Clothing steamer FAQs
Are the best clothes steamers better than irons?
Steamers aren’t necessarily better than irons — both have their uses — but they’re certainly gentler and more effective on certain fabrics.
To get some insight on when to steam and when to iron, we spoke to Corinna Williams, co-founder of Celsious, an eco-conscious Brooklyn laundromat with its own collection of non-toxic, fragrance-free fabric care products, and Hannah Yokoji, brand director of The Laundress, a line of plant-based laundry and home cleaning items.
“Steaming is fantastic for more delicate, thinner fabrics as well as garments with complicated shapes (ruffles, peplums, etc.) or embellishments,” Williams said. “Save the ironing for sturdy materials like linen and cotton.” She named silk, rayon, lyocell, chiffon, and wool suiting as fabrics that respond well to steaming.
Wool knits and cashmere are fair game as well. “When it comes to wool garments, you don’t want to iron because it crushes the pile of the yarn and that’s something you want to preserve to keep your sweaters fluffy and soft,” Yokoji said.
And, if you want to extend the life of your favorite jeans, steaming is far easier on denim than ironing, and it allows you to go longer between washes. According to Yokoji, “You don’t typically have to wash denim after every wear unless it’s soiled or has a stain. We like to steam denim and spray it with a fabric freshener. That reduces the odor and helps retain the fit.”
Which fabrics and clothing items should never be steamed?
Williams advises against steaming leather, suede, pre-treated fabrics like moire, and waxed jackets (think Barbour, Belstaff, and Burberry).
Both experts we spoke to noted that steaming isn’t effective if you want to maintain sharp structural details like pleats. And, as mentioned earlier, while steaming won’t damage cotton or linen, an iron will smooth out their wrinkles more effectively.
How do you clean the best clothes steamers?
For a thorough cleaning, fill the water tank with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts distilled water, run the steamer until the tank is about half empty, let the solution cool completely, empty the steamer, and repeat as necessary.
According to the experts we spoke with, neglecting to clean your clothes steamer regularly can result in a buildup of rust and hard water deposits, which in turn can stain your garments.
While there are no set rules on how often you should clean your steamer — it largely depends on how frequently you use it — every few months, or when you notice the steam starting to slow, is a good general rule.
Can I use a steamer on wet clothes?
You should only be steaming dry clothing. Clothes should be dry so the fibers can relax or loosen up before steaming.