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The differences between a clothes iron and a steamer

Stack of clothes and an iron on an ironing board

Taking care of your clothes will help you look more presentable and will also help your clothes last over time. Purchasing a clothing iron, steamer, and other products can help you care for your items, remove wrinkles, and maintain the integrity of your wardrobe. But what are the differences between irons and steamers, and which option is best for you?

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What are the characteristics of an iron and a steamer?

A clothes iron may seem similar to a steamer, especially when they both use water to press your clothes. So, what are the differences between irons and steamers, as well as the benefits and draw backs of each?

Irons: Pros and cons

Clothes irons are handheld with a metal base that press your clothes against a surface, or ironing board, to remove wrinkles. Irons are made for clothing that requires a crease, like trousers with pleats, but can be more challenging on some materials. In general, use an iron for clothes that:

  • Are made of heavier fabrics, like cotton or denim.
  • Need crisp seams and lines.

Or you can use an iron in the process of sewing to press out seams. An iron is not ideal in situations where:

  • You do not have an ironing board.
  • Materials are synthetic and have the potential to burn.
  • Styles are fluffier and less crisp, making it hard to understand where and how to create the iron pattern.

Steamers: Pros and cons

Unlike irons, steamers do not press against a surface and are handheld items that hold water and heat it up to become mist. These tools are better for delicate fabrics and to help remove odors and complex wrinkles. Steamers are ideal when:

  • You need to cover large areas like gowns, drapes, and more, as you can simply hold the steamer along a hanging item.
  • You are working with synthetic materials or delicate fabrics like linen.
  • Your clothes are wrinkly but have more complex cuts, so it's hard to press a crisp seam.

Steamers are less perfect if:

  • You need crisp pleats.
  • You are in a rush and quickly need a pressed shirt, for example.

Do I need a steamer if I have an iron?

Ultimately, irons and steamers perform different jobs, so you will want a steam iron for clothes that are delicate, and a normal iron for standard office attire and thicker materials. If you have an iron and you don’t struggle with wrinkles, you may be able to get by. However, we recommend investing in even a small steamer like the OGHom Steamer for $33.99.

Which is better: Iron or steamer?

When considering steamer vs. iron, it all comes down to the situation you are facing. Are your clothes thick and wrinkled? Are you trying to flatten a dress shirt? Or are your curtains wrinkled and hanging on your windows? For the former situations, an iron is better, whereas for the latter, you should opt for a steamer. You may even consider buying a 2-in-1 iron steamer to cover your bases.

Which is best, steam iron or dry iron?

Overall, choosing an iron with a steam function will provide you with the best results. Adding steam to the garment you are ironing will ultimately allow you to complete the job faster, so a steam iron will help.

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Justin Smith

About the author

Justin Smith has written about everything from stock market investing to electric vehicles, most recently for SuperMoney, Mulberry and EverLaw. Apart from optimizing the latest blog content and hunting for the perfect keywords, he also enjoys going on long runs.

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