wide variety of clothes, it’s not up to the level of using an iron on a shirt sleeve but no steamer really is. Some users are using it on trips as well but I personally would not recommend it if you are hitting the road often.
Who is it for?
This Rowenta handheld clothes steamer is a great option for de-wrinkling 2-4 pieces of clothing items quickly.
It can replace the iron if you don’t need perfect smoothness. Perfect for freshening up clothes just before putting them on and can take care of the occasional heavier duties like steaming jackets or curtains.
Upping the ante among travel garment steamers, this little gem from iSteam stands out from the rest. While most models in this category are competing for the lowers price it usually does show on the quality. This iSteam model does cost a little more but it’s worth it.
The unique, stylish design with the electronic pump system and auto shut-off means you can use this steamer in many angles without spilling water on your clothes. The 900 W power heats up the water in just 25 seconds and provides enough steam for about 10 minutes.
The design also differs from most travel steamers with the much bigger plate surface than other models have. This allows for covering bigger surfaces faster which I have found more effective in removing wrinkles compared to many other travel models.
When you are on the road it’s not always easy to find distilled water but the built-in filter of the iSteam MS208 removes particles from the tap water and protects your clothes. It comes with a 3-year warranty and backed by a very responsive customer care team.
Who is it for?
In my opinion, the iSteam SM208 is the best travel garment steamer on the market today.
Anyone who is looking to save money and time on dry cleaning while on the road should consider picking one of these up. If you are looking for a clothes steamer for home use, this would not be your best option due to the small water tank size.
If you are looking for a travel garment steamer with a low budget, the Hilife Mini can be your best friend. Backed by thousands of positive reviews, this can help you recoup it’s price on just 1 or 2 trips where you can save on the dry cleaner.
This 700W steamer has a 240 ml water tank and can produce enough steam to last for 15 minutes. The heating up time is a little slower than the iSteam at around 2 minutes. This is enough to quickly go through 2-3 clothing items so you can look sharp on the welcome party even if your plane was a little late. There is a brush accessory for thicker materials.
It comes with a 9 ft power cord and easily fits on any small surfaces such as bedside tables. You can use a measuring cup for refills, so you don’t have to unplug the steamer every time. You do need to pay attention not to tilt the steamer more than 45 degrees or you will have water leaking out.
Who is it for?
The Hilife Mini is a good budget garment steamer choice for traveling or occasional home use.
A very easy to use, reliable model also used for a variety of tasks such as face steaming or removing sticky fingerprints before painting a surface. It can save you more than its price on just a trip or two.
The Jiffy brand has been a synonym for heavy-duty clothes steamers for decades. The Jiffy J 2000M is the flagship “small” professional unit of the company and it does live up to the expectations.
The J-2000 can be ordered with either a plastic head or a metal head with a wooden handle for an extra price. A bit of a warning before you make this decision: while the metal head can be more durable for commercial use it does get heavy during a longer steaming session. If you want to use this steamer at home many users recommend the plastic head due to the lighter weight.
The 1300W heating element is made of solid brass and it heats up the considerable amount of water in the tank in 2 minutes. This is a rather quick performance in this category. The produced steam is constant, but the occasional spit can happen.
The Jiffy J-2000 works wonderfully on a whole range of materials including many delicates, such as silk, wool and cashmere but at the same time it’s tough on wrinkles. Many owners have used this steamer for 10+ years which is a testament to its building quality. The 4 wheels on the bottom makes it easy to pull around for added mobility.
Who is it for?
The Jiffy J-2000M is my top recommendation for those who want to invest in a durable, long-term steamer for heavy-duty home use.
It can also be a good choice for light commercial use such as for a small restaurant.
The big brother of the Jiffy J-2000M the J-4000M sports a 1-gallon (3.79 L) water tank for those extra-long steaming sessions. It comes in pink and beige color and can be ordered with a metal or plastic steam head.
The same warning about the material of the steam head applies to the J-4000 as well. If durability is your main concern, get the metal head but it will feel heavy after a while. For home use going through a large pile of clothes – unless you have very strong arms - the plastic head might be a better choice.
The 1500W heating system works in two stages. Due to the large amount of water to heat, there is a 15 min preheat stage after which a further 2 min heating stage will put the unit into full steam mode.
The die cast aluminum housing with 4 wheels provides a robust, heavy base unit which is also very portable. The 5.5-foot, flexible steam hose and 6-inch wide steam head is ready for heavy-duty use for environments where you need continuous, powerful steam.
This steamer has the power to revive clothes which you haven’t worn for a while because they took too long to iron. Many users have stopped using irons since they own the Jiffy J-4000 while some others note that it comes with a learning curve and you need some practice before you get really comfortable using it.
Who is it for?
The Jiffy J-4000M is a work horse suitable for a commercial environment where large amount of clothes needs to be steamed often.
It can also be considered for home use if you are after a particularly durable garment steamer and have enough clothing items to justify the higher price tag.
Garment steamers come in 4 main style. Before you can choose the perfect steamer for your needs you need to consider how you would use it first.
The smallest of the bunch is the travel steamer. These are light garment steamers with small water tanks and limited power, meant to help you to keep your clothes fresh while on the road. They usually provide enough steam for 1-2 pieces of clothing with one refill.
The next size up are the hand-held steamers for home use. While these are still easy to carry around, they are too bulky for travel and can be tiring for your hands to hold for longer sessions. Equipped with a slightly larger water tank and more power, they are usually good for de-wrinkling 2-5 pieces of clothes at a time.
A step up is the standing steamer for home use. Producing high quality steam for around half an hour, these clothes steamers are perfect for a family or for steaming a bunch of clothes at the same time, so you don’t have to do it every day. They often come with built-in hangers too.
Finally, the professional garment steamers. These are also standing steamers but with a heavy-duty construction, large water tank capable of producing continuous steam for up to 1.5 hours.
These are meant for large families or if you have a number of family members working in office environments and need lots of clothing items to be steamed on a regular basis. Professional steaming businesses also use these as either a primary or backup steamer device.
Performance: this is usually closely related to hoe powerful the steamer is. This can range from a few hundred Watts to about 1600 Watts and it does determine the strength of the steam coming out of the device.
Most travel steamers will have obviously less power, and delicate items will a lower power setting anyway. Where you need to pay attention to this number is if you have heavier materials to deal with such as jackets, curtains or upholstery. (1)
Ease of use: several factors are in play here. If you are a smaller person, the weight of the steamer will matter a lot during longer sessions. Some of the handheld steamers are the heaviest – as you are lifting the water tanks as well.
Look for a travel steamer for light use or a standing one for home use. Another aspect is the ease of filling the water tank, look for models with removable tanks.
Portability might also be important – especially in a commercial setting such as a restaurant. Some models have solid wheels making it easy to pull around. For home use, you still want to pay attention to the length of the cord the steamer comes with.
Steam time: how long does the steamer provide steam with one fill of the water tank? Clothes steamers we tested range from 9 min to 100 min and this will be heavily influenced by the intended purpose for the steamer. It only really matters if you are regularly going through a large pile of clothes.
Price: it’s a big one, of course, and the price range of clothes steamers can range from around $20 to well into the hundreds of dollars.
Just as with most things, the price you pay for a garment steamer often correlates with the quality you get. It’s important to think through how much will you really use the steamer, so you don’t overpay for a model intended for a much heavier use.
Water tank capacity: this matters a lot with travel steamers as it effects the size. It also matters with handheld models as it effects the weight you have to lift with a full water tank. And it matters with standing steamers as it determines how often you need to refill during a session.
Accessories: a good range of supplied accessories can make your life significantly easier. If you have certain types of clothes you need to steam often you should pay attention whether the garment steamer model you are eyeing comes with an accessory designed for those clothes. These may include dress shirts, jackets, long dresses, kid’s clothes etc.
In my opinion, the best garment steamer to buy for family use is the PurSteam Elite. Of course, you might have different needs and in the review section above you can find my top picks for each category.
In short, clothes steamers work by heating up water until it becomes steam, which is then used to de-wrinkle clothes. I have a longer article here that explains the process in detail as well as how to properly use a garment steamer.
Garment steamers can work better than irons in some cases but not always. You can work a lot faster with a clothes steamer, but the results won’t be as crisp as if you have used an iron.
Steamers are great for quick touch-ups, refreshing clothes before you put them on or when you don’t need the clothing items to look super sharp. Irons are slower and also pose burning hazard, but they will get the job done for those important occasions. You can expect a garment steamer to produce approximately 80-90% of the result of an iron but a lot quicker. (1)
The main difference between ironing and steaming is the type of device you use, and how it is used to remove wrinkles. Ironing is pressing the hot metal surface of the iron onto the fabric to smooth out creases.
This can be done with or without the use of steam. Steaming is done by a garment steamer that generates steam from water and applying it to the fabric. This method is usually gentler for the material but can be slightly less effective.
Some fabrics that should not be steamed include suede, waxed materials and other fabrics that can be melted by high temperatures. Steaming works wonderful on most materials, even some that are risky to iron. It can be the best way to de-wrinkle delicate fabrics such as silk and wool.
Steamers can kill bed bugs if they operate on a high-power setting delivering high temperature steam. However, steam works best on bed bugs on the surface of items and up to ¾ inches underneath the surface. The effective depth depends on the strength of the steam and the type of the material they are hiding in.
Yes, steam can remove odors from clothes. Since odors are often caused by bacteria, steaming clothing items can help to get rid of it as high temperature steam can kill most germs and bacteria.
Yes, you can steam polyester. Use your steamer on the lowest power setting and steam the polyester material while only lightly touching the item. To fight deeper wrinkles you can touch them with the steam head for 1-2 seconds.