Fabric Steamer or Clothes Iron. Which is Best for You?

How many people can actually say that they like to iron their clothes? It’s one of those chores that fails to generate a lot of enthusiasm. However, one thing is for sure—most people don’t like wrinkled clothes especially heading out on a first date, a hot job interview or any other time when you want to look your best.

When it comes to getting the kinks out of clothes and other fabrics, such as curtains and tablecloths, the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional iron. But, there’s another tool that’s been around for a while that’s rapidly gaining in popularity, mostly because it's lighter, more powerful and easier to use than ever before. We’re talking about the fabric steamer, also referred to as a clothes steamer, garment steamer or just plain steamer.

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The Steamer vs. the Iron in a head-to-head competition

Stick around and we’ll give you the pros and cons of both the clothing steamer and the iron. Find out which one is best for you and take a close look at some great choices available from Conair, the number one brand in garment steamers.

The Steamer – Versatile and Easy to Use

The garment steamer offers distinct advantages that even the best clothing iron just can’t touch. To use a steamer, the clothes are placed on hangers and suspended from a rod or hook rather than laid flat on an ironing board. Once the steam has reached full temperature and the pressure is ready to release, you simply pass the steam jet over the entire surface of the item, paying special attention to heavily wrinkled areas. Gravity assists in the de-wrinkling process by gently stretching the fibers in the fabric as you pass the jet of steam over the garment. The steam penetrates the fibers, relaxing them and removing odors leaving the fabric fresher and wrinkle free. A flat iron can’t do that.

Steamers are especially effective on clothing that has sewn-in beads, sequins and other ornamental accents that cannot pass under a hot iron. Steamers are also best for garments that have ruffles, lace, or screen-printed artwork that is too delicate for the intense heat of a flat iron.

The Conair® Turbo ExtremeSteam® is a handheld fabric steamer with advanced technology. Its state-of-the-art features rival the performance of a clothes iron. Powerful, portable and hot enough to smooth out wrinkles fast, it’s perfect for people who want to make quick work of garment care. The Turbo setting gives you an extra burst of power for heavy fabrics and tough wrinkles, plus a built-in creaser and attachments enable you to handle any type of garment.

The conair turbo extremesteam gs38 width=
The Conair® Turbo ExtremeSteam® (GS38)

More Than Just a Steamer for Clothing

The steamer is useful for more than just getting the wrinkles out of fabrics. It’s great for freshening up things like mattresses, shoes, pet beds, wastebaskets and doormats. Steaming might also help make it easier to clean larger items that are difficult to wash by softening soiled areas and stains on items such as pillows, furniture and children’s toys. In places where dust mites lurk, such as mattresses, bedding and carpets, a good seasonal steaming, followed by a thorough vacuuming can kill them and take them away. The truth is that much of the cleaning and disinfecting are quite invisible to the naked eye, but it works.

The Conair® Ultimate Fabric Steamer is a high-powered floor model with extended steam time for big jobs. Unlike the handheld units, this one features a cool-touch insulated hose and T-nozzle. A garment pole extends vertically from the floor unit and has a garment hanger at the top with clips for pants to suspend clothing items for steaming. It also has a removable, easy-to-fill, large capacity water tank. You can see all the details of the Ultimate Fabric Steamer on the Conair website.

Conair ultimate fabric steamer gs28
Conair® Ultimate Fabric Steamer (GS28)

In Defense of the Clothing Iron

Now that we’ve laid out such a spectacular profile for the fabric steamer, it’s time to let the good old-fashioned clothes iron have some time in the sun. The iron has been around for a long time with first appearances of fabric smoothing being recorded by archeologists as far back as the 1st century BC in China. These were little more than metal pans filled with hot coals. They slowly evolved into cast iron blocks with pointed front ends, and handles used to grip them—they were heated on fireplaces and stoves. The first electric iron appeared in New York City around 1882 and eventually achieved widespread popularity with the introduction of steam! The steam iron is now the iron of choice for most consumers.

The clothing iron is almost always used with an ironing board. There are ways to get around that, such as ironing on a bed or on a table covered with a tablecloth or two, but an ironing board is the best way to go. For most of us, the iron and the ironing board with its narrow profile and taper on one end, are inseparable for ironing shirt sleeves, pant legs and dresses.

The most useful feature of the iron and the ironing board is the ability to press creases into the fabric precisely where you want them, especially in trousers, jackets, shirts and other garments that look best with perfectly straight, crisp creases. Some proponents of the iron say that this is something that a clothes steamer doesn’t do quite as well. The iron can also do a spectacular job on shirt collars, cuffs on sleeves, and pleated dresses and skirts that simply look best with a firm pressing.

The Conair® ExtremeSteam® Pro Steam Iron is a smart looking example of a steam iron with lots of features and functionality. It has 1875 watts of power, heats up in 49 seconds and can steam for up to 15 minutes on a full water tank. It features nano titanium soleplate technology for a smooth glide, even heat distribution and corrosion resistance. It has an adjustable steam setting dial, an anti-calcium buildup protector and auto shutoff for safety. Plus, it has vertical steam capability so the iron can be used like a fabric steamer.

The conair extremesteam pro steam iron (GI300)
The Conair® ExtremeSteam® Pro Steam Iron (GI300)

Clothes irons are available in two types, the dry iron and the steam iron. A dry iron simply applies heat as you press it over the garment. It is often used with a spray bottle of water to mist over the fabric before passing the iron over the surface. This fact alone seems to indicate that heat and moisture are the best combination for efficient wrinkle removal. The steam iron handles this effectively with steam jets on the soleplate of the iron that eject steam into the fabric as you iron. Many steam irons also have a spray feature that activates at the press of a button to spread a water mist ahead of the iron for added moisture where needed for stubborn wrinkles.

The steam iron tends to be larger compared to the dry iron because of the built-in water supply tank and steam jet components. Dry irons are great for travel because they are lighter and smaller. Some are made specifically for travel with folding handles and dual voltage capability.

Which One Works Faster, the Fabric Steamer or Clothes Iron?

It has been said by many that steaming is quicker than ironing. Truthfully, the effectiveness of a steamer depends on its power and the technique used by the person operating it. There are some folks who can iron clothes super-fast—again it all depends on the technique. The steamer does not require you to set up an ironing board and you don’t have to constantly reposition the garment when using a steamer. Clothes can be steamed on hangers which speeds up the process.

So, it’s a toss-up. In a head-to-head competition, the odds are in favor of the steamer being the fastest for removing wrinkles because of the quick set-up time. Plus, the steamer does so much more than just remove the wrinkles, it purifies and freshens the fabric.

The Final Verdict

After careful consideration of both the fabric steamer and the clothes iron, it seems reasonable to conclude that both items handle fabric maintenance a bit differently. We must conclude that the steamer can handle certain tasks a little better than the iron, and conversely the iron has certain advantages over the steamer for some jobs. Therefore, for someone very particular about clean, smart looking clothes, there’s a place for both in their garment care arsenal. Although you can probably survive quite nicely with either a steamer or an iron, one doesn’t necessarily replace the other. Take a look at the fabulous selection of garment care appliances available from Conair at conair.com. In the end, the choice is yours!