IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Experts share the do's and don'ts of steaming your clothes

We've also found some of the best steamers for a wrinkle-free wardrobe.
Getty Images

How many times have you pulled an item from your wardrobe and had to pivot your outfit decisions because it is all wrinkled? Crease-free garments allow you to have a ready-to-wear experience without the extra hassle of doing last-minute chores, plus it will make your outfits look naturally crisp and neat.

Even if you're used to smoothing out your fabrics on an ironing board, a clothing steamer is a quality alternative for tackling stubborn creases and reviving the texture of your clothes.

Shop TODAY talked to experts about the best steaming practices and how to properly use this household gadget. We also rounded up some of the best clothing steamers available that won't take up space and make clothing care more effortless.

Steamer vs. iron | How to use | Do's and don'ts | Can I use tap water with a steamer? | Steamers to shop | Meet the experts

What's the difference between steamers and irons?

A steamer uses water and the heat of the vapor to remove wrinkles and odor-causing bacteria. Steamers are also better at softening the wrinkles on silk, cotton, cashmere and other delicate fabrics that are prone to wrinkling faster.

On the other hand, an iron uses heat and pressure from the tool to remove creases and wrinkles. Irons have a water reservoir that allows some steam into the fabric to make your pleats and cuffs look crisper. The small appliance is better to use on heavy-duty fabrics like denim and linen when you need extra pressing. Nori co-founders Courtney Toll and Annabel Love also mention that irons are better for thicker materials because it "will treat [wrinkles] much easier with the weight of an iron versus a steamer, which could be more difficult to relax the wrinkles.”

How to use a clothing steamer

According to Amy McMullen, lead educator at the patterning tech company Ditto, you'll want to hang up your garment while steaming so it doesn't touch the floor and closely follow its care instructions. "Any fabric that says 'do not wash' or 'dry clean only,' I wouldn’t use a steamer with," she emphasizes.

Carmen Lopez, a retail expert who has over 15 years of experience in the style and secondhand shopping realm, recommends a slow, steady approach when it comes to steaming your garment. "Start from the top and move slowly over each area with the steamer until you reach the bottom of the item. It's important to hold the top of the steamer a few inches away from the fabric."

For dewrinkling thicker fabrics, you'll want to steam from the inside to get a better look at the material from the outside during the process.

Another helpful tip from Lopez for optimal steaming? "I recommend gently shaking the fabric out or holding the fabric straight out with a little tug in certain areas as you steam to relax the fabric fibers. Continue this process until all the wrinkles are resolved."

Steaming do's and don'ts

When steaming a garment, there are some do's and don'ts Lopez suggests keeping in mind.


  • Consider steaming the item multiple times. "For stubborn wrinkles, you may need to steam the item two to three times. On the first steam, make sure to let the item dry out for about 15 minutes to help loosen up the fabric fibers. Then, steam it a second time to further loosen the wrinkles until they are gone."
  • Test a small hidden area of the fabric before steaming. "You could do this by choosing a small section of the article of clothing, ideally in an area you won't be able to see the test if it results in damage. This will allow you to determine if the steamer is at the correct temperature."
  • Be sure to hang the item up high and away from the floor. "For instance, hanging the item on the back of the bedroom or bathroom door is a safe bet."


  • Use a steamer directly on fabric because you could risk damaging it. "I recommend gently hovering the steamer over the garment, a couple of inches away, as opposed to pressing against it. This will still release the wrinkles and protect your clothing from being burned by the steamer."
  • Steam leather, suede or anything that could get damaged by extreme heat.
  • Steam items that have sequins, intricate beading, shiny metallics or embellishments.

Can I use tap water with a steamer?

You can use tap water with a steamer. However, Love and Toll highly recommend filtered water when steaming.

"The preference is to use filtered water because all of the sediments in tap water can calcify. So when you’re boiling the water, any sediments will gather up in the steamer," says Toll.

Best clothing steamers, according to shoppers

Beautural Portable Handeld Steamer

This bestselling steamer is designed to remove wrinkles in one or two swipes. Plus, it has a leak-free design that heats up in 30 seconds, according to the brand.

One Shop TODAY writer said this affordable steamer has lasted him for a long time and that the tank doesn't have to be filled constantly. "One of my favorite features of this model is a trigger-like button that allows you to pause the flow of steam in between garments, meaning that you're never wasting any of the water in the tank."

Rowenta Handheld Steamer

For ease and convenience, this handheld steamer features an ergonomic design that makes it easy to maneuver. This steamer has a stable base so you can store it in the cabinet or closet.

According to customers, this laundry tool works like a charm and heats up in less than a minute. "I was pleasantly surprised to learn this steamer was designed for tap water. From unboxing to use, it took very little time. It’s very simple to use," said one reviewer.

Conair Pro Handheld Steamer

Tackle pesky creases with this bestselling handheld steamer that heats up in 60 seconds. Thanks to the small design, you can easily store this in your luggage or bag if you need to finesse your fit while on the move. The steamer comes with a small water tank that gives you up to 15 minutes of steam job. Also, it comes with a built-in trigger that provides constant steam up to 170°F.

Electrolux Handheld Garment Steamer

If laundry days are already too busy, this garment steamer is a convenient choice. The handheld device features electromagnetic steam pump technology to remove tough creases and a shut-off feature to ensure maximum safety when you're away. The heavy-duty ceramic plate and adjustable steam setting will deliver smooth results to your wardrobe.

Steamfast SF-520 Full Size Fabric Steamer

For those that need extra hanging space, this fabric steamer will hang up your clothes neatly. This tool is equipped with a cool-touch insulated hose, a telescopic pole, an easy-to-fill water tank and a hanger holder. It heats up in 45 seconds and provides up to 63 minutes of continuous steam, according to the brand.

Customers love how portable it is and the dry cleaning results this steamer offers. " If you are using it with any shirts or any clothes that say iron free, then this thing works like magic, I mean I don't even touch the shirt and just go down and it is straightening out in front of my eyes," said one Amazon reviewer.

Nori Press Steamer

This model was designed to combat the most common leakage problems from traditional steamers. The Nori steamer was created with an iron and steamer in mind. It's made from a polycarbonate blend that helps diffuse heat and aluminum plates to ensure a proper steaming experience. It's also compact enough to carry in your suitcase!

Steamery Cirrus No. 3 Steamer

Another favorite steamer approved by shoppers is the Cirrus No. 3 by Steamery. This one is a hybrid between a steamer and an iron, featuring an ironing plate that heats up to the same temperature as the lowest setting on an iron. It has a smooth surface and comes with a cover to protect the plate.

This steamer is great to smooth out the edges of a shirt and other corners. While it's pricier than others, this steamer just takes 25 seconds to heat up. You can also use an ironing board for thicker textiles that need pressing.

Meet the experts

  • Courtney Toll is the co-founder and CEO of Nori, an innovative handheld steam iron designed to remove the hassle from ironing. After raising $300,000 from family and friends on weekends and after work, Toll left her job in September 2019 to pursue the creation of the company.
  • Annabel Love is the co-founder and COO of Nori. Love leads supply chain management, product development and distribution, overseeing 100,000+ cycles of regulatory testing, the UL certification process as well as the company's logistical go-to-market strategy.
  • Amy McMullen is Ditto's lead educator, a brand offering digital pattern-making for sewers. Ditto is the first-ever digital pattern projection system for sewists.
  • Carmen Lopez is a retail expert and the founder of Current Boutique. She has over 15 years of experience in the retail fashion industry as a designer vintage and secondhand business owner.