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What to know before buying a garment steamer

Is a garment steamer a convenient way to iron out creases around your home?

using a garment steamer on a teal jacket

You don't need to have a walk-in wardrobe of fancy clothes to warrant owning a garment steamer. They can be just as useful at home or on the go. If you want to smooth out your silk tissue dress, freshen up a business suit that's been sitting in your suitcase, or even spruce up wrinkled curtains, a garment steamer could be the right choice for you.

CHOICE tester in a lab coat

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Are garment steamers worth it?

If you've spent a fair bit of money on your wardrobe, or have lots of delicate or vintage clothes, a steamer may be a small price to pay to help you take better care of your nice things. Because there's no pressure applied to the fabric fibres, like there is with irons and steam stations, garment steamers are much gentler on fragile fabrics.

They're not just limited to the wrinkles in your wardrobe, either – you can use garment steamers on upholstery and soft furnishings, rugs and even curtains (without the hassle of taking them down!). The steam can also reduce odours lingering on these items.

The garment steamers in our most recent test start at $42 and go all the way up to $750. While more expensive models tend to come with more bells and whistles, like a greater number of steam settings, you can still find a quality garment steamer for under $200.

How do garment steamers perform?

Garment steamers are pretty quick to heat up but we've found that steamers can leave material damp, so keep this in mind if you're about to wear freshly-steamed clothes. 

We've also found they aren't really effective on materials like organza or denim, but are ideal for dresses and suits. 

CHOICE tip: If you're after better results, try pulling slightly on cuffs or hems as you work, but be careful not to burn yourself with the steam.

Can a garment steamer replace an iron?

Generally, garment steamers won't completely replace a iron. Some fabrics, like organza, cotton or denim, need a proper iron to get all the creases out, while other fabrics like poly-cotton and wool might simply need a hot iron to get them to their best.

Key features to look for

For the best results, look for a garment steamer with these features. They might seem basic or obvious, but they'll make life easier when you're using your new clothes steamer at home – particularly as some of these could be overlooked in a shop.

Variable steam settings

This lets you adjust the amount of steam to suit the fabric you're steaming. 

Telescopic pole

Garment steamers take up a fair bit of room, but a telescopic pole will help to make yours more compact for storing.


Wheels will make a freestanding steamer much more convenient.


An in-built hanger can be used to hang your stuff while you're steaming.

Attachments and accessories

These can include a protective glove so you don't get scalded by the steam, attachments for more control such as creating pleats, a fabric brush for thicker fabrics (which helps open up the fibres for steaming), or a board for clothes to lean against horizontally and/or vertically.

Handheld steamers

Many garment steamers are handheld and are ideal for taking along on business trips or if you're attending a special event away from home, but they can be more fiddly to use as you'll need to find a hanger that won't move around while you iron, or a suitable horizontal surface. They'll also have a smaller water capacity and will need to be refilled more frequently.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.