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If you hate ironing, but your wrinkled clothes are getting you down, consider purchasing a clothes, or fabric, steamer.
With a huge array of different types, makes, and models, however, picking out the best fabric steamer for your household can seem a little overwhelming.
Don't worry! BestReviews is here to help.
We purchase products in the same stores where you shop and compare them to identify the top choices on the market.
We test products in our labs, consult experts, analyze existing customer opinions, and do hours of research – all so we can bring you, the consumer, fair and thorough reviews to help you through tough purchasing decisions.
Read on to learn all you need to know to buy the perfect fabric steamer to meet your requirements.
When you’re ready to purchase, check out our product matrix, above, for our recommendations.
What, exactly, is a fabric steamer and why do you need one? Let's find out.
Also commonly known as "garment steamers" or "clothes steamers," fabric steamers are used to get wrinkles out of clothing and other fabrics.
Fabric steamers essentially do the same job as a clothes iron, but many people find them easier to use. And of course, they negate the need for a bulky ironing board.
If you travel for your job, a compact fabric steamer is a boon for getting wrinkles out of work clothes.
People who regularly press just one or two garments at a time tend to find fabric steamers quicker and more convenient to use – but that's not to say you can't de-wrinkle a whole load of laundry.
Fabric steamers are great for use on drapes. You don't even have to take them off the curtain rail.
The heat of the steam lightly sanitizes items, as well as getting out wrinkles, so a fabric steamer is perfect to use between washes.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Rowenta Master Valet
The Rowenta IS6300 Compact Valet Garment Steamer provides a competitive range of features. These features tend of be of a higher quality than those found in similar models from other companies. There's a fabric brush and lint remover to help garments look their best, a press pad for that "ironed" look, a full-width, built-in clothes hanger with clips, and an additional hook where you can put your own hanger. When you evaluate this overall package, it's easy to see that the Rowenta is a cut above its competitors.
You'll find three main types of fabric steamer on the market: standing, handheld, and travel.
Standing, or "upright," fabric steamers consist of a large water tank that sits on the floor, a pole from which you hang the garments you want to steam, and a steaming head on the end of a flexible tube (like on a vacuum cleaner). These tend to be the most effective, but they're only suitable for home use, and they do take up a significant amount of storage space.
For home use, consider a standing fabric steamer. It might take up more room than a handheld model, but it will be more effective.
Handheld fabric steamers are, as the name suggests, small enough to hold in one hand as you do your steaming.
They may not be quite as effective as standing models, but their compact size makes them convenient and easy to store, especially if you live in a small space.
Be careful using a fabric steamer on easily marked or damaged fabrics, such as velvet and silk.
Some handheld garment steamers are especially compact, and these are often marketed as travel models, as they're small enough to pack in a suitcase.
They’re a great item to have along on a trip requiring business or formal clothes, as hotel rooms may not offer a high-quality iron and ironing board.
Because of their compact size, handheld fabric steamers have smaller tanks than standing models, and therefore can be used for a shorter amount of time before they need to be refilled.
Most modern garment steamers heat up and are ready to use in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.
Any longer than that and the process begins to feel inconvenient and time-consuming.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
The Steamfast's 50-inch telescopic pole is especially helpful if you're cleaning drapes or furniture. A hook at the top of the pole supports the steamer head and can accommodate a fabric brush attachment. One of the main criticisms of steamers in general is that they can get creases OUT but can't put them IN. The Steamfast overcomes this criticism by providing a hand-held press pad to create purposeful creases in clothing. The pad may not give you the sharp lines of an iron, but it is a useful extra if you're not looking for folds of military precision.
Different fabric steamers have a different maximum temperatures. Some even have variable temperature controls. As a rule, higher temperatures will remove wrinkles from fabrics faster, but might damage delicate fabrics.
The good news, however, is even if you aren't able to control the temperature, simply moving the steaming head further from the garment will get the creases out without damaging the fabric.
Garment steamers that heat water to at least 212°F will effectively sanitize fabrics, in addition to removing creases.
It's wise to consider both the size and weight of your chosen fabric steamer. These can vary wildly between different makes and models, so always check the manufacturer's specifications.
Make sure your chosen garment steamer is light enough for you to move around your house, and small enough to fit in whatever space in which you intend to store it.
It's vital to select a fabric cleaner that's not too heavy for you to lift and carry easily.
Many fabric steamers require the user to constantly hold a button down in order for steam to come out.
This can become uncomfortable, especially if you intend to steam clothes for 30 minutes straight. Some people with joint or other medical issues may be unable to do this at all.
Models with "continuous steam," however, simply offer an on/off switch. They expel steam from the steam head as long at the unit is switched on.
Fabric steamers with a continuous steam function are ideal for people with arthritis or any other condition that might make it uncomfortable to hold down a button for long periods of time.
The larger the tank capacity of a fabric steamer, the longer it will run for before it needs to be refilled.
Standing fabric steamers tend to hold between roughly 40 and 90 ounces of water – though some models may have slightly larger or smaller tanks – and run for about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Handheld models have much smaller tanks, and may only hold about 4 to 8 ounces, running for less than 10 minutes at a time, though some are slightly larger.
A fabric steamer will run for roughly one minute per ounce of water in the tank, give or take a few minutes.
You'll find fabric steamers at a range of prices to suit all budgets. While price doesn't automatically equal higher quality, you'll usually pay more for the best models out there, and it is worth a splurge if you have the cash.
Such fabric steamers cost about $20 to $30. Some of these work perfectly well but don't have many added extras or accessories and may be less compact or convenient to use compared to high-end models.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Rowenta Master Valet
Rowenta is a well-respected name in laundry care, and the Rowenta IS6300 Compact Valet Garment Steamer clearly upholds the company's reputation for quality and clever design. The Compact Valet is a 1,500 watt machine with a large tank – 81 ounces – and it’s able to perform a full hour of steaming. Warm-up time is about a minute, which is slightly longer than some other products, but we doubt those few seconds would make a great deal of difference to most users.
These clothes steamers cost between $40 and $70. These tend to have a range of accessories and are known to be durable and long-lasting.
This kind of garment steamers cost as little as $40 to $60. While you can find some excellent models in this price range, they don't tend to be as effective as costlier models, plus they usually come from lesser-known brands.
The water in your garment steamer must heat up before the appliance is ready to use ⸺ look for a model with a heating time of no more than a couple of minutes.
These fabric cleaners cost roughly $70 to $90. These models usually come with several handy accessories, and may be lighter and easier to use than basic models.
Such kinds of clothes steamers cost anywhere between $100 and upwards of $200. In this price range, expect a well-made, convenient to use, durable fabric steamer that comes with all kinds of accessories and will stand the test of time.
Q. What accessories should I look for in a garment steamer?
A. Most fabric steamers come with a range of accessories. Some of the most popular include lint rollers, clothes hangers, fabric brushes, and press pads. Decide which are important to you and pick your steamer accordingly. In some cases, you can buy accessories separately, even if they don't come with your fabric steamer as a standard package.
Q. Do I need to press down on the fabric while using my steamer?
A. You generally don't need to press down hard to remove wrinkles from fabric. You simply touch the head of the steamer to the fabric and you'll see the wrinkles drop out right away. A few exceptions to this rule exist, however. Never directly touch the head of your fabric steamer to anything made of velvet, and alway steam silk garments from the back of the material to avoid watermarks.
Q. How do I clean my fabric steamer?
A. Fabric steamers can get clogged with limescale and other mineral deposits, especially if you live in a hardwater area. To clean the steamer and remove these deposits, fill the well with distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and heat it up. Once heated, shoot all the vinegar out into the sink. Then fill the steam cleaner with water and do the same to rinse it out, removing all traces of the vinegar.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.