Garment Steamer vs Steam Iron – Which Is a Better Purchase?

We all want to look our best and extend the life of our clothing. A professional appearance demands attention to detail and crisp, clean clothing is a strong start. De-wrinkling your clothes using a steamer or an iron can both achieve this look, but which appliance is better? Here is a list of considerations to help you make this decision.

The Pros and Cons of a Garment Steamer 

Clothes steamer come in 2 main types. A home garment steamer typically consists of a water tank, a hose to carry the steam, and a tall rack to hang the garment on as you steam it. When you plug it in, the water in the reservoir heats to create the necessary steam. Once steam travels up the hose, aim it at a garment to remove wrinkles.

a lady using garment steamer on her clothes

A handheld or travel steamer works the same way but obviously won’t have a rack or a hose and takes up much less space than a standing steamer.

There are many reasons to get a top garment steamer. Here are a few of them:

Convenient, Space-Saving Design 

Garment steamers typically feature a one-piece design. This makes it easy to stow in a closet and remove when needed. It also means no extra parts, such as ironing boards or pads, need to be purchased.

An Efficient Option

To operate a garment steamer, one simply hangs the clothing to be steamed. Repeated lifting and repositioning on an ironing board is not necessary to get the wrinkles out. A quick pass of the steam hose over most creases easily removes them.

Pest Control 

One frequently overlooked feature of garment steamers is that its steam is hot enough to kill some pests. Steam your mattress to exterminate bedbugs. The same treatment can be used for dust mites.

Less Sharp Results

Although a garment steamer will greatly enhance your clothing care efforts, it has one major drawback. This tool won’t leave clothing looking as sharp or crisp as a steam iron. It also can’t be used to re-establish pleats or other decorative folds in clothing.

Pros and Cons of a Steam Iron 

The steam iron is a much more common laundry room item. The most visible part of this appliance is the soleplate. This part is made of metal and features a pointed end for pressing narrow areas.

They also come with a number of setting options. These settings provide the correct amount of heat for a variety of fabrics ranging from fine silk to heavy wool. Another useful setting of a modern iron is automatic shut-off. This helps prevent unsightly burn marks from a soleplate if the iron is left unattended.

Here are a few ways a steam iron can enhance your clothes care experience.

Professional Grade Results 

A steam iron will consistently remove wrinkles and maintain garments. Short of purchasing a new shirt, nothing compares with the crisp lines and sharp angles created by a steam iron. This is the method of choice for making clothing look its best.

Proper Fabric Care 

A steam iron can also extend the life of clothing. Since it can be used for steam or dry ironing, the steam setting can quickly be turned off to proceed with dry ironing if the garment begins to show signs of water damage. This is impossible on a garment steamer.

Blends with Existing Furniture

Contrary to popular belief, operating a steam iron doesn’t always require an ironing board.

Tabletop ironing boards provide the strength of a board without the bulky legs. An ironing blanket can be placed on a table or dresser. Both options are relatively small and easy to store with the steam iron.

Tabletop ironing boards provide the strength of a board without the bulky legs. An ironing blanket can be placed on a table or dresser. Both options are relatively small and easy to store with the steam iron.

The following are a few drawbacks of owning and operating a steam iron.

Extra Accessories

While an ironing board is the most common accessory associated with a steam iron, it’s not the only one. An ironing blanket is a necessity to prevent burn marks on the ironing surface. If you want more professional results, a sleeve board, tailors ham, and other accessories may be required. None of these are included in the cost of a steam iron.

Ironing Takes Practice 

There is a steep learning curve to operating a steam iron. Since many garments have multiple layers, it’s easy to achieve a smooth finish on one side and create several more wrinkles on the other. Holding the steam iron in place long enough to remove wrinkles without burning clothing is also a skill that needs time to perfect.

Longer Setup 

A steam iron must be removed from storage and put back each time it’s used. You need to setup the board or make space on another smooth surface before you can use the iron. Even if you store your ironing gear in a nearby drawer, this represents extra work.

Is a Garment Steamer or a Steam Iron the Better Choice?

Since there are so many individual situations, it’s not possible to name one type of product superior to the other. (1) There are, however, certain circumstances that make a garment steamer preferable to a steam iron and vice versa. The following three life situations are typically better suited using either a steam iron or a garment steamer.

For Budget-Conscious Consumers

If money is tight, the common steam iron is a good friend. This appliance might not work as quickly as a steamer, but it gets the job done. It’s also has several models to fit most budgets. If you don’t require super sharp appearance, a handheld steamer might also be a good budget option.

For Small Space Living

For persons living in cramped studio apartments or sharing with several roommates, a garment steamer or a steam iron may be used. A small garment steamer can be stored inside a closet and requires no additional equipment.

happy to use garment steamer in small apartment to save space

While a steam iron typically requires an ironing board, some models now come with a steam feature that make them functional, albeit heavy, mini steamers. Another option for the cash and space deficient is placing a tabletop ironing pad on the dresser or desk to quickly create a steam ironing station.

For Image-Conscious Users 

For those who can’t afford to have unsightly wrinkles or misplaced creases anywhere on their clothing, then a steam iron is an excellent choice. The humble steam iron might take additional arm strength, but it consistently delivers professional-level results. Few looks can best a smart, white dress shirt with crisp, clean collars and cuffs.

Garment steamers and steam irons are major purchases. As such, one should carefully research and try as many models in person as possible. Other factors including arm strength, manual dexterity, and the need for a travel appliance must also be carefully considered.

If you still couldn’t make up your mind you can get more insight from our review of the top garment steamer models where we share additional details about each model.

Jenny Hill

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