7 Reasons a Steamer Is Better Than an Iron

updated Aug 23, 2021
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Credit: Sarah Crowley

There are few things more annoying than grabbing a shirt to wear for the day and realizing it’s totally wrinkled. In this moment, you have a choice: You can pull out your ironing board and iron, fill the iron with water, wait for the iron to heat up, and spend five minutes ironing the shirt. Or, if you’re short on time and don’t feel like ironing, you can just choose a new shirt altogether… unless you have a steamer.

While they technically accomplish the same thing — de-wrinkling your clothes — steamers and irons have quite a few differences. And one might be a better investment than the other, depending on your preferences and lifestyle.

Here are a few reasons why a handheld steamer might be a better fit for you than a traditional iron, according to Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of Clean My Space:

It’s harder to damage your clothes.

If you’ve ever burned your clothes, then you know using your iron comes with a risk — and, as such, requires more attention. “When using an iron, you need to be more mindful because you have to set it to the correct temperature based on the care label of your clothing. You have to crank it right up for certain garments, and turn it right down for others,” Maker says. Thankfully, it’s unlikely for a steamer to damage your clothes, since there’s no hot metal coming into direct contact with them.

It doesn’t require technique.

Ironing is like an art, Maker says: To do it effectively, you need to master the technique for moving your clothes around the board and how to press certain sections. If you’re looking for a de-wrinkling method that’s as easy as it is quick, a steamer might be more up your alley.

It’s maintenance-free.

Maker says irons can build up gunk over time, which can transfer onto (and potentially damage) clothing. To keep an iron functional , it’s important to clean the plate regularly to remove rust and hard water buildup. Steamers, however, require no such maintenance.

It’s more convenient to store.

Handheld steamers, while accomplishing the same thing as their full-sized counterparts, are also more compact and easier to store. Rather than storing an ironing board along with an iron, you can just tuck the handheld steamer away. Easy storage also means a steamer is easier to travel with — which is a plus if you’re not sure if your accommodations will have an iron.

It’s easier to use.

Even if you don’t use an ironing board with your iron, you have to go through the trouble of finding a flat surface that can withstand direct contact with heat. A handheld steamer, on the other hand, is far simpler to use. Maker recommends hanging your garment on an over-the-door hook, holding it taut while using your dominant hand to move the steamer up and down a section of the garment, and working your way through it section by section.

It’s more relevant for casual dressers.

Unless you have a job that requires more formal dress, you probably don’t have to deal with creases and collars all that often. Maker says steamers are perfectly sufficient for casual dressers. As a bonus, the majority of fabrics take well to the steaming technique. One caveat: For heavier fabrics like cotton or linen, sometimes you may need to steam a few times to get the more stubborn wrinkles out. 

A steamer has more uses.

While some folks swear by using flat irons to de-wrinkle garments, you probably shouldn’t use an actual iron for any other purpose than its intended one. Steamers, on the other hand, are a far more versatile tool, with a multitude of uses around the home. On top of refreshing your curtains and furniture, did you know you can sanitize fabrics and some surfaces sans chemicals by using your steamer? Steam from a steamer is also a great (and totally smudge-proof) method for cleaning up your mirrors and windows.