Travel Garment Steamer: Portable Clothes Steamer Buying Guide

A travel garment steamer is a great travel companion for removing wrinkles from clothing, freshening and sanitizing linens, and much more. If you’re a frequent traveler, you know the pain of hotel irons. I was a 100% business traveler for many years and I learned quickly that a portable travel garment steamer was the only reliable choice for removing wrinkles from my business attire.

If you travel a lot, you know what I’m talking about. Do any of these situations sound familiar?

o No iron in the hotel room and a lot of trouble getting one delivered to the room

o No ironing board with even more trouble getting one delivered to the room

o An iron that doesn’t get hot with obvious corrosion coming out of the holes due tap water usage

o White mineral build-up coming out of the holes getting all over your dark clothing

o An iron that obviously ironed some material that melted to it and now is ready to transfer itself to your clothing

Road warriors can leave that all that behind by getting a simple travel garment steamer.

What should you look for in a travel handheld garment steamer?

Portability

It seems simple, but when you look at some of the handheld clothing steamer designs, it makes you wonder if they’re actually designed for portability. Your travel steamer needs to fit into your suitcase, backpack, or carry-on with room for all your other essentials. Fortunately, most of the popular travel steamers are well-designed to take up as little space as possible in your travel bags.

Power

One of the problems with a travel handheld clothes steamer, when compared to full-sized steamer, is a lack of power. An ineffective clothing steamer with a weak steam flow is just frustrating and you might as well leave it at home. More power means a more powerful steam flow and a faster time to steam.

A handheld steamer for clothes is compact and lightweight to carry with you, but that leaves little room in the design for heating elements that produce the power you need. If you go too small, you may be disappointed in the performance of your travel steamer.

Water Capacity

The water reservoir on a travel steamer holds the fuel that produces the steam you need to remove wrinkles. A larger reservoir will deliver continuous steam longer so you can remove more wrinkles. A larger reservoir adds weight, bulk, and because you have to hold it in your hand, possibly more awkwardness. A larger portable fabric steamer will also take up more space in your suitcase.

Distilled Water

You will find that some manufacturers will make claims that you can use regular tap water in their steamers. The reality is if you use distilled water, your garment steamer will last longer. The problem is that all tap water everywhere has some level of mineral content and when the water is converted to steam, the minerals are left behind to coat the heating elements. Over time, it reduces the effectiveness of your handheld garment steamer and eventually will render it useless.

So, what do you do? Ideally you should always use distilled water. Given your busy schedule and the pain of buying distilled water on the road, the best you can do is probably to use hard water cleaner crystals (basically salt) to prolong the life of your steamer. Some models include a sample of the crystals.

Power Button

You would think that all appliances would have on/off switches. Most travel steamers are plug-and-steam. While they’re plugged in, they’re on. If you forget to unplug the steamer, you may damage it. Some travel garment steamers come with an on/off switch for safety and convenience. Some models handle this problem by providing an automatic shut-off feature if the unit gets too hot or water in the reservoir gets too low.

Power Cord Length

Road warriors know that outlets in hotel rooms are few and far between and never where you would expect them. It’s gotten better over the years, but the situation is far from perfect. Often, I had to use the bathroom outlet and hang my clothing on a closet door or on the shower rod. Where you plug in and where you hang your clothing will depend on the length of your portable garment steamer power cord. A long power cord can mean the difference between comfortable winkle removal and utter frustration.

Voltage

Are you a world traveler? If so, pay attention to the voltage specifications on any travel steamer you’re considering. If you travel outside the U.S., you will need a dual-voltage capable steamer that can handle both 120 and 240 volts and 50/60 Hz.

Style

Nobody is going to see your handheld steamer. With that said, nice styling makes an appliance more appealing. My recommendation is to leave the style behind and go for the better engineered travel steamer that is going to do the job.

Tools and Accessories

Most travel clothing steamers come with at least a fabric brush, lint brush, protective carrying bag or case. Anything more is a bonus.

Warranty

When a manufacturer provides a long warranty, they are telling you that they have faith in their materials and workmanship. Look for a fabric steamer with a warranty of one year or better.