Steamer vs. Iron for Clothing and Linens

Steamer vs. Iron
Image by Leonid Yastremskiy / Canva

People all over America utilize clothes irons, clothes steamers, or dry cleaners to keep their clothes crisp and smooth. Getting wrinkles in your clothing is almost impossible to avoid, and most people want to remove these wrinkles to look professional and put-together. While taking your clothes to a dry cleaner is very time-effective, it may not be cost-effective for the average person. Therefore, many must choose between steaming or ironing their clothes. But what’s the real difference between the two, and which one is better for your lifestyle? If you want to learn more, let us fill you in on the basics of a clothes steamer vs. iron. 

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

How Do Irons Work?

Traditional irons work by conducting heat and steam from a metal plate via electricity. Then, by pressing that plate onto clothes, any wrinkles and fold lines smooth out, leaving you with a crisp, clean finish to your clothes.  

Irons are excellent tools to use on rumpled clothes. With the triple threat of heat, weight (of the iron itself), and steam (not all irons have steamers, but you can easily find one that does!), your wrinkled clothes don’t stand a chance. They are also relatively quick and easy to use. If you don’t have any really horrible wrinkles to get out, you can quickly go over all of your clothing in just a couple of minutes and be good to go. 

Ironing Clothes
Image by Piotr Adamowicz / Canva

One thing to be wary about with irons is that they are incredibly hot, and you can burn yourself if you aren’t careful. It can be easy to forget that you turned on your iron and then touch it without thinking. Especially with small children, keep this in mind!

Other Features to Scrutinize

Although not all of them have this feature, you can easily find an iron that doubles as a steamer. This extra functionality is perfect for those who primarily want to iron their clothes but may use steam on more delicate pieces from time to time.

Besides removing wrinkles, irons are also great for adding definition to your clothes that have pleats and creases. This is one thing that clothes steamers cannot do, making irons superior in this area. Count one win for the iron in the fight between iron vs. steamer!

On the flip side, irons are not suitable for every type of material. Fabrics such as polyester, chiffon, silk, velvet, and anything beaded should not be ironed but steamed. I guess we can’t count steamers out of this fight just yet!

IRON PROSIRON CONS
May be quicker than steamingYou can burn yourself on the hot iron
Can make clothes with pleats and creases look brand newYou can’t use it on all clothing materials
Uses heat, weight, and steam as a triple threat against wrinklesRequires an ironing board or other appropriate surface

How Does a Garment Steamer Work?

Now that you’ve learned that many irons have a steam component, you may wonder what use you could possibly have for a separate garment steamer. Well, let’s now discover all the reasons why clothes steamers are different or similar to irons! 

Clothes steamers are a great way to smooth your clothes if you don’t have a ton of space in your home. Steamers work by sending steam up a tube and through a handheld wand that releases the steam onto the clothing. The garment should be on a hanger rather than lying flat, and the wand should be held a couple of inches from the clothing, or just brushing the surface, depending on the fabric,

Steaming Clothes
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Generally speaking, steamers are ideal for delicate fabric (such as the ones we mentioned earlier in this article that irons shouldn’t be used for). Since they’re only releasing steam, steamers won’t scorch or damage delicate materials like an iron potentially could.

For those who are used to just using irons and maybe haven’t even heard of clothes steamers, yes, they do work just as well as irons at getting rid of wrinkles. 

STEAMER PROSSTEAMER CONS
Won’t damage delicate fabricYou cannot enhance creased or pleated clothing
Takes up less space than an ironing boardSomewhat slower than ironing, although it is just as effective at removing wrinkles
Works as well as an iron to remove wrinkles

Steamer vs. Iron: Commonly Asked Questions

In this section, let’s go over a couple of frequently asked questions in the great steamer vs. iron debate.

1. Are Steamers and Irons Interchangeable?

In short, no. While they are very similar, you may prefer one over the other; or you may want both. If you have a pleated skirt or creased pants, for example, you may want an iron to make sure that you seal those creases. A steamer gets rid of wrinkles, but it doesn’t enhance creases. 

2. What’s the Price Difference Between Steamers and Irons?

Steamers and irons range from about $15-40 depending on how high-end you’re willing to go. For a decent price and quality, paying $25-30 is very reasonable when purchasing an iron or steamer.

And the Winner is…

When it comes to the battle of garment steamer vs. iron, we think that irons are marginally preferable. This preference is because some irons can double as a steamer (assuming it has a steam function), but a steamer cannot do all the things an iron can. However, if space is a significant consideration for you, then a steamer may be preferable because it takes up less space and is easy to store. 

At the end of the day, both are helpful and quite handy in different situations, so, for convenience sake, it is ideal to have both. However, that is not always realistic! So, using our quick and easy guide to steamers vs. irons, you have all the information you need to select the best option for you!

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