Clothes Steamer Buying Guide

By Sam Iontton02/05/2023

By Displaysense's Carrie Gilbertson - 15/10/2020

Clothes steamers, popular with fashion stores and the fashion-conscious, are a great way to refresh and touch up clothes quickly and easily. They work by relaxing the fibres of the fabric, which eliminates wrinkles and as a bonus, removes odours. Whilst garment steamers do a similar job to an iron; they give clothing a much softer appearance. They can be used on nearly all types of fabric, saving you money previously spent at dry cleaners on those hard to wash items. The only exceptions being suede, waxed fabrics or anything constructed from plastic.

When you're in a rush, clothes steamers are fast to get fired up so you can quickly whizz it over your clothing before heading out the door. Those difficult to iron clothes or delicate items are a breeze as the steam penetrates even the hardest to reach parts of the garment. When you remove clothes from their packaging, they're often creased. You may find you need to press them to make them store and photoshoot ready, making clothes steamers incredibly popular with the fashion industry. Steam of over 212 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bacteria, and as such sanitise anything it comes in contact with. They can be used all over the house, meaning that hard to wash upholstery can easily be sanitised, disinfected and refreshed.

If you're looking to purchase a clothes steamer, we've compiled a guide with all the information you need to pick the perfect one. If you’re ready to buy, visit our clothes steamers section to explore a variety of options from market-leading brands.

Different Types of Clothes Steamers

Upright Clothes Steamers

Sometimes known as a stand up or vertical clothes steamer, upright clothes steamers are larger and more powerful than their handheld counterparts. Most come with the ability to adjust the height for a more comfortable experience. It also means that you can reduce them in size for easy and compact storage. With the bigger size comes bigger water tanks, making them much better for larger laundry loads or retail shops who may have an extensive collection of clothing. The larger tanks mean you don't have to refill them as often, saving you time and energy going back and forth to the tap.

These professional clothes steamers also usually come with a built-in hanging capability, but the design of this will vary greatly between brands. Some come with hangers and trouser clips which mean you pop your clothing on as if you were hanging it in a wardrobe, but some come with a backboard which acts similarly to an ironing board. The backboards typically stop you from compacting the product down for storage so you will need to bear that in mind if storage space is limited.

Handheld Clothes Steamers

Handheld clothes steamers are small, light and portable, making them ideal as travel steamers. Usually weighing between 1 and 2 kg, they’re easy to transport to events, weekends away or for quick touch-ups after a long journey. If storage space is tight, a handheld clothes steamer is compact enough to be popped in a drawer or small cupboard without taking up too much room. They work in a very similar way to upright steamers, but they are less powerful and have far smaller water tanks, which is why they're more popular for touch-ups and small jobs.

What to Consider When Buying a Clothes Steamer

  • Water tank - The tank size will be very important as it'll impact on how long you'll be able to steam clothes. If you're looking to steam a large load of clothing or sanitise a mass amount of upholstery, look for a clothes steamer with a large water tank. It'll ensure you don't have to keep stopping and refilling. A 3-litre water tank will give you 80 minutes of continuous steam, whereas a smaller 1-litre tank will be around 30 minutes. The opacity of the tank might not seem particularly important. Still, a transparent tank will mean you can see at a glance if you're low and need to refill.
  • Power & wattage - The higher the wattage capability, the more powerful it is which equates to more steam. It's best to look for a clothes steamer with a wattage higher than 1500W.
  • Steam settings - Different fabrics will be able to withstand different steam temperatures. Delicate items such as silk are much less resilient to heat than cotton clothing. It's best to have adjustable settings that you can set according to the clothing material, to avoid damaging your clothing. A range from 600W to 1750W will allow you to steam a wide variety of clothes.
  • Heat-up time - One of the many reasons people like clothes steamers, is how quick they are to set up and heat up; you simply fill, turn on and get going. However, the time it takes to get to full steam varies, and some can take up to two minutes to get to full steam. Always check the features of the product; it's best to look for one that takes less than a minute to be ready.
  • Accessories - Most upright clothes steamers come with accessories to help you get perfectly pressed clothing. Fabric brush attachments are ideal for helping you refresh upholstery, whilst trouser press attachments will help you create pleats. In-built hangers or trouser clips will help you keep your clothing in place, preventing accidental burns.
  • Weight - The product's weight will mostly be dependent upon the size of clothes steamer you're looking for and the materials it's constructed from. If you'd prefer to have a lightweight option, a handheld one may seem like the better option. However, bear in mind that the water tank and steamer head are one unit and when full, this will significantly increase the weight of the item. Whereas with the upright steamer, the water tank sits on the base unit and only the lightweight head needs to be moved during the steaming process.
  • Continuous steam - Some clothes steamers require you to hold a button to release the steam. If you're planning to steam for an extended period, this can be awkward. It's wise to look for one that produces continuous steam once turned on.
  • Fabric types - Home garment steamers can be used on a wide variety of materials from wool to cotton and aren't exclusively for use on clothes. There are some materials that you can't use them on; suede, waxed clothing and anything constructed from plastic.
  • Hose - There are two important factors when it comes to the hose; the length and the construction. When steaming longer garments such as dresses, you’ll want to be able to easily reach the top without needing to yank at the hose. A double insulated hose will maintain the steam temperature much better than a single insulated hose. It’ll also prevent the hose surface temperature getting too hot.
  • Auto shut off - Sometimes you get called away, or you get caught up in your steaming, and before you know it, the tank is empty. With an automatic shut off, when the water runs out or if it gets too hot, the machine will turn itself off to prevent it from damage.
  • Supply cord - There are a few handheld travel steamers that are cordless, but most clothes steamers are corded. It's best to check the length of the supply cord, dependent on its use and whether you'll always be near a plug socket. If you're going to be steaming a large area of your home or store, for example, you may need a longer cord.


Clothes Steamer FAQ

How do clothes steamers work?

Garment steamers work by creating steam which relaxes the fibres in the clothing and means creases and wrinkles drop out. If you've ever hung your clothes in a steamy bathroom to smooth out the wrinkles, it's the same concept but far more effective.

How do I use a clothes steamer?

If you're not sure how to steam clothes with a steamer, it's incredibly straightforward. Follow these simple steps to get wrinkle-free clothes in no time at all. First off, fill the tank with water and place back into its holder. Add any attachments you wish to use and if it has adjustable settings, set it according to the material and turn on. Once it has reached full steam, point the nozzle at the clothes. It's best to work from the bottom upwards and make sure to keep the head upright. Keep your hands away from the steam and NEVER steam clothes when you're wearing them. Always remove the clothing and hang it up for steaming.

Do you touch clothes with a steamer?

You should touch your clothes with your steamer. For wrinkle-free clothes, simply hold the steamer against your clothing and move it slowly to remove the creases. If you’re concerned about damaging your clothes, always check your labels and set the appropriate heat for the fabric.

Can I use a clothes steamer to clean furniture?

You can use a clothes steamer to clean furniture, including sofas, curtains and other upholstery. The steam breaks down stains and dirt, deodorising and sanitising the fabric to kill bacteria. However, be careful when steam cleaning suede and velvet, as these fabrics can react badly to excessive moisture.

How do I clean a clothes steamer tank?

Always read your instructions guide and follow the manufacturer’s advice when cleaning your clothes steamer. The cleaning process will vary between brands and makes. Before cleaning unplug your steamer and let it cool for at least an hour. We recommend cleaning once a month, or more frequently in hard water areas.

Why buy a clothes steamer?

They’re an effective way of removing wrinkles from items. You can use them on a wider variety of materials as they’re gentle on fabric. They can be small and compact, so they take up less storage space than the traditional iron and ironing board. They also have the added benefit of being able to sanitise as they reach very high temperatures, which kills germs and removes musty smells. It means you can refresh worn clothing which will cut down on washing loads or dry-cleaning costs. Cleaning your sofa covers or curtains can be a complicated process but not with a clothes steamer. You can leave the covers on, and the curtains hung whilst steaming to quickly and easily refresh and disinfect them.

Browse our range of upright and handheld clothes steamers to explore the options available.