Let’s clear this up right away. Handheld steamers and travel steamers are not the same! There is an overlap, and yes, all travel steamers are handheld, but the opposite is not true. There are handheld clothes steamers specifically for home use and some of these are too bulky for travel. You do not wanna try stuffing one of these in your suitcase…
For this reason – while most clothes steamer review sites do not differentiate between the two and are actively suggesting home steamers for traveling - I have separated this article into two parts, travel steamers and handheld clothes steamers. Choosing the right steamer for your needs makes a big difference so I have included a buyer’s guide under the product reviews. This will help you out if you are still not sure which is the right for you.
With all that said, here are my top picks for those of you in a hurry (keep reading for many more steamers reviewed):
Best travel steamer
iSteam MS208 Luxury Edition Travel Steamer
Best travel steamer
7 in 1 Travel Steamer
Best handheld steamer
Conair Turbo Extreme
Best handheld steamer runner-up
Beautural 1200 W Handheld Steamer
This stylish gem from iSteam is my current top pick for a travel steamer. It packs a punch with innovative features such as the unique electronic pump system designed to avoid the water dripping you can experience while using some of the cheaper models. If you have ever spilled water on a shirt you were just about to wear you will appreciate this!
The auto shut-off feature prevents overheating if you run out of water and the built-in filter allows you to use the device with tap water (distilled water is still preferred but you may not find it easily everywhere).
The ultra-fast heating time of just 25 seconds, the wider than usual steam nozzle and the supplied fabric brush accessory makes this one of the most usable travel steamers on the market today. If you know you tend to leave things to the last minute, look no further than this model.
Who it is for?
The iSteam MS208 is the ideal choice if you are looking to buy a travel steamer that is fast and easy to use while preventing those annoying last-minute water drops on clothes that can make you run late.
The Pursteam Elite is one of the most sold steamers of all time with well over 10000 – mostly positive - user feedbacks. This is the best indication that you are looking at a well-designed, reliable device that is a pretty safe buy.
It’s lightweight – only 1.1 lbs – and compact enough to easily fit in a suitcase. Featuring a powerful, 900 W aluminum heating element, it can produce steam in about 90 seconds. The steam output is strong enough to handle shirts, pants and dresses while traveling but this model can also double as a home clothes steamer.
It can be used with tap water and comes with a handy travel pouch. Since the Pursteam Elite doesn’t have a water pump, you need to use it in an upright position, or you might risk water spilling onto your clothes. This is not a problem if you hang your clothing items before steaming but don’t try to use in on a flat surface.
It’s a solid steamer for both travel and home use, backed with a full 3-years guarantee. Many users have replaced their irons with this garment steamer.
Who it is for?
While it is a very capable travel steamer, the lack of multiple voltage capability makes this more suitable for domestic trips. I would recommend this for users looking to buy a handy steamer that can double for both home and travel use.
Although the Beautural brand might not be as widely known as some of the other names in the industry, they have already proven the quality of their products and quickly gained a tremendous number of positive reviews for their home steamer. With this travel model they continue this trend.
Packed by many of the best features from their first steamer, the travel model also comes with their leak-proof technology, auto shut-off safety switch and metal head. The folding design, storage bag and the built-in auto voltage adjustment make it ultra-compact and the perfect travel companion.
The 2 different water tank sizes add extra versatility. You can take the standard 100ml tank for shorter trips while the 200ml extra tank can handle volume if needed. The 1000W heater can produce steam in about 40 seconds.
Who it is for?
The Beautural dual-voltage steamer is a perfect choice for hardcore travelers with the need to steam just 1-2 clothing items. The compact size and the auto-voltage function makes it one of the best travel steamer options on the market today.
This lightweight compact steamer from Hilife offers great value for its price. As one of the most popular units on the market today, it is a safe bet for anyone looking to take a steamer on the road instead of a travel iron.
The 700W heating unit produces steam in about 2 minutes and features a larger than average 240ml water tank. A fill will provide you with 15-16 minutes of continuous steam output. The durable plastic body weighs only 1.7 pounds (0.56kgs) so you can take it with you even if you are traveling with smaller luggage.
However, it is one of the cheaper garment steamers and it does have some drawbacks compared to high-end models. The plastic steam head usually does not perform as well as metal heads and it lacks a dual voltage feature too. Still, it will satisfy the needs of most casual and domestic travelers without breaking the bank.
Who it is for?
The Hilife Mini is a great choice as a first clothes steamer or as a secondary option to an iron. While lacks some features it offers good value for casual travelers and can be used for many small steaming jobs around the house too.
With the power upgrade from the previous version, Conair has produced a very practical unit with the Turbo Extreme and this is my current top recommendation for a handheld steamer for home use. It’s sleek and stylish design suits any modern home.
The 1550W of power can be used in two settings, Standard and Turbo, depending on the material of the garment you are about to steam. It stands flat on its end which makes it easy to handle. The heating time is a quick 40 seconds and a full water tank will provide enough steam for about 15 minutes of continuous use.
The 3 in 1 attachment comes handy when handling different materials and clothing types. All this power and utility comes in a little bulky body which is why the Conair Extreme Turbo is primarily suited for home use, not for travel.
Who it is for?
The Conair Extreme Turbo is a good choice for those looking to buy a versatile home steamer without the bulky body of a standing clothes steamer. It is powerful enough to handle whatever task you throw at it around the house.
The runner-up at the handheld garment steamer category, this Beautural unit is backed up by thousands of positive reviews from users. With its leak-proof Pump Steam technology, it can be used in both a vertical and a horizontal position. The free-standing design allows the steamer to stand on any flat surface, making it convenient to use.
The ample water tank of 8.79oz (260ml) can handle up to 15 minutes of continuous steaming and it only takes around 30 seconds to heat-up. The metal plate helps keeping condensation low and avoiding leaving water marks on your clothes. There is a built-in auto shut off feature triggered by both inactivity and overheating.
The useful addition of 3 accessories – a lint brush, a creaser and a fabric brush – makes this a very versatile steamer able to handle many different materials and clothes. The 1200W is bellow the power of the strongest models and the main reason of not being the winner in the category but it will be a great purchase for most home users.
Who it is for?
This Beautural handheld garment steamer is a perfect companion for those looking to steam a variety of clothing items and materials. It can handle the needs of a diverse family in a fast and reliable way. Due to the pump steam technology, even those with less experience can confidently use it.
The Esteam from Jiffy follows in the footsteps of their famous standing steamers. Solid, reliable construction but not much of a modern design to speak of. With that said, if you are after performance and like classic looks the Jiffy name pretty much guarantees quality. Available in black and pink, with a converter kit and adapter plugs package if needed.
The 600W power in the signature high-impact, double insulated plastic housing produces a good amount of steam. It is a simple, reliable construction without fancy accessories that can supply 15 minutes of continuous steam from one fill.
While it is certainly light and durable enough to withstand the rigors of travel, I still think of the Esteam as a handheld steamer better suited for home use. The 9-foot power cord is longer than what most models are equipped with in this class.
Who it is for?
I recommend the Jiffy Esteam as a reliable steamer for those not wanting to completely replace their iron but looking for a faster and more convenient device to refresh clothing items. It is suitable for both home and travel but requires adapters and converters to use abroad. The simple, classic design makes this a suitable present for grandparents.
Featuring a combination of 1600W power and a heated face plate, the DR 8120 from Rowenta is among the strongest handheld steamers on the market. The 2 available power settings allow you to adjust the strength of the steam to suit the fabric you are about to work on, while the heated metal plate helps smoothen out wrinkles.
With its bottom-heavy design, the DR 8120 can stand on any flat surface, making it very practical to use. The heat-up time is a respectable 40 seconds and one fill of the 6.7oz (190ml) water tank will get you enough steam to last for about 10 minutes.
It works with tap water and in addition to steaming clothes it can handle sanitizing jobs around the house too. The 9.5 feet long power cord is longer than most steamers are equipped with and – together with the set of supplied accessories - makes this Rowenta powerhouse a versatile handheld steamer for home use. While technically you could travel with it, it is too bulky to carry around for most people.
Who it is for?
The Rowenta DR 8120 is a great choice for those looking to buy a powerful steamer that can handle most jobs around the house. If you have smaller hands you might want to choose a smaller model instead.
As I mentioned earlier, you want to pay attention to the details when choosing the right handheld steamer model for you. Whether you want a portable steamer for home use, a travel steamer or one that can be used in both environments, these are the features and details you need to consider before purchase.
This can be one of the most important features if you are traveling with a smaller suitcase as the ever-changing luggage rules can force you to pack lighter any time. Some travel steamer models come with a foldable design to save you even more space while the weight of the items in our reviews range from 1.1 – 3.1lbs or 0.5 – 1.4kgs. That 1 extra kg can mean the difference between staying under the allowed luggage weight or going over.
The capacity of the water tank for a handheld steamer usually varies between 2 – 8 oz or 60-240 ml. As you can see, this is quite a wide range. I could only justify the smaller range for true travel garment steamers, maybe for a solo business traveler with a couple of shirts to steam. For home use or for family travel, I would go for one of the bigger sizes.
Perhaps not as important factor for a handheld steamer, unless you have the habit of leaving everything until the last minute, in which case, definitely look for one of the faster models. The steamers in the article fall between the heating time range of 25 seconds and 130 seconds, so again, a significant difference from one device to the next.
A stronger steam means both faster work and better ability to remove wrinkles even from thicker fabrics. You should not have unrealistic expectations here, a handheld clothes steamer will never be able to compete with the steam power of a full-size standing steamer but still, choose the more powerful model within your parameters, whether its price or size.
As usual, better quality products demand higher price tags but not it’s not always justified. Decent handheld steamers tend to range from around $20 to $80 and up. Extra features such as ultra-compact size or very fast heating time as well as style and design will influence the price.
The surefire sign of a true travel steamer, the dual voltage feature adds a lot to the usability of your device overseas. A must have for the frequent traveler. Keep in mind that even if your steamer can handle both 110V and 220V electricity, you may still need travel adapters to be able to use your device abroad.
Extra features come in a variety of forms. Auto switch-off, auto adjustment to different voltage levels and accessories such as brushes and electric pump systems can be found in some steamers. You should expect more extra features in pricier models.
They do, but you need to have realistic expectations. A compact travel steamer is great and convenient for refreshing clothes and removing most of the creases your shirts and other clothing items accumulated during their time packed away in the luggage. Don’t expect the same sharp edges though that you would get from a professional steam press.
Travel steamers are easy to operate. Start by filling the water tank and switch on the device. While you are waiting for the water to boil and turn into steam, hang your clothes to a spot where you can comfortably reach it with the steamer. Once the steamer is ready to go, test the steam away from the clothes first.
If you see a good amount of steam emerging from the device, aim the nozzle at the clothing item (keep it at 1-2 inches away) and start moving it in steady, downward strokes. For a more detailed explanation you can read my guide on how to use garment steamers effectively.
That’s a debate that will probably never be settled and everyone answers it depending on their personal preferences and experience. In short, I think garment steamers are a faster and more convenient solution for everyday use. Irons still have their place when you need really sharp results. I have compared irons and steamers in detail in this article.