Steamer vs. Iron: Which One Should You Use and Why?

People love steamers because they’re portable, easy to use, and relatively safer than irons. Others (including myself) prefer the higher efficiency of irons, especially when you want to create crisp creases. 

But if you ask me, the duel between steamers vs. irons comes down to the fabric you want to unwrinkle. How? Let’s see!  

Setup: Steamers Have Few to No Requirements

The best thing about steamers is that they don’t require any fancy accessories. To start steaming, you just have to put your garment on a hanger and then mount it on an over-door hook. Better yet, if you own a clothes rack, you’ll need nothing but a hanger. 

If you haven’t bought a steamer yet, you can even get a model with a built-in stand. This way, you can steam your clothes virtually anywhere around the house. 

On the other hand, you should always use an ironing board to get the most out of an iron. If that’s not available, you’ll have to search high and low for a flat, sturdy surface that can withstand direct heat (good luck with that!)

Efficiency: Irons Take Less Time to Finish

Although a steamer can be set up in a minute, it takes ages to remove wrinkles, especially with thick garments. Even if you buy a brawny 1600-Watt steamer, it’ll need about 10–15 seconds to unwrinkle each section of your garment. 

But let’s assume that you have enough time to spare; can a steamer ultimately yield the same results as an iron? No. Not by a long shot! Irons can create crisp creases and accentuate pleats, whereas steamers can only remove wrinkles. 

Maintenance: Steamers Need Less Cleaning 

As you use your iron, the heat inevitably burns some tiny fibers. With time, those burnt bits will accumulate into unsightly gunk, which can snag or stain your favorite garments. And let’s not forget that the plate can also rust due to moisture, resulting in a higher possibility of fabric damage. 

Luckily, you can clean your iron with simple household items, such as vinegar and baking soda. But if you’re aiming for zero maintenance, you should definitely get a steamer. 

There’s a crucial catch here, though. You must fill up your steamer with distilled water if you don’t want to hassle with cleaning. Tab water will deposit tiny minerals inside your steamer, which will eventually detract from the steam power. 

Ideal Fabrics for Steamers and Irons 

The delicate nature of steamers is ideal for: 

  • Silk
  • Wool 
  • Cashmere
  • Light cotton
  • Velvet
  • Corduroy

Just like any power tool, steamers have varying heat capacities. If you drive your steamer on the highest setting, you might damage any of the previous fabrics. So refer to your model’s manual before use. 

Irons are perfect for thicker fabrics like: 

  • Linen
  • Cotton 
  • Denim 
  • Canvas
  • Denim

The Final Word 

As you saw, irons and steamers are both important. If money isn’t an issue, I highly recommend getting both so you can rock any style with any fabric. 

If you have a tight budget, you can opt for a hybrid model, like the Conair Turbo. This machine is basically a steamer, but its nozzle is covered with an aluminum plate, just like that of an iron. 

It even comes with a fabric spacer to protect delicate fabric, and a bristle brush to loosen heavier ones.