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After a year spent cooped up indoors, many Americans are looking for new (or improved) tech to elevate their time at home, from smart technology like bulbs and speakers to modernized appliances like steamers. These cleaning tools have been around for years, but are receiving more universal adoption as of late, offering shoppers a more eco-friendly, effective way to clean your home.
“Steamers can do such a multitude of things,” explained Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and host of CleanMySpace on YouTube. “It’s really an all in one. You get clean clothes and a clean house.”
If you’re thinking of buying a steamer, here’s what experts recommend knowing, from key features some of the best steamers to consider right now. You can also find steamers at our reader-favorite retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy, among others.
Should you get a steamer?
While both use steam, steamers are different and more versatile than clothing irons. Irons use a flat, heated surface to remove clothing wrinkles. Steamers emit a jet of steam out in front of you via a handheld head attached to a water tank. Steamers typically work better on fabrics that can’t be laid out on an ironing board, and can be used on many different surfaces. You can even use a steamer as a replacement for certain cleaning products, too.
Certain cleaning chemicals can cause irritation, explained Kenneth Mendez, CEO and president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Steamers offer a chemical-free way to clean and disinfect appliances and difficult dirt and grease that builds up on your stovetop or the grout in your bathroom, said Maker.
There are two different types of steamers: Handheld steamers and standing steamers. The main difference between the two is size
- Handheld steamers are often compact and travel-friendly.
- Standing steamers are larger, will typically hold more water and can therefore last longer without a refill.
They also use more power, take up more space and are often more effective in getting out tough wrinkles.
How to shop for a steamer
Steamers come with different water tank sizes, which determines how long you can use the steamer without a refill. Some steamers may take longer to heat up, which can add up over time for regular users. Prices range from $25 to over $200 — you’ll mostly get what you pay for, said Maker, so if you plan to use your steamer often, it may be worthwhile to invest in a higher-quality steamer: “I’m a huge fan of buying the better model and buying it only once. You don’t want to save money now, but then have it break in six months.” Some steamers come with additional features like steam settings, heat adjustments and attachments.
The water in a steamer can reach upward of 300 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning improper use can be quite dangerous, said Laura Dellutri, a home and lifestyle expert.
- When using a steamer on clothes, put the item on a hanger and keep the steamer upright.
- When cleaning or disinfecting, make sure to angle the steamer away from you.
- And while it may seem smart to put your own cleaning mixture in the steamer’s tank, Maker advised sticking to water — some chemicals could damage the interior of the product.
Best steamers of 2021
To help you find the right steamer for you, here are some highly-rated handheld and standing steamers across price points.
This popular handheld steamer uses 1,400 watts, holds 7.4 ounces of water and heats up in less than a minute. It comes with an extra-long cord (15 feet) and multiple attachments for different types of fabrics or surfaces, including delicates, upholstery and lint. This steamer has a safety auto-shutoff feature after 15 minutes of inactivity, and has two steam functions: continuous and burst.
This highly-rated handheld steamer is compact and affordable. It can heat up water in around 40 seconds and holds 7.3 ounces of water. Unique to Conair’s steamer is the steamer plate on the front, which can be used as an iron if need be. This model comes with two steam settings, standard and turbo, and is powered by a 9-foot cord for easy mobility.
This 1,300-watt standing steamer has a 0.75-gallon water tank, enough water to steam for up to an hour and a half. This steamer takes one to two minutes to heat up, has one standard steam setting and has a durable plastic outer coating for safety. It also has an auto shutoff feature for safety, a 360-degree swivel for mobility while you clean and a 7-foot power cord.
Maker recommends Reliable as a durable, high-quality steamer brand — this standing model comes with a one-gallon water tank (one of the largest we’ve seen), wheels, a 5-foot-plus hose and a removable hanger to easily hang your clothes. It can reach up to 203 degrees Fahrenheit, has one standard steam setting and uses 1,300 watts. The Vivio also comes with a removable steam brush and an auto shut-off feature when water runs out or overheats.
This standing steamer is a more affordable option for those who want the size and power of a standing steamer without the high price tag. It has a half-gallon tank, providing over 60 minutes of steam, and has one standard continuous steam setting. This model has an adjustable bar that can extend up to 53 inches for larger garments or hard-to-reach areas, and a cord that can extend over six feet. It also has an auto shut-off feature and uses 1,500 watts.
This sleekly-designed travel steamer is pricier than other models, but can heat up in only 25 seconds and provides up to eight minutes of steam. This model uses 1,500 watts, has one standard steam setting and comes with a heat-resistant storage pouch for traveling or storage. It comes in different colors, including black, pink and navy, and can be used on all types of fabrics, including bedding, pillows, clothes and curtains.