A garment steamer is one of the best travel companions you can have. Ever have to travel for a business trip and realize your nice clothes are all wrinkled in the suitcase? It sucks, and it’s hard to fix in a timely manner.
A good handheld garment steamer can fix that, but how do you pick the right one for your needs?
What makes one good, and when are you getting ripped off?
Today, I’m going to help narrow that down. But if you’re in a rush, I can just tell you my favorites before we get into the nitty gritty:
In A Hurry? My Quick Picks:
How Do You Pick The Right One?
There’s a sort of sweet spot when we’re talking size. The right travel steamer will be small enough to easily pack in your suitcase, but large enough it can produce at least 10 minutes of steam (preferably).
Basically, you want it to hold at least half a cup of water without taking up too much space.
More heat is usually better…to an extent. Lower heat means less effectiveness (and more damp spots on your garments), but too high a heat can ruin your clothing as well. In general I like “dry steam” handheld garment steamers that slightly superheat their steam over the norm of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Still, it should be worth noting that the perfect travel steamer for suits is not necessarily going to be the optimal travel steamer for a wedding dress, so getting something adjustable is always better if possible.
Heat and power go hand in hand (more of the latter means more of the former, faster) but it’s worth remembering one important things: different countries have different outlets.
Make sure you check before you buy, just in case.
Brand and performance are the largest factors in cost, and that cost can vary widely. You’re looking at roughly $30 to $60 for lower end brands, but may pay up to $100 or even $200 for high end models or brands that come with all sorts of extra features.
These can include anything from the simple and utilitarian (like an on/off switch and auto off features), extra accessories (like a fabric brush, ironing paddle, or pants press), or more unique features like multiple steam settings and full blown upgrades (like being a steam press rather than just a garment steamer).
More extras usually means more cost, but it also usually means you’re getting far more bang for that buck. If you buy a more expensive garment steamer though, try to make sure it has some kind of warranty just in case.
Especially since we’re looking at a travel tool; airports are NOT gentle with your luggage, even the top ones.
That aside, let’s get to the travel steamer reviews!
Top Choices on the Market
|1||Conair Turbo ExtremeSteam||Overall||Buy on Amazon|
|2||DR8120 X-Cel||Rowenta||Buy on Amazon|
|3||SF-680||Steamfast||Buy on Amazon|
|4||Travel Steam Press||Sunbeam||Buy on Amazon|
|5|| HS-04/T 1000W||Salav||Buy on Amazon|
|6||1901||Jiffy||Buy on Amazon|
Handheld Garment Steamers Review By Brand
Conair: Turbo ExtremeSteam Advanced
The top portable steamer Conair has to offer…
…And the perfect one on the market as well. This is a great handheld steamer, and a leg up over the Rowenta. It uses 1550 watts of power (great for a handheld) and has about the same tank size as the above Rowenta (7.3 ounces, released over about 15 minutes of operating time).
In terms of extras it has a few attachments (a fabric spacer and bristle brush, as well as a silicone band), an on/off switch, and a “turbo” setting as well as a stainless steel “iron” head.
Basically, it has almost the exact same performance as the Rowenta we’ll talk about in a moment…but it’s only a bit over $60.
Same performance but a lower price?
DR8120 X-Cel Powerful Stainless Steel Heated Soleplate, 1600-Watts
A good option from Rowenta.
When I think of Rowenta I usually think of their upright models, not handheld. But this is a very solid outing despite that.
It clocks in at an impressive 1600 watts of power, with a 190 mL (a bit over ¾ of a cup) tank that heats in 40 seconds. It has one of the longer cords I’ve see in a portable travel steamer (over 9 feet or 3 meters) and does have a few different steam settings, though more in the steam OUTPUT department rather than the steam heat.
The heated plate is quite nice and boasts being able to be used at any angle without having to worry about condensation. Its suite of included attachments (including a crease attachment and fabric brush) make the price (around $70) much easier to swallow.
While not THE optimal portable fabric steamer I’ve seen, it is absolutely one of them, and deserves consideration. The only rub is that the Conair Turbo ExtremeSteam performs better for the same price, so it’s hard to give this one a wholehearted recommendation unless you can’t get the Conair (or find this one on a deep discount somewhere).
SF-680 Digital Press with Multiple Settings and Burst Function
Comparing this to the others is a little unfair.
I’ll say this right now: this is the best portable clothes steamer around.
It outperforms every other travel steamer on this list by a wide margin in that regard. The only thing it suffers for is being incapable of use for, say, sanitizing sheets in your hotel room.
Other than that, though, it has a very large tank for a travel steamer (1.25 cups), with a fairly slow heat up of 3 minutes. It has 5 separate settings for different fabrics, and can be used as either a simple iron press or release a short burst of steam as many times as needed.
The main sticking points here are price and size: it can run you near to $300, and it weighs 24 lbs. It’s definitely still a travel steamer (if not the perfect travel clothes steamer), but more in the sense of “packed in your big luggage” than “overnight stay in a hotel”.
The price is well worth it for the performance, but it is, admittedly, a whole different beast than the others on this list. For that, I’ve set it aside the normal consideration for “best overall”, and it will receive an honorable mention of “best with an asterisk”.
The most excellent small travel steamer you’re likely to find.
This one I feel hits that “sweet spot” between use and bulk. It’s tiny, but works pretty well, having a 45 second heat up time with 15 minutes of continuous use (about a half cup of water).
A lot of its features are pretty standard: heated nozzle and optional fabric brush and other attachments (though those have a bit of an issue).
However, there are two simple quality of life extras that push it up in my opinion: “wait and ready” lights (so many steamers lack such a simple tell, instead relying entirely on you knowing when time is up) and a trigger lock so you don’t have to continuously hold down the trigger while you’re using it.
This will run you between $50 and $60 on its own…though I’m docking it points here.
The issue I mentioned with the attachments?
They’re expensive, adding somewhere between $10 and $15 to the cost for each. It’s a great value on its own, but the attachments are way overpriced, and many (I’d say even MOST) handheld garment steamers come with a few by default.
This outperforms a fair few travel steamers but not by enough I can justify that price hike, unfortunately. If you want the fabric brush or creaser attachments, steer clear.
Salav’s best portable hand steamer is good, but has some hefty drawbacks.
Let’s talk about the good first.
This hand steamer has an INCREDIBLE heat output, with a high setting putting out 302 degree steam, and a low setting going for a more standard temperature. This makes it a great dry steamer and perfect for sanitizing or for when you really need to steam something quick and get out the door with it on FAST.
It’s a compact design, and a compact price as well: less than $40.
Unfortunately the tradeoff here is tank size and operating time. It only has an 80 mL tank (about 1/3 cup) and a 5 minute operating time.
Basically, it puts out a very high volume of very hot steam, but you have a similarly small window to actually use the thing in.
This makes it great for steaming clothes…but not much else. You simply won’t have time to steam a bed, or curtains, or anything else large without refilling it a bunch.
Still, for the price that deficiency can be somewhat overlooked, but the small tank size could be quite frustrating if you end up buying this. Maybe better as a backup “emergency” option for when you really need a fast, hot steamer and another one can take over your primary steamer role.
1901 Pink ESTEAM
Suffers from being outdated and overpriced.
There’s nothing particular to write home about here. It has a fairly large 8 oz (1 cup) tank…and that’s about it- 600 watts of power, and as simplistic a design as possible.
It doesn’t double as an iron, it has no on/off switch or auto shutoff, no adjustable steam temperature (and not a particularly great temperature to start) or anything else to recommend it. it’s bulky, ugly…and quite overpriced, at over $70.
There’s not really any circumstance under which I could recommend this over any of the other units on this list.
I think there are a couple of clear winners over the other here. For top small travel steamer Conair’s Turbo ExtremeSteam edges out the Salav QuickSteam and Sunbeam for having a bigger tank than the former, and being cheaper than the latter.
All three are good, and any one could potentially be considered the best portable steamer on the market for various reasons, but the Conair takes it for me due to a combo of its pricing, size, and performance.
The SteamFast steam press , of course, outperforms everything else…but it’s an entirely different beast and sets a standard all its own in that regard. If you just need one for clothes, consider getting that, but the other three mentioned here are better for more general purpose and day to day use.