Everything You Need to Know About Steaming Your Clothes

updated Aug 22, 2023
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Woman using steaming iron to ironing fashion shirt in laundry room. Girl doing stream vapor iron for press clothes in hand. Launder concentrate work and delivery to customer. Part time job occupation
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If you’re tired of dealing with wrinkly clothes and you either don’t have an iron or never use yours because doing so takes up too much space and effort, you might want to consider switching to a clothes steamer. Steaming is an effective way to get wrinkles out of almost any fabric — it requires less space to use a steamer (especially if you use a handheld steamer), and it takes less time and effort than ironing does.

Plus, there are plenty of other benefits — even health related! — to steaming that you can’t get from using an iron. Ready to get steamy? Here’s everything you need to know about garment steaming, including how it works, why it’s better than ironing, and how to steam your clothes the right way.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How Clothes Steamers Works

Have you ever heard (or maybe even tried this trick yourself) that if your clothes wrinkle while traveling, you can smooth them out by hanging them in the bathroom while you take a hot shower? Using a garment steamer is like a high-powered, much more effective version of that trick. The only thing required to use a steamer is some water — just fill the tank with water, secure everything in place, plug the steamer in, and allow it to heat up.

Why Steamers Are Better Than Irons

According to The Laundress, steaming your clothes not only gets out wrinkles but it also kills odor-causing bacteria, keeping clothes fresh in between washes — perfect for items that you can’t wash frequently (or at all) or are dry-clean only.

It also works on drapes, upholstery, mattresses, pillows, carpeting, and more, so you can get more use out of it than just smoothing out wrinkles in your clothes. Along with killing bacteria, steaming also removes allergens that attract dust mites — and since it steaming only uses water and no detergents or other chemicals, it won’t pollute the air.

Space is also a factor: when you’re ironing, you need an ironing board or another space where you can safely smooth your clothes. You can easily steam your clothes anywhere you can hang them, and all you need is your steamer.

Tips & Tricks for Successful Steaming

  • Ideal fabrics for steaming? Wool, wool blends, synthetic wool-like fabrics, cashmere, silk, silk blends, and other delicates.
  • Fabrics to avoid: suede, waxed jackets, and anything plastic — it might melt.
  • Steam any sort of lining first, and always steam items from top to bottom.
  • Don’t attempt to steam anything while you’re wearing it.

How to Steam Clothes, Step-by-Step

Steaming is straightforward and requires minimal setup. Simply follow these easy steps to remove wrinkles (no ironing board required!). 

Credit: Meg Asby

Step 1: Fill the reservoir of your steamer with water.

Use the type of water recommended in your steamer’s operating instructions, whether distilled or tap. Fill to the max line of your reservoir. 

Bonus: Add attachments.

Some steamers come with a delicate bonnet for fine fabrics or a creaser to imitate the sharp lines you get when ironing. For most steaming tasks, these won’t be necessary.

Credit: Meg Asby

Step 2: Turn on the steamer and wait for it to reach the correct temperature.

Some steamers, such as the Conair 2-in-1 Handheld Steamer (pictured here), take only 10 seconds to heat up, while others take longer. While you wait, double-check your garment’s care instructions on the tag to make sure steaming is safe for the fabric.  

Credit: Meg Asby

Step 3: Hang the garment, and pull the fabric taut.

Hang the clothing and pull the garment taut with your non-dominant hand. A steamer glove is recommended to prevent burning your hand (an oven mitt will also work). 

Credit: Meg Asby

Step 4: Hold the steamer one inch from the fabric and move up and down the garment.

Press the trigger or button to release steam. While pulling the clothing item taut, hold the steamer one inch from the garment and move it up and down the fabric while releasing steam. Depending on the type of fabric and the severity of the wrinkles, this may require multiple passes over the same area. 

Credit: Meg Asby

Step 5: Refill the reservoir, as needed.

If your steamer is handheld and you are steaming multiple garments, you will likely need to refill the reservoir periodically. 

Credit: Meg Asby

Step 6: Air dry.

Garments will be slightly damp from the steam. Let clothing air dry before storing or wearing. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

When You Might Still Need an Iron

Steaming can’t get your clothes as crisp as an iron, so if you have items that you prefer pressed or with creases, you’ll need to keep your iron around.

Top-Rated Steamers to Purchase

Ready to get steaming? Here are some solidly reviewed steamers to consider:

Full-Size Steamers

Handheld Steamers