The Ultimate Guide to Buying Handheld Clothes Steamer in 2019

In a previous update, I wrote about the most sought after handheld clothes steamers in 2019 and why they’re worth your time and attention.

Today I’m following up with another post which will be focusing on the UTILITY and cost implication of handheld clothes steamers. That way, you can make informed purchasing decisions while enjoying a pleasurable steaming experience.

Let’s dive right in.

How to Choose the Best Handheld Clothes Steamers

  • Heat-up Time: Your time is precious, therefore, you can’t afford to buy a cloth steamer that takes forever to heat up especially when you have a client to catch, business meetings to attend, and other important issues to deal with. As a result, you want to go for a steamer whose heat up time isn’t more than 60 seconds. As you can see from the comparison chart above, the majority of the steamers on our list heat up in 60 seconds or less. Beautural even heats up in 30 freaking seconds! The only odd one out is the Urpower–with heat up time at 120 seconds (which is still not bad anyway considering you might wait longer if you were to be using an iron).
  • Steam Duration: This is how long a steam iron can continuously produce steam once it is fully heated. Steamers with longer steam time (Sunbeam and Beautural from our comparison chart have the longest steam duration–15 minutes, while Ebest and Steamfast having the shortest steam duration–7 minutes) are the most preferable; they are perfect for conditions where you have to steam more than one outfit.
  • Weight: Five of the ten handheld steam iron listed in our comparison chart weigh 1.2 lbs–using them for some minutes won’t lead to aches in the hands. Lightweight steamers usually have smaller water capacity, as well as shorter steam duration.
  • Price: The price of our best handheld steamers ranges between 15-85 dollars. It makes sense to find a middle ground as very cheap models could wear out easily.
  • Wattage: The higher the wattage, the powerful the steam. However, a larger wattage steamer will have a large water capacity, longer steam duration, but will be less portable. Faster steam build-up time and higher steam flow will save you a lot of time.

Differences Between Handheld Clothes Steamers and the Upright/Floor Model Garment Steamers 

Price. Price for most personal/household handheld cloth steamers hovers around 15 and 85 dollars. Price for floor model/upright/standing steamers can start anywhere from 50 to over 200 dollars.

Size and Weight. The best handheld steamer for clothes are usually compact in size and weight, therefore, they are an excellent choice for travel. The full-size, heavy-weight features of the upright steamers make them unfriendly for travel.

Steam Strength and Output. Because of the limitations in water tank capacity and size, handheld clothes steamers are unable to put out (steam duration typically last 5 – 15 minutes) enough continuous pressure for heavily wrinkled or thick clothes. Conversely, standing steamers are able to put out (up to 45 minutes or more) full, powerful, continuous steam that can get rid of the most stubborn creases from thicker materials.

Heat-up Time. Handheld steamers water tanks are smaller, so the water heats up super fast (sometimes under twenty seconds). The standing steamers have larger tanks and heat-up time can start from one minute and up.

Needs and Usage. Handheld steamers put out steam that is perfect for quick touch-ups and may not be used constantly. Whereas the commercial-grade garment steamers are made for more intentional ironing reason they are more suited for professional and frequent usage (think Jiffy-4000 garment steamer or the Rowenta IS9200 fabric steamer).

Buying and Using Your Travel and Handheld Steamer: Managing Expectations

If you see your steamer of choice as you pour through our list, having clicked through, you will want to browse around on the product page and ensure you have a clear understanding of what the product can and can’t do.

That mentioned, don’t set your expectations too high as this could bring disappointment.

While great for removing wrinkles, any one of the best handheld steamers listed in this guide won’t replace iron for getting those crisp collars, seams and such.

You may apply some level of pressure against the fabric with the steamer, but it’s still not comparable to using, say, a professional clothes steamer (with a lot more steam power) or even pressing a hot iron to the spot to get the desired effect. Though any one of the handheld steamers will suffice if your desired result is just a quick spruce-up for a ready-to-go outfit.

That mentioned all 10 products listed in this guide get wrinkles out of fairly wrinkled clothing plus steaming session ranges between 5 and 15 minutes per fill.

Do also keep in mind that lighter weight fabrics are done very quickly while heavier fabrics may take a little more time.

Expectedly so, for a handheld cloth steamer, the water tank will be small and steam output, which is just enough, as such the need for multiple refilling for multiple items of clothing.

Guess a travel steamer was meant to be easy to pack in your carry on bag? So don’t sweat the size.

If you run out of water in between sessions, refill and in about two minutes your steamer is ready for steaming again.

You also want to understand that items may be smaller in size when they arrive than they actually looked on the product page. You have to do your due diligence by using the product weight to estimate the size.

In addition, these recommendations help.

  • Always use distilled water for your steamers.
  • An Amazon reviewer pointed out (and we have also noticed) that metal/steelhead steamers (marked “M” alongside the steamer model) tend to work better than plastic heads at knocking out wrinkles. Plus, plastic heads normally have more condensation thus creating watermarks on clothing.
  • After use, wait until the steamer cools down and then rinse to prevent mineral buildup. If you get mineral build up in the unit and the steamer begins to sputter when you are steaming (this might happen more quickly if you use tap water), you can clean the boiler by simply adding 2 ounces of vinegar and letting it soak for 30-40 minutes.
  • While waiting for your steamer to cool off after use, ensure to keep out of reach of children.
  • Don’t ship a steamer to a country where you can’t return.
  • Adhere to the manufacturer’s voltage standard.
  • If you already own a steamer you might want to plan ahead if your unit wets clothes. Or maybe let your steamer run for a minute or so, and ensure that it has achieved full steam before use.
  • If you are steaming at home and would be steaming multiple items, a more powerful steamer like the Jiffy-2000 makes perfect sense.

Additional note. All the recommendations made in this guide are to be used alongside manual instructions and manufacturers’ recommendations.