Is It Better to Steam or Iron Your Clothes?

Ironing is time-tested, but steaming is the effective new kid on the block. Find out which method is the best for your garment.

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Silk, chiffon, tencel, oh my! The plethora of fabrics to choose from can be overwhelming—and then, you have to factor in how to care for each article of clothing you have. Each type of fabric needs certain care and it’s best to read the fine print on your clothing tag with instructions, especially when it comes to getting wrinkles out. But, is it better to use an iron, or a steamer to get those pesky lines out? When you’re deciding on how to smooth your rumpled clothes, consider these factors: fabric material and if you have the time and necessary accessories. Here, we iron out the facts on whether to use a steamer or an iron.


When it comes to removing wrinkles from all kinds of fabrics, steamers are superior, said Nathan Ripley from Maid Just Right. The old trick of hanging up a garment while taking a hot shower works, but an actual steamer is superior. “The easy-to-use steamer can be helpful in the care of very delicate fabrics, as it will make them smooth. The steamer is also very easy to turn on again during the day, and that’s something you won’t find with time-consuming irons,” Ripley explained.

Personal stylist and fashion expert Vanessa Valiente from V-Style said steaming is better when you have a delicate fabric like silk or chiffon and you have some time. “A steamer can still work on an item like cotton,” Valiente explains. “But it takes forever and it will never get wrinkles out of a cotton garment like an iron. A steamer can freshen a rayon or linen garment.”

Check out our favorite (and cheap!) laundry room updates you can DIY.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of using a steamer?

The interaction between the steam and the clothing garment actually kills bacteria, as mentioned on The Laundress. Steaming not only freshens clothes and removes odors, but it saves you time and money from one less trip to the dry cleaners. Also, the lightweight functionality of steaming eliminates the potential to burn clothes or add unwanted creases that can be tricky to get out. It’s also super convenient—you don’t need any extra accessories like an ironing board. The one downside? It. Takes. Forever. But that’s basically it!

How do you steam clothes the right way?

First, make sure you have a handy place to hang the garment for best use. Pull the fabric taut with one hand and slowly move the steamer up and down the garment, holding it one inch away from the fabric.


Approaching an iron like this one for the first time can be daunting, but it’s a task that must be done for crisp clothing. It’s best suited for stiffer and stronger materials, like cotton, denim, and canvas, Valiente said. Ironing is a time-tested method, and here’s everything you need to know about it.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of ironing?

According to Valiente, the most iron-friendly fabrics are cotton, denim, canvas, rayon, and linen. These fabrics respond almost exclusively to an iron. But, there is no such thing as ironing without an ironing board like this. This requires both space and time spent waiting for it to heat up, Ripley said. And if you’re not careful, using an iron can easily ruin silk or chiffon. “If you don’t have the silk perfectly flat, you can risk creating a fold in the silk that is extremely difficult to get out,” Valiente said. Don’t have an iron on hand? Use these tricks to getting wrinkles out of your clothes without an iron or steamer.

How do you iron clothes the right way?

You know the drill and have seen it done a million times before. The balance of pressure and movement is tedious, though. The trick to having smooth and burn-free clothing is to match the iron heat to what’s instructed on the fabric care label. From there, the rest is crease-free history. 

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest