22nd July 2021
If you want to cut down on ironing time, using a garment steamer sounds like a tempting option. Garment steamers are vertical clothes steamers designed for quickly neatening clothes on the hanger, without the need to set up an ironing board.
In this expert guide, we look at what garment steamers do and how much you can expect to spend. We’ll also tell you which features to look out for and what we thought of the popular UK models we tried out.
Garment steamers – sometimes called travel or clothes steamers – are designed for last-minute touch-ups. If you need to do some emergency de-creasing before heading out, you should be able to grab your garment steamer and whizz it over your clothes.
They’re marketed as being light and convenient to use, and they don’t require an ironing board (though some can be used horizontally as well as vertically). They’re also recommended for delicate clothes, as they reduce the risk of scorching.
You might be considering a garment steamer if:
Philips, Rowenta and Tefal are the main brands selling garment steamers at the moment. They’re widely available at big retailers, such as Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis.
There are two main types of garment steamer to choose from: handheld and upright.
Handheld garment steamers - these are smaller, lighter and more portable than upright models (between 1 and 2kg, whereas uprights can be more than 7kg). So this is the kind you need if you want one to take on holiday. They have a small water tank inside the steamer. Some are shaped like a shower head (like the one pictured above) and some look more like a kettle.
Upright garment steamers - these are larger and bulkier than handheld models. They have a large water tank in the base, which means they can steam for longer. They often come with a built-in hanger and they’re more powerful too.
Garment steamers range in price from £25 and £150. Handheld models tend to be cheapest, but that isn’t always the case, as we tried out one handheld steamer costing £120.
If you’re in the market for a garment steamer, look out for these features which will make ironing with a garment steamer easier:
Weight - if you’re aiming to take it on your travels (for example to a wedding or meeting abroad), or you find regular irons too heavy, look for a lightweight model.
Continuous steam - having to press your finger down constantly on the steam button can be uncomfortable. Look for one that steams continuously.
Steam settings - some garment steamers allow you to vary the steam flow – handy if you need to steam delicate items as well as bulkier ones.
Fast heat-up time - essential if you’re hoping your garment steamer will be a time-saver.
Water tank - none of the handheld steamers we tried had enormous water tanks, but you don’t want one so tiny that you’re constantly topping up.
Suitable for all fabrics - some manufacturers state that their models are suitable for all fabrics, including silk. If you’re buying a garment steamer specifically for delicate clothing, make sure you check this first.
While the idea of a small, portable steamer that rapidly smoothes out clothes on the hanger is tempting, we found in reality it wasn’t always this easy. Below we explain some of the main pros and cons versus buying an iron, but make sure you check our to get our full verdict on individual models, as we found some better than others.
Pros of garment steamers:
Cons of garment steamers: