While they're often thought of as magic wands used only by the fairy godmothers (and fathers) of the fashion industry, garment steamers can be just as useful at home or on the go. If you want to smooth out your silk tissue dress, or freshen up the business suit that's been sitting in your suitcase, a garment steamer - said to be a gentler, safer way of removing wrinkles from clothes and delicate fabrics - could be the right choice for you. 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!).
Safeguard your special items
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.
How do they 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 want to wear a freshly-steamed pair of pants - people could get the wrong idea! 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.)
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.
What should I look for?
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.
Still the best thing since sliced bread! Though they were probably around before sliced bread, right? Either way, a set of wheels will make your steamer much more convenient.
An in-built hanger can be used to hang your stuff on while you're steaming. They're especially handy if you're using the steamer while you're travelling.
The garment steamers we tested ranged in price from $49 to $429.