Do portable clothes steamers really work? Experts explain how to effectively use one to remove creases

Is this handy appliance replacing irons?

Portable handheld clothes steamer on tabletop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Portable clothes steamers have quickly risen as a must-have household appliance, especially capturing the interest of those who loathe the laborious task of ironing. However, considering how compact and easy they are to use, you might have some scepticism surrounding whether portable clothes steamers really work.

The good news is, yes; clothes steamers do work. In fact, some of the best clothes steamers offer so many positives including the ability to effortlessly remove creases in minutes, being travel-friendly, and being compact enough to easily store that they've become preferred over even the best steam irons on the market.

So, as the steaming vs ironing debate continues to circulate and you find yourself down the rabbit hole of figuring out whether investing in a portable clothes steamer is right for you, we've asked experts to explain how exactly they work and tips for effectively using one.

Portable handheld clothes steamer on tabletop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do portable clothes steamers really work?

As we've mentioned above, yes, portable clothes steamers do work. 'They work by using hot steam to relax the fabric fibres to ultimately straighten the fabric,' begins Thomas Bird, materials expert at Fabric Online.

'Very much in the same way as standard steam cleaners, they turn water into steam by heating it and then release steam through the nozzle into the fabric.'

'The steam works by rapidly penetrating the fabric, allowing the wrinkles to loosen and the clothes to regain their natural shape without direct contact with a hot iron,' further explains Henrique Conceicao, area manager at cleaning services, Total Clean. This helps to smooth out wrinkles and instantly freshens up the look of any garment.

Portable handheld clothes steamer on tabletop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since portable clothes steamers can heat up fairly quickly and can pretty much be used anywhere so long as it's within eyeshot of an outlet, this is what'll often make them a far more desirable purchase for those in need of a quick fix and don't fancy bringing out the full ironing board set-up. When travelling, this is especially handy.

Not to mention it's also far easier to find a place to store a portable clothes steamer than trying to figure out ironing board storage solutions if you live in an already small home. However, the benefit of this ease and portability also comes with its caveats.

'Portable clothes steamers may be effective at removing light-to-moderate wrinkles from various fabrics, but they tend to struggle against larger creases,' remarks Henrique. 'In my experience, they tend to work best on delicate materials, such as silk, chiffon and wool, where traditional ironing techniques are known to cause damage,' he adds.

So, if even after following tried and tested ironing tips you still find yourself struggling with these certain materials, picking up a clothes steamer could be worth the purchase.

Portable handheld clothes steamer on tabletop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to effectively use a portable clothes steamer

To get the most out of your portable clothes steamer, Thomas recommends first and foremost hanging the clothes you want to steam from a hook or clothes hanger. 'This gives you complete, 360-degree angles to work with, and the weight of the clothes will also help lessen creases,' he explains.

'To maximise the efficiency of your portable clothes steamer, I recommend keeping the device filled with clean water (distilled water for an even crisper finish) and leaving it sufficient time to warm up before use,' adds Henrique.

'Disperse the steam evenly across the fabric, while being careful to hold the steamer a few inches away so water droplets don't have a chance to form on the garment. When tackling stubborn wrinkles, simply stretch the fabric while steaming for a smoother finish,' concludes Henrique.

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Are portable steamers worth it?

Yes, portable steamers are definitely worth it, proving themselves as worthy investments that are great for travel and smoothing out lighter creases and wrinkles on smaller garments of clothing.

Do clothes steamers work as well as irons?

If your main intention is to simply remove creases and wrinkles from garments, then it's safe to say that clothes steamers can work as well as irons in that department alone. This proves true to the argument that irons are losing steam as a once essential appliance.

However, one thing that a steamer cannot so easily replicate is the crisp, pressed finish that an iron offers which might be more desirable for formal clothing and larger household items like fitted sheets and duvets.

To conclude, portable clothes steamers are a valuable addition to your garment care and maintenance routine. That said, we don't quite think you should completely abandon a perfectly functioning steam iron in place of a clothes steamer.

Rather, we believe that both an iron and portable clothes steamer are best used in tandem with one another to tend to different purposes.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.