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The 5 Best Steamers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Nov 15, 2023Nov 15, 2023

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Food & Wine / Marcus Millan

If you’re planning a fancy dinner party at home, a backyard wedding, or another special get-together, it’s time to bring out your nice tablecloths and cute cloth napkins. Even if you store fabrics neatly, some are practically impossible to prevent from becoming wrinkled messes. You may not have the time or the space to iron each fabric item, but a quick pass with a garment steamer can make a big difference in their overall appearance without adding more stress to your plate.

Having facilitated hundreds of weddings and other special events over the years, Sarah Hall, the president of Joel Catering and Il Mercato in New Orleans, knows the usefulness of a good steamer. “If you want photoshoot-perfect linens for your wedding, a steamer is the only way to achieve that look,” she says. “Some linens are more prone to wrinkling than others. Lace, embroidered, and heavy damask from vendors who properly handle them generally don’t need steaming. However, 100% natural fibers, like cotton and linen, sometimes need a little help to look their best.”

To evaluate effectiveness, portability, and design, we tested 29 fabric steamers to determine which ones are worth buying. After steaming many linen napkins, we’ve found our favorites. Continue reading to see our top picks and why they stood out from all the other options.


This well-constructed, well-performing steamer holds a lot of water without being heavy or cumbersome.

That larger water tank means a slightly longer heat time.

Earning our overall favorite spot, this handheld clothes steamer, which comes with a convenient 9.2-foot-long cord, checked many boxes. It was comfortable to hold, easy to use, quality constructed, and the lightest steamer on our list. During our tests, we found that it’s lightweight enough to pack in your suitcase if you wanted to, which is particularly handy for events you’re hosting outside your home.

Other features we love are the steamer’s large water reservoir, which enables longer steaming sessions in one go, and the big front window that makes it easy to see the water level inside. The trade-off here is that the steamer takes a little bit longer to heat up.

Price at time of publish: $37


It offers impressive performance and heat-up speed, especially for its low price.

It’s not the most compact choice.

Despite this garment steamer being a value pick, there’s no settling in terms of its performance. Rather than a series of holes, this steamer has a longer slit where the steam comes out, which we found very effective. The steamer heats up very quickly (we clocked it at a minute), so you don’t have to wait long to get to work, and we removed most of the wrinkles on a linen napkin in just one or two passes. We would definitely recommend this steamer for traveling and home use, as it works well, heats up fast, and is affordable.

Compared to other options, this steamer is a little bulkier, but it’s still small and light enough to take on the go. It helps that its cord isn’t as big as other products.

Price at time of publish: $17


It’s easy to steam various fabrics to perfection with this one’s handy design additions, including multiple power settings.

It’s not the sturdiest when standing upright.

Our splurge pick comes with cool extra features that warrant the higher price. For starters, it has five different settings, so whether you’re working on a delicate fabric like silk versus something thicker like canvas, you can choose accordingly. You can also use the built-in crease clip to smooth sharp folds on tablecloths. We also appreciated having an on/off button to pause the steam when moving between linens.

Flashy additions aside, the steamer shined during our tests, earning the highest scores possible for effectiveness and heat time. It took only a minute to get the water hot enough to steam and one pass to remove most wrinkles on the highest setting. One drawback we found was that the steamer has a narrow base, making it top-heavy and wobbly when standing up.

Price at time of publish: $70


You’ll get powerful, long-lasting steam along with good mobility.

The included clips aren’t very functional.

If you’re doing a lot of steaming at home, especially for large tablecloths and long table runners, an upright fabric steamer with a built-in hanger and large water tank offers the convenience and performance you need. We love this one for many reasons, including its telescopic pole and wheeled base. It delivers a powerful stream of steam, removing most wrinkles in a single pass, and it has an extra large water tank for long steaming sessions without running to and from the sink for constant refills.

Despite being a full-size steamer, this unit was surprisingly compact and easy to move around. Plus, it's lightweight and wouldn't be too cumbersome to store. If we could make one improvement, it would be for different clips since these didn’t do the best job gripping a napkin without the fabric being doubled up. You can always replace them with something else, though.

Price at time of publish: $85


It heats up super quickly and gives off tons of steam.

You won’t get much help from the instructions.

We recommend this steamer for those wanting something specifically for travel purposes. With a large nozzle head and a sizable water tank, it gives off a significant amount of steam, making it very efficient at removing wrinkles. One or two slow passes, and you should be good to go. As large as its water capacity is, we were surprised that it took less than a minute to heat up, and when you’re on the move, every second counts.

We also liked the on/off button for the steam, which means you can pause it during use instead of running through more of your water supply unnecessarily. On the flip side, the instructions lacked clarity, but at least the device is intuitive enough without them. Most importantly, you can easily slide this steamer into your checked baggage so you’re well-prepared wherever your final destination may be.

Price at time of publish: $30

The Hilife Steamer is our top pick because of its balance of performance and portability. It’s easy to store at home and pack in luggage for on-the-go use. For an upright alternative, we loved the Steamfast SF-562 Canister Fabric Steamer for its power and easy mobility.

We put 29 steamers to the test to find the best of the best. Once we assembled the steamer, we evaluated its design, including how intuitive, stylish, and practical it is. Then, we timed how long the steamer took to heat the water and used it on a wrinkled linen napkin hanging from a clothes hanger with clips. We noted how many passes it took to eliminate the wrinkles completely and how damp the napkin was afterward. Throughout the testing process, we noted how easy the steamer was to hold and maneuver. We also considered size and weight and assessed how difficult or easy it would be to travel with.

There are two main options when shopping for a steamer: handheld or standing. A handheld steamer is smaller and fits (you guessed it) in one hand. It offers greater portability and takes up less space for easy storing in luggage or at home. A standing steamer, sometimes called an upright or a vertical steamer, features a hanger structure at the top connected to a water tank at the base by a long pole. It’s ideal for steaming larger items or more pieces in one session.

When choosing between a handheld or standing steamer, Hall says to consider the quantity of linens you’re steaming. “Handheld is great for smaller events or touch-ups, but a standing steamer is what you need to tackle a whole room, primarily due to the size of the water reservoir.”

Fabric steamers generally range between 700 and 2,000 watts, and standing steamers often have higher wattage than handheld ones. The higher the wattage, the more powerful steam you’ll get. Depending on what fabric you’re steaming, you don't necessarily need the most power possible since delicate materials require less wattage for effective wrinkle removal. With certain types of synthetic material, too much steam can damage the fabric.

Some steamers keep it simple, while others have extra features that offer further customization and convenience. These may include settings for different steam levels useful when tackling various fabrics, attachments like a brush head that prepares and separates the fabric fibers for a better steam, or a delicate material guard to protect delicate fabrics during use. Some handheld steamers may also come with a matching storage bag for transportation, and many standing steamers have clips attached to their hangers to fix fabrics in place while working. Thinking about what kinds of items you’re usually steaming will help you decide which features you can or can’t live without.

Steaming and ironing each has its place and purpose. While ironing works well on tough fabrics like denim and getting sharp creases in dress pants, steaming is best when dealing with more delicate fabrics and items. Plus, steamers can be far easier to transport than an ironing board. “When time is limited, efficiency is key, and steaming offers that,” Hall says.

To use a clothes steamer, first, fill it with water. Depending on where you live and what kind of steamer you have, tap water could be fine, but if you have hard water, we recommend using distilled water. Next, plug in the steamer to heat up. When it’s ready, lightly pull the fabric from the bottom so it’s taut but not over-stretched, push the steamer button, and move it up and down over the fabric. With some fabrics, it’s safe to hold the steamer directly to the material, and with others, you’ll want to leave a space between the steamer and the fabric. It’s easiest to use a steamer on fabric that is hanging. If you have any doubts, follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

Generally, it’s possible to use a steamer to remove wrinkles from 100% polyester, and even considered safer to do so than using an iron, which can burn or melt the fabric. That said, there are considerations. To be extra careful, start on the lowest setting of the steamer, make sure the steamer itself doesn’t touch the fabric, and keep the steamer moving so it doesn’t focus on one spot for too long. You can also steam from the inside out.

HoMedics Perfect Steam Professional Mini Garment Steamer And Iron ($40 at Walmart)

We liked that this steamer came with multiple steam settings and a compact carrying case, but we found the small water tank quite inconvenient. We couldn’t steam more than half a shirt before having to refill.

Hamilton Beach Upright Garment Steamer ($78 at Amazon)

This garment steamer from Hamilton Beach has a simple but effective design. It didn’t rank higher in our list because it was slow to heat up compared to other models, and the tank wobbles a bit when it’s moved around.

iSteam Steamer for Clothes ($40 at Amazon)

Given how compact and lightweight it is, this steamer would be good for traveling. On the downside, we were frustrated by how long it took to refill the water reservoir because of the small hole.

Sunbeam SteamMaster Handheld Fabric Steamer ($50 at Amazon)

This Sunbeam fabric steamer is sturdy and well-made with a large water tank. Unfortunately, it was only decently effective, and its “power steam” button didn’t make a difference in our tests.

Conair Ultimate Fabric Steamer ($64 at Walmart)

In terms of performance, this fabric steamer removed wrinkles in one pass. However, the wheeled base and hose were difficult to maneuver, and the position of the clips is only useful for pants, not smaller garments.

There were various reasons why the other steamers we tested didn’t make the list. We found some models overpriced when compared to the level of their performance. Some had water tanks that were either too small to be functional or too difficult to fill. Some simply delivered an ineffective amount of steam. We were disappointed with the Kexi Portable Travel Garment Steamer because, as interesting as its hair dryer-like design is, it simply didn’t work during our tests. Another fabric steamer that underperformed was the Iris USA Living Compact 100 Iron. It’s designed to work as a steamer-iron combo, which is cool in theory, but we found that the performance of both functions was severely lacking.

Cindy Brzostowski is a freelance writer with previous experience in cookbook publishing and learned the importance of a good steamer at many a wedding. Her writing has been featured in Allrecipes, Blue Apron, The Kitchn, and EatingWell among other publications. For this article, she used insights from Sarah Hall, the President of Joel Catering and Il Mercato, as well as our in-depth, in-house testing notes to determine the best steamers on the market.

Price at time of publish: $37Weight:Water Tank Capacity: Wattage: Heat Time: Price at time of publish: $17Weight:Water Tank Capacity: Wattage: Heat Time: Price at time of publish: $70Weight:Water Tank Capacity: Wattage: Heat Time: Price at time of publish: $85Weight:Water Tank Capacity: Wattage: Heat Time: Price at time of publish: $30Weight:Water Tank Capacity: Wattage: Heat Time: HoMedics Perfect Steam Professional Mini Garment Steamer And Iron Hamilton Beach Upright Garment Steamer iSteam Steamer for Clothes Sunbeam SteamMaster Handheld Fabric Steamer Conair Ultimate Fabric Steamer