The Best Clothes Steamer
It would be great if we could just pop our clothes in the dryer and have them appear perfectly pressed when done, but we’ve accepted the next best solution. We spent many hours over the span of a few weeks steaming shirts, drapes and dresses with 10 different steamers to discover the Jiffy ESTEAM to be the best handheld clothes steamer and the Jiffy J-2000 to be the best standing steamer.
If you need something with a much large tank to steam lots of clothes, we loved the Jiffy ESTEAM’s older brother, the J-2000. This standing model performed very well, letting us knock out multiple articles of clothing while in a comfortable standing position. It heats up in about two minutes and gets an hour and half of steam on a full tank, letting you ease out those wrinkles in a jiff.
Top Standing Model: Jiffy J-2000
Very effective at removing wrinkles, and comes with a tank that provides a whopping 100 minutes of steam time. Great build quality without frills--an excellent choice for a standing steamer.
The Jiffy ESTEAM got rid of wrinkles in no time with a sturdy and functional design. It performed consistently well through many rounds of testing on cotton, linen and silk. The ESTEAM’s simplicity and steaming power was unmatched the other models we tested. We’d take it along with us on travels and pull it out at home as well. It could replace many tasks of your everyday iron depending on your needs.
Top Handheld Model: Jiffy ESTEAM
Well built, no-nonsense with a simplistic design, and gets the job done. Built to last many years, for a fairly reasonable price.
Table of contents
- How we selected finalists to test
- The four best standing steamers
- The six best handheld steamers
- Traditional irons vs. steamers
- Handheld vs. standing steamers
- How we tested
- The best standing clothes steamer
- The best handheld steamer
- The best travel steamer
- The best budget steamer
- The others we tested
- The bottom line
How we selected finalists to test
We wanted to test the gamut of steamers in the way most people use them and decided to test both handheld and standing steamers. These tests were done in a home with the average consumer in mind, and wasn’t meant to cater to any factory or commercial settings where you can just be steaming for hours on end.
Much of our selection was narrowed down by searching retailers such as Amazon to find the best rated products. Luckily there were a lot of brands available to compare, and we were able to avoid testing any products with enough complaints from previous owners.
Many brands here had multiple steamer models available and aside from the Jiffy, we avoided doubling up to get a better feel for what other brands had to offer.
The four best standing steamers
The six best handheld steamers
- Jiffy – ESTEAM
- Shark – Press and Refresh GS500 (not recommended)
- Conair – ExtremeSteam (not recommended)
Traditional irons vs. steamers
Steamers and irons are both built to get the wrinkles out of your clothes, but there are a few notable differences.
Traditional Electric Irons – Irons are the most popular product used for removing wrinkles from clothing. You’ll typically need a large enough space to bring out an ironing board to do your work, a kink that steamers don’t have. With steamers, you can’t always replicate that freshly pressed look that irons create. For pleats and hard lines, irons are still the go-to.
Electric Steamers – Some people dismiss the idea of using steamers on clothes completely, because it’s argued that the steam can damage fabrics. This is especially argued with dressier clothing like men’s suits – it’s been compared to blowing smoke through curled hair. With that in mind, steamers still remain popular alternatives to irons for many reasons.
Steamers don’t need ironing boards. Anyone who’s looking to conserve space would appreciate this. They’re are also much more efficient for jobs with large fabrics, like drapes or tablecloths. Hanging these up and steaming is much easier than having to drag the fabrics over an ironing board.
Compactness aside, steamers can go over delicate fabrics such as silk and satin without causing harm. Since the hot plate doesn’t actually touch the garments it also helps protect the shape. They will save you trips to the dry cleaners, considering you can steam out wool and suits without having to take them for professional care.
Handheld vs. standing steamers
Standing steamers are larger and take up much more vertical space. They’re more geared toward high-volume steaming. If you have a lot of things you need ironed at once, then this is the route for you. High volume would mean about a dozen shirts at a time, or more heavy duty materials like wool or dress pants.
Clothing stores tend to use standing steamers because there’s no substitute for the larger capacity and speed of these models. You might want to buy one if you’ve got a big family and a large volume of clothes to steam, or have particularly difficult or delicate clothes that ironing may damage.
Handheld steamers can be convenient travel companions when you need to iron out wrinkles on the go. They can fit in suitcases and be brought along for the ride, so your clothes can get refreshed from being in garment bags. Not only that, they’re convenient for in-home wrinkle erasing. They’re also a good idea to consider for touch-ups, since you don’t have to pull out the ironing board.
How we tested
We wanted to put these steamers through the paces by testing capacities, effectiveness as well as practical use testing to discover any potential issues.
Typically, the most difficult wrinkles to remove are on thick cottons, linens and silk. So we put all three to the test on each one of these steamers. We filled each tank with water from the sink to the fill lines and got to steaming.
Jiffy - J-2000
A 3/4 gallon capacity water reservoir provided the longest steam time of around 100 minutes.
The steam time was determined by filling up the reservoir of each machine and letting it warm up. Once the machine began producing steam, we started the timer.
When the steamers ran completely out of water in the reservoirs and no longer steamed the clothes, the timer was turned off and the time was recorded. This was done in one round specifically to measure steam time.
The tests to measure effectiveness on t-shirts, dress shirts, silk and drapes were done separately.
Cotton Dress Shirts and T-Shirts
We used the same size large men’s cotton dress shirt for every steamer to measure the results. After steaming, we washed the shirt until it was entirely soaked in water, and threw it in the dryer to get it nice and wrinkled again. Imagine the level of wrinkled your mother would scold you for–that was our sweet spot. Quantitatively, there were about three major wrinkles on both the front and the back of the shirts.
After testing the results on the cotton dress shirt, large cotton men’s t-shirts were steamed to see how many shirts the steamers could steam on one full tank. The shirts were deemed “finished” when all the wrinkles, front, back and sleeves, had been steamed out.
Again, that “pressed” look couldn’t be achieved with any steamer but the Shark Press and Refresh, but the shirts were considered finished when they looked good enough to wear to your company dinner party.
Next, we wrinkled linen drapes to wrinkle them by taking them off the rods and bunching them in a pile until the wrinkles held. Then we set the steamers on them. The drapes were about 33 x 53″, and these were steamed while hanging on the curtain rods rod.They were finished when all wrinkles were removed.
Standing steamers were not ideal for ironing drapes taller than this size since it can be a stretch to reach the very top. In our test, we could reach the top of these shorter drapes to steam out any wrinkles. For anything taller than this, we recommend using the handheld steamers, or taking your drapes off the hanging rods for better accessibility.
Silk Shirts and Dresses
We wrinkled and steamed silk dresses and shirts to test effectiveness of each machine. Like in the other testing, it was deemed finished when all wrinkles were gone. Interestingly, none of the steamers, even the lower powered ones, had a difficult time with silk.
The best standing clothes steamer
The Jiffy J-2000 gets a standing ovation. Not only did the J-2000 have the longest steam time at 100 minutes, but it steamed with more power than the rest. It performed well with all the fabrics, and it did it fast. Set up was incredibly easy, and it made the actual steaming an enjoyable process too. The price tag may be a bit higher than the others but in terms of build quality, it clearly stands out.
The barebones design might make it seem like it’s missing something, but even without any attachments the Jiffy didn’t suffer in performance. In fact, the simplicity was welcomed after piecing together the extras that came with the others brands. The design itself is extremely sturdy.
The pole connected firmly into the base and stood over five feet tall, the tallest pole of all the machines, making steaming even more convenient. And if you need some attachments, its detailed handbook lists out the many that are available, from crease tools to power converters.
Jiffy - J-2000
A high quality, simplistic design, with 100 minutes of steam time and great performance.
The J-2000 steamed for a whopping 100 minutes. That basically means you can flip the Jiffy on along with your favorite movie, and the run time will be the same. We’re hoping that you won’t have that much work to do in one sitting, but if you do, the Jiffy’s got your back. The extra steam time also allows for assurance that you won’t have to rush while steaming and prolongs the time between refills.
Dress shirts were steamed in about four minutes, while the silk dress required only one pass of the steamer to remove wrinkles. The steam head is fairly wide with six holes, which provided just the right amount of steaming power. It tackled a wool sweater with no issue and took on any garment with simplicity, getting the wrinkles out easily.
The handle stayed cool while heating, a bonus for comfort level on an already well designed machine. And when you need to move the machine around a bit, all four wheels rolled easily. We didn’t have to move it much when in use, but when it was time to wheel it away, the job was simple.
The water chamber is clear, which lets you see how much water is left in the steam cycle. It’s also designed with an effective carrying handle, which made transporting to and from the sink much less awkward than its competitors.
If you don’t like ironing and have lots of stuff to steam, the Jiffy might the answer you’re looking for.
- The Jiffy J-2000 garment steamer was a standout for its sturdiness and quick steam time – it had all we wanted from a steamer.
- The Rowenta at about $100 less is a cost-effective option for people looking to save, as it does a solid job of going over clothes and straightening them out in about one pass, but the quality is clearly lower than the Jiffy.
- All of the standing steamers tested were more or less effective in de-wrinkling clothes, but the Jiffy was considerably more powerful, more efficient and less of a hassle.
The best handheld steamer
The Jiffy ESTEAM handheld steamer provides almost as much power as the larger J-2000 Jiffy Steamer, but it did so in a compact unit. Unlike the other handheld models, the steam head is square, which provides more precision for going over corners of pockets and pressing into the fabric more effectively. And unlike the majority of the others, for a smaller unit, it packed a lot of power.
First impressions on appearance aren’t leaning in the ESTEAM’s favor, but it grew on us. It sort of looks like a stylized coffee pot. Unlike the others, it doesn’t have a max fill line for the water. You just fill the chamber all the way up, which is nice and simple.
Also unlike the others, it doesn’t have a power switch, but turns on immediately when plugged in. This adds to the simplicity of the device, but if you ever want to turn it on and off during the steaming time it’s slightly more cumbersome to have to unplug the cord rather than flipping a switch. This can be a good way to make sure you just unplug it and don’t accidentally leave a unit on while plugged in.
Jiffy - ESTEAM
A high quality steamer with great results. Has a square head to steam corners, and more power than the others.
User reviews mention their Jiffy steamers lasted for years, mainly due to its sturdy design. With other steamers set to break down after a year or two, this slightly more expensive model would eventually pay for itself.
The steamer maneuvered very well, with no danger of leaking when moved around the garments. With a total steam time of nearly 20 minutes, it blows the other steamers out of the water. Especially if you’re just doing touch-ups while traveling, the steam time being one step above the rest means you’ll have more time to perfect the look of the clothes.
The ESTEAM heats up in two minutes and 20 seconds, and when it does it’s fairly calm and doesn’t shake from the bubbling inside the chamber. For a total of 19 minutes, it steamed much longer than the rest of the other handheld steamers.
In particular, it straightened out wrinkly shirt pockets quickly, a task that was difficult for most of the steamers we tested. Drapes were steamed with ease and the silk items were wrinkle free after just one pass. While it is a little on the pricier end in the handheld category, it’s a solid machine all around that warrants the price.
At three pounds, it’s light for travel. It’s slightly bigger than some of the other options, but it’s quality makes up where it lacks in compactness. Overall, this should prove to be a long lasting, effective choice for any time you need to steam either on the go or at home.
- Options like the URPOWER and Epica, for the price, will not let you down. But if you’re willing to spend a little more, Jiffy’s ESTEAM delivers better quality.
- Some models, like the Conair and the Shark, were either too much hassle or didn’t provide enough steaming power. Not every steamer steams equally–you can actually go wrong with this purchase.
- Every steamer had trouble making creases, even the ones with specific tools to attempt to create them. For that, ironing just can’t be beat.
The best travel steamer
For travel needs you’re going to want compact and quick, and that’s what the URPOWER delivers. At 1.2 pounds, it’s easy to tuck away inside a travel bag.
The URPOWER heats up quickly, another bonus for when you’re on the go and need something steamed fast. The auto turn-off is a nice bonus too–if you’re rushed and it slips your mind to turn it off, this feature prevents overheating and causing a house fire (unfortunately, we know someone this has happened to).
This compact unit is easy to pack when you travel, and does gets the job done for quick touch-ups.
The design is comfortable, and the twist off reservoir is easy to use. The water can be seen heating up right away in the small chamber. This unit takes one minute, 20 seconds to start producing steam, which is relatively quick compared to the competition.
It gives off some initial pops and creaks when first heating, but then simmers down. It required running over some garments twice to completely steam out all the wrinkles, but it did the job well.
Because the steamer is pretty small, the water chamber is also small, but it still give you around nine minutes of steam, which isn’t too shabby. The URPOWER didn’t have as much power as other contenders, but it was enough to get your shirts done.
- The hassle-free URPOWER works well and requires no pesky set-up tricks to get you on your way.
- It’s a great size for travel, with an acceptable tradeoff in steam power.
- While it may lack some power, it will eventually get all of your fabrics looking wrinkle-free.
The best budget steamer
For around 20 dollars, the Epica is a steal for its unexpectedly powerful steaming capability. It also promises a three year warranty, so you can be confident in your purchase.
It does tend to sputter upon initial plugin, but quickly recovers and starts steaming in two minutes. The steam is hot and works well, but you do get more than what you paid for. The 10 foot cord was also a nice feature, giving some extra play in the ability to move around with the steamer.
The Epica provides solid performance in a compact body as the lowest priced unit we tested.
The Epica is compact, so you can pop it into your suitcase if you’re looking to travel with it. It’s not for your heavy duty, or high volume garment steaming, but will get you through your touch-ups and typical needs.
It heated up in two minutes flat, and had a total steam time of 13 minutes. The design has a very wide steam head, which is a bonus for being able to go over larger sections quickly, but also slightly sacrifices on the ability for precision depending on what was being ironed – for shirt pockets, it required a little extra work. For drapes, it worked well and steamed out the wrinkles without difficulty.
This little guy was a pleasant surprise. It’s not the most powerful machine amongst the ones we tested so didn’t get top pick, but is simple and effective for the price. Sadly these days you can’t get much for 20 dollars, but you can get the Epica and make your clothes look like a million bucks.
- The price of the Epica is unmatched in terms of value. With a three year warranty, this is a solid purchase for anyone looking to save money.
- Performs as well as the more expensive handheld steamers we tested.
- It has a few flaws including the water spurts and some shaking while in use, but doesn’t affect the overall performance.
The others we tested
Rowenta – IS6200
The Rowenta IS6200 steamed out wrinkles well, and worked well with all fabrics. The attachments were an added bonus if you like getting fancy – we could take them or leave them. You won’t be going wrong if you choose this option, but you won’t be getting top tier in terms of quality.
Aside from being fairly difficult to take out of the box, the Rowenta made for an easy set-up. The hanger head has a handy slot where the steamer head is stored.
It boasts a 60 second heat-up time which in reality took closer to 90 seconds. A cotton men’s dress shirt took around four minutes to straighten out. It glided smoothly over the silk dress and immediately ironed out wrinkles with no more than one or two passes of the steamer. The hose of the Rowenta became noticeably hot, but never too hot to use.
The product comes with three attachments – a fabric brush, a crease attachment and a lint pad. The fabric brush didn’t make a noticeable difference from using the regular steam head, An included crease tool sets out to solve a steamer’s biggest flaw: that it it can’t create creases. The creases were visible but not as defined as when created with a typical iron.
Oddly, there was a small pool of water left in the bottom of the machine after use and removing the water tank, but it wasn’t difficult to empty out of the chamber.
The “tilt-and go” feature was slightly awkward compared to its rolling competitors. Another bonus feature is the power switch, essentially a large foot pedal that’s stepped on to activate the steamer The Rowenta works well – it’s a decent pick, but doesn’t particularly shine.
Pure Enrichment – PureSteam XL
The PureSteam XL and the Steamfast were actually very similar in design, also both clocking in at 1500 watts. The first impression of the PureSteam is that it’s definitely cute – it almost looks like a little Star Wars droid.
There was some initial concern that the tube for the steam was inflexible and was going to make it difficult to maneuver around the garments, but once the machine heated up the tube warmed up and became more bendable. The mesh covering on the outside of the hose kept it from getting hot to the touch.
The PureSteam heated up in 60 seconds, even though it advertised 45. It gave 40 minutes of steam time, and it took about five minutes to iron one shirt, making it seem slightly less powerful than its competitors. One full tank could get about eight shirts done. It performed well on silk and ironed the wrinkles out efficiently.
It also worked well on wool, even with the steaming power being a little weaker. This is a great steamer for lighter fabrics as it’s simple and easy to use, but heavier garments like thick cotton and khakis would require much more work.
Steamfast – SF-407
Again, the Steamfast and the PureSteam XL were highly comparable to one another. Either are decent picks, giving about 40 minutes of steam time and effectively steaming your clothes. The tubing is the same, the steam head rests are the same and the power is about the same.
The Steamfast didn’t come with a hanger attachment, which was a non-issue since the head for the pole was the exact same make as the PureSteam and functioned well for placing hangers.
The water tank is clear with small indents for carrying purposes that are not as handy as its competitors but still fairly easy to carry. There was a 60 second heat up time, and one tank lasted for 40 minutes. Each shirt only required a slow pass with the steam head about one time with some touch ups on problem areas like pockets or collars.
Silk wrinkles were removed with ease, and the head is fairly large and able to cover more surface without being bulky or ineffective. When the tank was about three quarters of the way empty, it started making loud gurgling noises. It didn’t hinder the performance of the steamer, but did terrify the cat.
The Steamfast only sort of lived up to its name, getting the job done at a moderate pace.
Shark Press and Refresh GS500
In a steamer, you want dependable and effective, not quirky and difficult to get to know–which is exactly what the Shark Press and Refresh was. The iron bar is neat but dangerous, and the concept of the press pad is innovative but imperfect.
The Shark Press comes with a vertical press pad, which promises easy set-up on any door. The concept that seems awesome in theory. In actual practice, it’s more or less a hassle. It also comes with a steam bonnet to place over the head of the iron, to prevent burns.
The press pads attach using adjustable handle straps that loop around the edges of the door. It doesn’t particularly work on every single door, as some of the doors we tried still graze the top part of the doorframe when open and don’t create enough space for the loop straps to fit around. The strap got stuck once, and we thought we’d have a press pad stuck to our door forever, but it eventually came free.
The steam bonnet takes fiddling with if it’s removed, which it can be to fit other parts onto it. It takes about three minutes to heat up – and you don’t know it’s heated up unless you press the handle, which is the only way to get the steam to come out, unlike the others which steam continually.
The Shark Press takes a lot of getting used to. But once it’s given a few tries, it actually proves itself to be revolutionary: because of the vertical press pad and leaning against the door, it’s a steamer that can create sharp creases. It has a lot of steaming power and was able to de-wrinkle shirts with ease, and the wrinkle remover acted basically as a quasi-iron. That being said, acting as what’s basically a tiny iron bar, it gets hot. Very hot – if you accidentally touched it, you’d get burned.
It gives 25 minutes of steam time, likely attributed to the press trigger that allows you to choose when you want to steam.
If you’re into bells and whistles, this is a viable option, but overall gave an average performance. It’s not a walk in the park to set up, and takes some skill to start using to its full effect. It was reminiscent of a good ol’ regular iron.
The PurSteam was decent, but nothing makes it really stand out. It steams your clothes and gets the wrinkles out. It’s a little shaky and can crackle occasionally, but works well enough.
If you like big silver heat resistant mittens, the PurSteam comes with one to protect your hands while ironing. This was a thoughtful inclusion, but we didn’t find it necessary.
The heating chamber is clear, and the bubbles can be seen while the device is heating up. It took two minutes for the steam to get hot, and once it became useable, the boiling of the water shook the device a noticeable amount. It calmed down after one minute of use, with the occasional crackling noise.
The steam head dribbled a small amount of water from the holes at first, which created some water spots on the shirts if the fabric was touched. It took a few passe on a cotton dress shirt, which was fully steamed in about eight minutes. In all, it gave 10 minutes of steaming time on one fill.
The PurSteam did decently well with drapes, gliding up and down and removing wrinkles with two passes. Still, it’s probably not the purchase for a perfectionist because of the average amount of steam power.
Because of its lower power and ineffectiveness, we do not recommend the Conair ExtremeSteam, no matter how cool it looks. You’ll spend a lot of time getting frustrated and not a lot of time actually ironing your clothes, so we’d opt out on this choice.
The ExtremeSteam is definitely a looker – slightly resembling the Star Trek Enterprise. And like a ship, it’s big; it’s probably not the steamer you want to take along with you on your travels. It comes with a fabric brush, creaser and soft cushion brush.
Filling the tiny water tank on this unit is difficult. When it’s plugged in, it starts buzzing loudly and steam initially dribbled out the front. The steamer has a lock on the trigger to allow you to decide if you want constant steam, or to be able to press the trigger down and only have it steam when pressed. It also has a high and a low heat setting.
Here’s the bad news, the low heat setting was like feeling the steam coming off a cooling cup of coffee. The high heat setting wasn’t better. It eventually ironed out wrinkles, but took a very long time. The head attachments weren’t effective either, as they would have required more power and hot steam to work.
When it was done steaming, like it was breathing a huge sigh of relief, it whooshed out one last puff of air and then was done. It lasted about 15 minutes. The Conair ExtremeSteam would be elected most creative for senior superlatives, but it’s not the steamer you want to buy for the sake of functionality.
The bottom line
We’ve got to hand it to Jiffy – their steamers are impressive. For a standing steamer the Jiffy J-2000 powered through garments like no others, and the Jiffy ESTEAM performed just as well in the handheld class. Get anything Jiffy and your clothes will look like new. You want steam power, a simple, no hassle experience, and quality – that’s what Jiffy will give you.
In general, most of the steamers we tested worked, with a few exceptions. You’ll want to hold off on buying from Conair and Shark, but the others will do the job if you’re not picky. Still, we recommend Jiffy for the best of the best.
Standing steamers are your go to for big projects and lots of work. They’re not stored as easily as handheld steamers, so keep that in mind when deciding. If you are looking to save some space, then look to handhelds.
While ironing is definitely a chore, steaming actually was strangely entertaining in a way. So if you’re looking for an alternative to ironing, give one of these a try – you won’t be disappointed.
Top Standing Model: Jiffy J-2000
Great build quality and a large 3/4 gallon tank provided the most steam time of all units we tested.