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 the business suit that's been sitting in your suitcase, or even spruce up wrinkled curtains, garment steamer could be the right choice for you.
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, as 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.
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 also found they aren't really effective on materials like organza or denim, but were ideal for dresses and suits. (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.)
Generally, garment steamers won't completely replace a iron though. 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.
Look for a garment steamer with these features for the best results. They might seem basic or obvious, but they will make life easier when you're using your new clothes steamer at home – particularly as some of these could be overlooked in a shop.
This lets you adjust the amount of steam to suit the fabric you're steaming.
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 your steamer much more convenient.
An in-built hanger can be used to hang your stuff on 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.
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 as you iron, or a suitable horizontal surface. They'll also have a smaller water capacity (as and will need to be refilled more frequently.
The garment steamers we tested ranged in price from $49 to $499.