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Allows you to steam for 15 minutes before needing a refill. The lightweight design and ergonomic handle make it easy to hold. Can be used on a variety of fabrics.
Takes a while to heat up to the right temperature.
Heats up in less than two minutes thanks to an anti-rust metal panel. Has a 9-foot cord making it easy to maneuver when needed. 240 mL capacity.
If you try to angle the steamer too much then water will spill out.
Compact for easy transport. Has a removable water tank. Designed to be used at any angle. Warms up quickly and efficiently. Works for up to 18 minutes at a time.
It is very heavy so extended use may be hard for some.
Heats up in less than a minute and can pump out steam for 15 minutes before needing a refill. Has five different heat settings. Comfortable to hold.
The fill hole for the tank is fairly small.
Steams both horizontally or vertically allowing for better versatility. Heats up quickly. Comes with three separate attachments for various garments.
The trigger can sometimes get stuck.
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Nothing ruins an otherwise stellar outfit like deep wrinkles. This is especially true if you're traveling and have to unpack clothes that were folded or rolled up. Enter the handheld steamer: a portable steamer is great for work travel, vacation, or to keep at home. There are handheld steamers available at a variety of price points, all more affordable than standing steamers.
Before you start looking for handheld steamer options, there are some factors to keep top of mind. Depending on what you want to use the steamer for, you may find that an iron is actually the better choice (or when in doubt, get both). Also consider the handheld steamer’s water capacity, power wattage, steam settings, and storage.
No matter what’s most important to you as you look for handheld steamers, you should do your research before making your final choice.
Handheld steamers are a great way to save money on your dry cleaning bill, and steaming itself isn’t terribly difficult to master. Like an iron, a handheld steamer includes a water reservoir; fill the reservoir with water (distilled is best), plug the steamer in, and wait 30 seconds to a minute for it to heat up. The clothing you want to steam should ideally be hanging on the back of a door or on a clothing rack. When the steamer is heated, hold it a few inches away from the clothing item and run it over the fabric until there are no wrinkles.
Maybe you already own an iron and you’re wondering if you really need a steamer. This depends on what your garment needs are. An iron consists of flat plates that can heat up to 250°F to 350°F. The flat, hot metal is pressed directly against the fabric to release wrinkles.
Irons work wonderfully for stiffer fabrics such as denim and linen. An iron is less suitable for delicate fabrics, such as silk and satin, that are also wrinkle-prone. However, many steamers have settings high enough for heavy fabrics. Steamers are the more versatile tool of the two, so if you have to pick one, the handheld steamer is the better choice. Just make sure it has high enough heat settings to unwrinkle all fabrics.
Wattage is a measurement of the power needed to operate an electric appliance. Most steamers have a wattage of 700 to 1,600 watts. The higher the wattage, the more powerful the handheld steamer. The most popular premium steamers are higher on the wattage end, usually around 1,200 to 1,600 watts. Steamers with a higher wattage take less time to heat up and are quicker to unwrinkle fabric. Handheld steamers with lower power are better if you’re trying to conserve electricity.
Any high-quality handheld steamer includes multiple heat settings. Some handheld steamers only include two settings: high and low. Others may include a “medium” level or more than three heat settings. It’s best to consult the user manual to get a better sense of which fabrics correspond to each heat setting. Generally speaking, heavy fabrics like cotton, linen, canvas, and corduroy are best suited for high heat settings.
On the light end, silk, chiffon, lace, and most sheer items are best suited for low heat settings.
If you find a handheld steamer with a “medium” setting, fabrics like cotton jersey knit, velvet (though often wrinkle-resistant), and even certain types of denim work best. When in doubt, err on the side of caution; start low and observe whether or not it’s high enough to remove wrinkles.
There’s no steam without water. The reservoir is another vital part of a handheld steamer since it holds the water that creates the steam. The bigger and more powerful the steamer is, the larger the water capacity. Keep in mind that high-wattage handheld steamers use up water more quickly. Depending on the wattage, heat setting, and water capacity, a filled steamer is good to use for 10 to 15 minutes.
Most handheld garment steamers hold between four and eight ounces of water, though some can hold a bit more. Look for steamers with a detachable water reservoir, since that makes cleanup and refilling much easier.
The best handheld steamers have storage in mind, including built-in space to tuck in power cords, especially if the cord is over 10 feet. Some steamers intended for travel come with their own storage bag, which is convenient even if you’re not traveling.
For those who are particular about pleats in skirts or creases in pants, look for a handheld steamer with a crease attachment. This is a plastic attachment on top of the steamer’s head. All you do is tuck the fabric into the opening for the crease attachment, close the attachment on the fabric, and move the steamer downward. Once may be enough to get the crease to your liking.
A fabric brush is excellent for thicker items like jackets, jeans, sweaters, and those subject to pilling. Fabric brushes are another common attachment you’ll find on a handheld steamer. This clips onto the face of the steamer — the same area that emits steam. Simply attach it to your steamer and brush the garment gently.
Look for a lightweight handheld steamer if you plan to use one often — a heavy one can be tiring to hold after a while.
In the $12 to $18 range, you should be able to find a basic steamer to fulfill your needs. Chances are it’s on the smaller size with limited water capacity. There may be two heat settings, and a limited amount of attachments, if any.
The $19 to $30 range options your options quite a bit. This is where you’ll find handheld steamers that hold up to eight ounces of water, steamers with a wattage of over 1,000, and steamers that contain extras like a fabric brush, a crease attachment, or a storage bag. Steamers at this price are often bigger than cheaper ones but are portable nonetheless.
If you truly want to invest in a steamer you’ll keep for a long time, consider spending a bit extra. For $30 or more, handheld steamers definitely have at least two heat settings (or up to five) and all the extra attachments available at the mid-range. Some premium handheld steamers don’t need distilled water, as they’ll be able to filter out the impurities from tap water.
A. Yes, most handheld steamers are allowed in carry-ons if they’re TSA-compliant (which means no liquid inside). It’s more convenient to opt for the lightest, most compact handheld steamer possible.
A. It’s virtually impossible for steamers to burn clothes. Because they’re held inches away from clothes, the steam isn’t intense enough to significantly damage clothing. If there is a bit of damage, it doesn’t come anywhere close to burning the fabric.
A. Pesky critters are hard to get rid of, but it’s possible to use a handheld steamer to combat them. For any infestation, a larger steam cleaner would be more useful. A handheld steamer is more useful to supplement ongoing pest treatments. Use the handheld steamer along the seams of your mattress, crevices where your baseboard meets your floor, and any corners where there’s an infestation. The steamer setting needs to be at least 110°F with heat applied for 10 to 15 minutes to kill bugs and eggs. When in doubt, consult a professional exterminator for best practices.
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